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CSHSRA Meet the Member: Ella Zonneveld
“Sometimes we’re tested not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths.” This quote speaks to the challenges and obstacles that Ella Zonneveld, a 17-year old junior, has endured and her decision to push past the obstacles and continue rodeoing which is one of her passions.
After a life-changing accident when she was fifteen that totaled her truck and trailer, but thankfully spared her horses, Ella’s life has been filled with multiple surgeries, including one to repair cracks in her skull that were causing cerebral spinal fluid leaks. Since the accident, her activities were restricted for two six-month periods to enable healing. Riding her horses was definitely off limits.
While living with daily headaches and endless rounds of physical therapy, rodeo has been a “huge, huge lifesaver” for Ella who vows she “would do anything to do it” as it is a motivator and a source of hope.
Ella, a home-schooled junior, and the youngest of four children born to Linda] and Ernie, lives on ten acres outside of Berthoud, Colorado. Mom keeps the household running smoothly and Dad works as a Materials Operations Supervisor at Xcel Energy. She has competed every year since the wreck, scheduling her surgeries after the rodeo season ended. Though Ella explained “2019 wasn’t the best season because my horse and I weren’t synching up that well,” she went into the state finals ranked fourth in the barrel racing. Then her horse ducked the second barrel, knocking her out of qualifying for the national high school finals. Past achievements include qualifying for nationals in her eighth-grade year in barrels and breakaway roping. In 2018, Ella was sitting at fourth in the state, but didn’t accomplish the outcome she was hoping for. This season, she’s currently ranked eleventh in barrels and eighth in goat tying in the CSHSRA and is hoping for a good comeback after her last surgery. “I’m very excited for the spring rodeos” and she’s using sky-high motivation, along with the physical therapy, to get her body ready to give her all.
Synchronicity may be an overused word but it fits where Ella is with her competition partners, Legs, a 14-year old barrel racing horse who was trained by her sister, Ava. “Legs is solid all around horse and I can do anything off him.” A big teddy bear of a horse aptly named Teddy, whom Ella trained as her goat horse,rounds out the Zonneveld rodeo equine team.
Though she’s focusing chiefly on barrels as a high-schooler, Ella has posted some great times goat tying with Teddy who “loves it so much he pushed me to love it more. It’s so essential to find the right horse that helps you to keep doing the best you can.”
Traveling to rodeos and competing in new arenas gives Ella a thrill. She likes Eagle in particular, especially the dance, and finished in the top ten in all three rounds at Cortez last year. Leaving home is something Ella would like to do for college and given her familiarity with the practice, she thinks she’d like to study physical therapy. “I want to help people get better and go higher in life.” It’s a matter of doing the work and staying positive.
Based on her goals, Linda focuses Ella’s studies on science, including anatomy and physiology. Though Latin is usually described as a “dead” language, Ella has embraced learning it because of her interest in the medical field and she finds it helpful in knowing the roots of the English language. “Once you start understanding the roots of the language, then everything else is easier.” Given this context, it isn’t surprising that Ella enjoys listening to all kinds of music. “I must have music in my life,” she claims.
The Zonneveld kids are no strangers to hard work. Ella works part time at the local Chili’s in Loveland, Colorado. “If I didn’t work then I couldn’t rodeo,” she explains, “it helps with entry fees and keeping the horses shod.” Her parents taught their brood that if they wanted to do something, they have to work.
Ella also loves being an aunt! She didn’t think she would, but once she got to hold her big sister’s brand new baby last fall, she fell in love with Hazel. Not that she’s ready to have any of her own. At seventeen, Ella has lots of other worlds to conquer. And she is ready.
Every year since 2017 gets Ella closer to a new normal. A positive mental attitude and her faith keep her from getting down and staying in a bad place. And Ella Zonneveld has too much going for her to stay in a bad place. Now, if only she could get her braces off.