Tying up goals along with goats: Q&A with Little Britches reserve world champ Jolene Rhyne
For the Craig Press
It’s been a hectic summer for Craig cowgirl Jolene Rhyne, and after a spring rodeo season that brought with it several honors, she was more than happy to add some more hardware to her collection recently.
Jolene ended a run at the National Little Britches Rodeo Association as the reserve world champion in junior girls goat tying, earning trophy belt buckles and spurs as the runner-up in the second go round, the short go, and the finals time average.
Coming up behind Wyoming’s Hadley Thompson in total points and the average, as well as Utah’s Gentry Goza in the short go for goats, Jolene ultimately ended the national finals event — which wrapped up July 11 in Guthrie, Oklahoma — with just as much to take home as either of her nearest competitors, though her results in breakaway roping didn’t get her into the short go round.
Jolene also shared a state championship in junior high ribbon roping with Front Range partner Nathan Lammers during the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association finals Memorial Day weekend in Craig, also competing at the National High School Rodeo Association’s junior high finals in June in Des Moines, Iown, in goats, ribbon and barrel racing.
With the freshman year at Moffat County High School coming up this fall as the 14-year-old plans to join older brother Pepper — himself a former Little Britches world champ who’s spent the summer mixing his time between rodeo events and preparing for his senior wrestling season — she spoke to the Craig Press about her recent success.
Craig Press: How long have you been involved in Little Britches? How would you say NLBRA different from some of the other rodeo circuits?
Jolene Rhyne: I think I was doing it when I was about 7, so it’s been quite a while. Little Wrangler goes from about 5 to 8, and then from 9 to 14 is the juniors, and 15 to 18 is the seniors. There’s a lot more people there, and a lot more people that you don’t know and you can meet more people. It’s a huge facility, so the music and announcers and amount of people always ups the intensity and makes it that much more exciting. You’ve got the best from every state and maybe some there that aren’t the best too, so there’s a lot more people than anywhere else really.
CP: Do you believe being at the Little Britches national event after your junior high nationals helped your performance?
Jolene: I think so, because I was really nervous for Iowa, but I wasn’t as nervous for this. I was thinking, “I’ve already done this once this year,” so I was kind of more ready for it. I was more mentally prepared for it, definitely.
CP: How much of your life so far has been about rodeo? What do you enjoy most about it?
Jolene: I would say since I was 6, that was when I was actually competing. My brother liked it a lot more, so I kind of just did it because he liked it. He would say, ‘Hey, come rope the dummy with me” or “Let’s go ride for a little bit,” and then I started to enjoy that more and getting into it on my own more. I didn’t really like roping or goats so much, but I liked being around the horses, so then I started to like that more.
CP: What is it about riding horses that you love?
Jolene: I just enjoy working with the animals, not necessarily being able to control it, but work with them. The bond you get there is amazing. I have one named Maia and one named Hotrod. Maia is my goat horse and my breakaway horse, and Hotrod is my barrel horse. Hotrod is technically bred to run and trained that way. Maia started started out as a roping horse, and then I trained her in goats. I’ve had Hotrod for about three years, and as a family we’ve had Maia for four or five. It takes a while to get with them; how they ride and how they perform. After you get to know them, it’s to know how they work.
CP: After attending many big crowds this summer, what have you enjoyed most about encountering multiple people at rodeo events? Do competitors stay friendly with you?
Jolene: It’s such a different atmosphere from most activities you do. You only get to see them every weekend instead of multiple times a week. You all have to help each other out while you’re competing, getting horses ready, things like that. It’s a different type of bond than most friendships. At the state level, the top 10 of us are all really good friends, we hang out after rodeos and we’re always together. We want each other to do good and raise our competition.
CP: Do you expect to do any additional sports upon reaching high school? How do you expect rodeo will be different now that you’re older?
Jolene: I played volleyball my seventh-grade year but not this year, and I don’t think I will in high school. I’ll just be doing basketball and rodeo. I don’t think it will be that different stock-wise, because there’s a lot of shorter high school girls, and they keep about the same goats as they do for junior high.
CP: Do you feel like the COVID conditions in 2020 made for a big gap for you and other rodeo riders?
Jolene: I don’t think so. It gave me a lot more time to practice and a little more time to get everything ready for the next season. I wasn’t necessarily that much more ahead, but it helped having that time to practice. I didn’t miss out on a lot. Besides nationals, a lot of our rodeos weren’t really canceled, and things picked up like they normally did.
CP: Do you take a lot of pride in all you’ve done this summer and the awards you’ve picked up?
Jolene: I’ve been really focused on that, and I wasn’t really expecting it, but my goal for this summer was to compete at nationals and be successful at that level. I feel like that’s what I’ve been working on for a while now. Hard work paid off, so that was good. Rodeo is about you working for what you want, and you can see the results in your time or your certain parts of your run in a competition, and you can see if you’re meeting your goals. If you’re bettering yourself, I think it’s easier to see compared to most sports.
CP: Any parts of the country you’ve appreciated after traveling a lot this summer?
Jolene: I really liked Guthrie (Oklahoma). The arena there is really pretty, and I’ve always liked the facilities. Iowa this year was really pretty, the landscaping around it was really nice.
CP: How have you enjoyed growing up in a rodeo family? Do you feel like your parents have supported you and your brother’s efforts?
Jolene: Obviously, hauling me to these rodeos is a lot; they take off time from work, they have to help me practice however many times a week, they get the good stock for us to practice with, and there’s keeping our horses sound throughout the whole year, because they don’t really get an off time. It’s a lot of help. They support us a ton. Growing up in this, it’s a really good atmosphere.
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