RURAL SOLON– Western hat? Check. Spurs? Check. Boots? Check. Belt buckle large enough to eat a meal off of? Check. Trophy as tall as the recipient? Check.
For three young ladies, these are but a few of the items associated with their passion: rodeo.
Brittany Brown, sister Brooke and friend Ashley Johnson recently completed their first season of competition in the Iowa High School Rodeo Association and Iowa Junior High Rodeo Association.
And they’re getting ready for the 2012-2013 season, which starts in August.
Brittany, 15, and Brooke, 13, have been riding since 2006, while Ashley, 14, started in 2010.
For the Browns, it was a neighboring family’s involvement in high school rodeo that planted the seed. “They (Tom and Emmie Kroul) said it was a lot of fun,” Brittany said. “We bought a horse and learned from them.” Her rodeo debut was in 2006 at the Lazy L Rodeo near North Liberty. “It is a lot of fun,” she said, “and you get to meet a lot of good people.”
Brooke was also inspired by the Krouls and tagged-along with them to some rodeos. Brooke credits “Joe,” a trained rodeo horse (and the horse they bought from the Krouls) for teaching her the ropes, literally. “It’s fun and I love horses,” Brooke said. She, too, debuted on the circuit in 2006.
Ashley was hanging out with Brittany and Brooke and decided, “it looked like fun so I gave it a try, and I loved it.” Ashley’s debut was in 2010 at the Fisher Rodeo near Coggon. “I really like being able to go out, show off and have fun.”
All three spoke of the friendship and camaraderie of the rodeo circuit, which includes over 40 events throughout the year, spread out across the state. Their friends at home also spur them on. “My friends support me,” said Brittany. “It takes a lot of time (three to four hours of practice per week plus time on the road), so I don’t get to hang out with them a lot.”
“My best friend is in love with horses,” said Brooke, “so she’s really supportive.” Also taking time is their school work, a priority in the Brown house. “We have to keep our grades at a C or higher to participate,” Brittany said. Dad Rob prefers them even higher and makes no bones about it. On rodeo weekends, much of the work is done on the road. “Get it done and sleep,” Brooke said. Rob has an iron-fist policy that the homework is complete before the ladies go off to hang-out with their friends.
In their first season, the ladies were a bit surprised by how they did. “I got beat down pretty bad by seniors,” Brittany said.
“I did pretty good, I did better than I expected,” said Brooke, while Ashley said, “I didn’t think I did that good,” while looking over the final scores. “I did amazing,” she added.
The ladies compete in events such as barrel racing (riding a clover leaf pattern around a cluster of barrels), pole bending (riding as quickly as possible while riding a zig-zag pattern through a line of poles), roping and tying (roping calves, catching and tying goats), ribbon roping (a two-person event where a calf it roped and tied, a ribbon is removed and ran on foot across a finish line) and breakaway roping (a calf roping event where once caught, the rope is tied to the saddle horn with a string. The calf continues on until the string breaks, ending the event).
Brittany prefers the roping events, saying they’re “more of a challenge. I have to work for it more than anything else.” Brooke likes the ribbon roping mostly because she likes having a partner to help her out. For Ashley, it’s the pole bending. “It’s fun to speed through them.” Not surprisingly, their greatest moments in rodeo, so far, tie-in with these events.
“I caught at the High School Rodeo Finals in Waterloo in the breakaway, I had a 4.6 (second) time,” Brittany noted. “Or, my best goat tie was 11.2 (seconds) at Carson.” At Sidney, in the pouring rain of April 2012, Brooke caught in the breakaway and put up a time of 14.7 seconds in barrel racing. For Ashley it was a 20-second time bending poles in Marshalltown.
With achievement come further goals. For Brittany it’s to go to Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Laramie County Community College, home to a college rodeo team. “I want to be really good, go to nationals and go to a rodeo college,” said Brooke. Ashley wants to finish-out high school rodeo and go on to be a professional barrel racer. She’s also hoping to win a scholarship to Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge to pursue a degree in taxidermy.
In addition to rodeo weekends, the ladies also are avid hunters (turkey, elk and deer) and fish as well. “My life is never dull,” said Brooke, with a smile. “There’s no such thing as down time,” Ashley added. Ashley also plays volleyball; Brooke plays basketball, soccer and volleyball. Brittany is pretty much all rodeo, all the time (when not hunting or fishing).
“I think it’s a good sport to be able to spend time with the kids,” Rob said of his rodeo crew. “They still have to put in the work to get the reward.” Michelle Johnson (Ashley’s mom) agreed, adding that rodeo is “very family oriented. It keeps the kids busy, it’s good for building up their self-esteem and it gives them something to focus on.”
Working with and caring for the horses teaches the ladies responsibility and builds a strong work ethic, Rob said. “Plus, I get to see them when I’m baling hay,” he said with a laugh. Rob and Michelle emphasized that rodeo weekends are a lot more interactive with the kids than say a wrestling tournament or volleyball match. They also find themselves helping the girls get themselves and the horses ready for the events.
“It’s all a lot of fun, the people that come, the cook-outs, the friends,” Rob said, adding they all owe the Krouls a debt of gratitude for being a tremendous help. Brittany had some words of advice for those aspiring to rodeo. “Go to a local rodeo, get to know people, have a positive attitude and keep working at it.”
For more information on the Iowa High School (and Junior High School) Rodeo Association, go to www.cowboycalendar.com/iahsra/default.asp .