The Sentinel’s Sports Editor Tayler Bradley writes about her life in rodeo.

Our Sports Editor offers a personal reflection on the sport she loves so much.

Rodeo. It is a sport like no other where the athletes travel the country to compete against others with the same passion. These athletes are the most resilient of them all, and I am proud to be one of them.

During the summer, I travel through many states competing against some very tough competitors who also happen to be great friends. Just recently, I traveled to some of the biggest rodeos of the season. I had struggled at the first few rodeos in Oregon. I couldn’t get a groove going and was down on myself but had to fight through and keep my mental game strong to get out of my slump. I kept entering and roping to work out the kinks.

My slump ended at a small rodeo in Elgin, Oregon. I was in the last performance, and I knew I needed to be fast. I backed into the box, nodded, and watched my rope go around my calf’s neck. Pleased with my run, I looked up at the clock, saw I took the lead, and brought home the win. I packed up and left again making my first stop in Nampa, Idaho. This was a fast set up and there were some girls who had already made fast runs, so I knew I had to be quick too. When it was my turn, I backed into the box and let it all fly. It didn’t work out in my favor, and I was pretty bummed, but I had to let it go because I had more rodeos to hit. In rodeo you have to have short-term memory because holding onto the loses will only continue to give you negative vibes. So, I loaded my horse and drove 10 hours to the daddy of them all, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

I have always dreamed of competing at this rodeo; it is very different and really makes the cowboys be cowboys. Cheyenne Frontier Days is a bracket-style rodeo, and you must make it through each round to get to the finals. This rodeo is unique because of the size of the arena, fresh cattle, and long score. In the first round I watched my calf walk out of the chute and then chased after him. My horse worked amazingly as I saw the rope go around my calf and then looked up at the clock. I made a terrific run finishing in the top four of the first round, qualifying for round two.

Before I could think about that run, though, I had to make the six-hour drive back to Ogden, Utah for my third rodeo of the week. This rodeo is a big one as well and a pretty cool one at that. Before competing, my horses got some water therapy from the river that runs along the rodeo grounds and where the cowboys tell their rodeo stories. It was a hot day, and I drew a pretty slow calf here. I scored well, but I wasn’t able to get him roped. There are always highs and lows in rodeo.

Adjusting my attention again, I loaded up and drove back to Cheyenne for the second round. The atmosphere was different this time around, and it really got my adrenaline pumping. My horse and I knew we had to go out and make a solid run.  With all the excitement, my horse reacted differently, and I panicked a little, causing me to not perform at my highest level. I missed my calf, and my dreams of the final round were dead.

I had a long drive ahead of me after such a big heartbreak. I drove about 50 miles and boom! My truck broke down. I was on the side of the road with my horse and trailer. After a lot of phone calls and an awesome rodeo family who came to help me, I got everything to Laramie, Wyoming, and waited for my truck to be repaired. It was a long week last week, but I finally made it home.

I grew up watching my family compete in rodeo, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Every aspect of this sport keeps me craving this every day. Rodeo is not just a passion for me; it is what I do and who I am. When I was little, I never dreamed I would have been to the places I’ve been, competed at the places I have, and met some of my heroes. This rodeo life is something that can never be replaced for me. As I continue through the rest of my summer, I am hoping for good calves, fast horses, and fun times.