Most riders who make a habit of coming off a galloping horse are rewarded with broken bones and bruises.
Up and coming Langley rodeo star Sarah Wright, 18, has parlayed her penchant for speed and daring into a full scholarship to Montana State University, where she hopes to study law.
“I did my first ride at Langley Riders Little Britches Rodeo when I was five years old. Jumping off your horse when it is running is an adrenaline rush that I found pretty addicting. If I didn’t love rodeo so much I would probably do jumping,” joked Sarah.
Sarah began competing through the BC Little Britches Rodeo Association in elementary school, and was the All Around Cowgirl and Pole Bending Champion in 2008 and 2009 before graduating to the BC High School Rodeo Association, where she placed well in pole bending, goat tying and breakaway roping. At the national level, she was runner up All Around Cowgirl for Canada in 2009 and third at the National High School Finals in Gillette, Wyoming.
Her wins in Wyoming brought her to the attention of college and university recruiters, who began competing for her favours. According to her father David, Sarah was sought after by colleges and universities in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming.
“Although my Dad told me I might be able to get a rodeo scholarship, it wasn’t my main goal. I just practiced a lot, tried my best and it seemed to all work out. It’s so much fun to do something you’re good at, and at the end you get free schooling and can ride while you’re learning. It’s a win-win,” said Sarah.
She credits her “very supportive parents” for her success. She keeps her four horses at her father’s Campbell Valley farm, where she rides and lives part-time, and goes to high school in White Rock, where she lives with her mother, Bernice.
“Even though my mother is allergic to horses, she helps me to practise and comes to my rodeos. It’s great to have her there.”
She has also had the benefit of the expertise of top coaches.
Sarah puts a huge emphasis on regular practice, which keeps her and her horses progressing slowly but steadily. She believes that most horses can be taught to enjoy rodeo, if you are kind to them and use a lot of repetition in their training.
“Horses love to please people. Their goal isn’t to hurt you, unless you hurt them. We start working with our horses when they’re two years old.
“We take them to rodeos to watch the older horses, and to get them used to the noise and distractions. They’re on the sidelines, cheering us on.”
Her scholarship at the University of Montana will cover four years’ worth of tuition if things work out well.
“If you start to slack off and party, they could cancel the scholarship.
“That is absolutely not going to happen.”