Riley Park will be competing in bull riding at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, New Mexico, next week. (COURTEST RICK HIEBERT / ACTION PLUS PHOTOGRAPHY)
Three young Westman cowboys and one cowgirl will be representing Manitoba next week in the world’s largest junior high rodeo.
A 13-year-old Meadows School student Riley Park, along with Hanna Kristjanson of Oak River and Ryder and Cooper Millward of Garland will be driving down to Gallup, New Mexico to compete against more than 1,000 contestants from 41 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia in several categories.
Since state laws make it difficult to bring a horse in and out of New Mexico, Park is leaving his horse at home and only competing in two of the six categories he qualified for — chute dogging and bull riding.
This is the biggest crowd Park will be performing for in his three years of doing rodeo.
"There’s a lot more pressure (in competitions)." he said. "It gets me pumped up and I perform better."
He is the only person his age in his school and possibly the Westman area, who competes in rodeo.
"At first nobody (at school) believed that I bull ride or do rodeo, not until I showed them video. They think I’m brave and that makes me feel good."
After years of watching his sister Alex do barrel racing, Park started rodeo when he was 10 with chute dogging — and now says rodeo is something he wants to do for the rest of his life.
"The bull riding not so much, but I’d be happy with him doing rodeo," said Park’s mother Kim.
Being unable to accompany her son to the competition, Kim said she’s nervous about him having to take care of himself, but trusts that he’ll be safe in the hands of chaperone Kelly Millward — the 2012 Manitoba Rodeo Cowboys Association Cowboy of the Year.
"He kind of risks his life to save people," Riley said.
Just a couple weeks ago when Park was riding a bull he got ‘hung up’ by the animal.
"Kelly was on his head to get him out," said Kim Park. "He would have been trampled and broken some bones (if Kelly hadn’t been there). I’m not nervous if Kelly is there."
In Manitoba, the bull riding season takes place in the winter, so to practice for this competition, Park has been riding his horse for an hour a day doing circles in the arena and roping with dummies.
"When I started I didn’t know how to do anything," he said after his mom mentioned he won a volunteer award at a recent provincial competition. "The award is for behind the scenes stuff, like giving tips to new people."
In Manitoba there are 26 rodeos between spring and fall where competitors compete for awards and scholarships. This year’s four competitors will be the biggest Manitoban group sent down since the competition began nine years ago.
Performances can be viewed online at NHSRATV.com at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 17, 2013