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Meet the Member Rylee Strickland
story by Lindsay King
Thirteen-year-old Rylee Strickland is a six-event athlete in rodeo. This Artesia, New Mexico, cowgirl even has one horse for each event: heading, breakaway roping, ribbon roping, barrels, poles and goat tying. It’s difficult balancing school and rodeo, but Rylee wouldn’t trade it for the world. She gets a lot of help from her parents, Jody and Jessica, as well as her 12-year-old brother, Hayden. “My dad was a team roper, so when I was little I was around horses a lot. It motivated me to try rodeo for myself,” the eighth grader said. The first time Rylee rounded third and headed for home in front of a crowd, she was just seven years old. Six years later and breakaway roping has risen to the top of the roster for her.
“I like the nervous feeling I get when I am getting on my horse and know it’s time to rope. I like getting out there and just doing my job.” Rylee gets nervous for all of her events, but team roping and goat tying are in a league of their own. “I am worried about losing a finger in the team roping, but in the goats I get nervous about stepping off and falling on my face.” Rylee said it takes a lot of practice to really nail the goat tying dismount. “You just have to practice getting your feet right. When you are hanging from the saddle you have to keep your hips square and as you go down to the ground you have to keep your feet moving or you will fall flat on your face.”
When Rylee’s dad first taught her to rope, she was only nine years old. “You have to really pay attention to the way you point your rope at the calf’s neck and how you swing it differently for the team roping. Now it is pretty easy since I know how to do it.” Last year Rylee roped with her brother at the NMJHSRA events. Now she is teamed up with one of her best friends – Jacee Burney – and the girls have their sights set on making nationals next year. It would be Rylee’s second trip if they make it happen.
“I placed third at state this year in the barrels and went to nationals for the first time. It was awesome, my best friend came too because she also qualified. Getting to run my horse in that arena was the best part.” The week didn’t go as Rylee had hoped, but she was just thankful for the opportunity and confidence boost. “I know some kids are not as fortunate as those of us who get to rodeo. I am blessed that my parents are always there to help me and make sure I have the horses I need.” Rylee’s parents built an entire arena and box stalls to help make practicing for rodeo easier on the entire family. “They are just really loving and supportive of it. They help me saddle horses before I rope and my dad will stay down there and help me practice my roping.”
When Rylee was younger her mom was a nurse and told her daughter about her days at work. “When I grow up I want to be a neurosurgeon, it just seems really interesting to me.” Watching the show Grey’s Anatomy only solidified this interest for Rylee in the last year. “I want to go to Texas Tech and rodeo for them while I study to become a surgeon. I just really like the school and the rodeo coach there (Jared Hofstetter).” Jared helped Rylee perfect her breakaway roping while a whole slew of other people helped with her other events: Megan Burris, Chezie Parsons, Kenna Sullivan and Kerri Pitts. Rylee attends Gateway Christian School where she also plays volleyball and basketball. Choosing between the two sports isn’t really possible since she likes them both equally. Regardless, in everything Rylee pursues she just wants to “always try my hardest and honor God in everything that I do.”