You can call her 'Canada'
For many young riders, high school graduation signals the end of a promising riding career when, inevitably, the workload and cost of a university education takes priority over the demands of equestrian sport.
Sarah Wright, 19, a dedicated rodeo rider, has found a way to ride and study. Her stellar performances at the National High School Rodeo finals two years in a row netted her a full rodeo scholarship at Montana State University at Bozeman, where she has just finished her first year.
“This is one big, good experience. I like the feeling in Bozeman. It’s a smaller town where people talk to you on the street, where people are so friendly. I miss home, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
“The tuition alone for me at MSU would have been $US18,000. Without the scholarship, I would not be here,” said Sarah.
She has been readily accepted as the only Canadian on the 50-member university rodeo team “family” although she is routinely teased about her quirks of speech: “I say creek, washroom, roof and car. They say crick, restroom, ruff, and vee-hicle.
“They laugh when I say ‘eh’ at the end of a sentence, but I don’t mind providing comic relief.”
Sarah, known on campus as ‘Canada’, has done her team and countries proud. She just won the All Around Cowgirl title at a spring collegiate rodeo competition in Montana, finishing 2nd in goat tying out of 79 competitors.
She also appreciates riding and competing in a region where rodeo has so much public support.
“That’s what you do here in the summer and winter, other than shooting gophers.”
The university rodeo team practises four hours each week day, and competes on weekends. Despite a grueling practice and competition schedule, she has maintained a 3.2 grade point average.
Living away from home and dealing with demanding academic and rodeo schedules have taught her a lot about time management and life skills.
“I study whenever I can, and have as many naps as I can. I used to procrastinate, and for a while was getting behind. But I’ve learned to stay on top of things without the help of my mother, father and step mother. I am also learning to cook, but that isn’t going so well.”
Although she hopes to continue to ride with the university rodeo team while she finishes her degree in Montana, she expects that her rodeo career may wind down after graduation when she returns to Canada.
“There is not much after college — barrel racing is the only lady’s team event. I’ve thought of giving a clinic this summer when I come home from school. It would be so cool to keep it up.”