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14-Year-Old Frostproof Middle-Senior High Student Named NBHA 3D Youth World Champion

by James Coulter

Even despite one of her horses receiving a minor injury, Hayleigh Rodgers still managed to win the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Youth and Teen World Championships in July.

The 14-year-old Frostproof Middle-Senior High student was named the 3D Youth World Champion. Her awards included a championship belt buckle, two finalist buckles, a customized leather jacket, a new saddle, three checks, $2500 in cash, and an electric bike.

Rodgers traveled seven hours to Georgia with her family and two horses, Reba and Diesel, to compete in the NBHA Youth and Teen World Championships, in which she has been competing for the past five years.

Her two horses performed so well that they both qualified for the finals. Diesel qualified in the first round, and Reba qualified after placing first in round two for 4D. Diesel was unable to perform in the second round due to a minor injury, requiring him to rest and heal for a few days, Rodgers explained.

“In the finals, both Reba and Diesel had amazing runs. And my run [with] Diesel, even after his minor injury, won me the 3D Youth World Champion title,” Rodgers said. “I am so proud of my horses for their amazing performances. Every run we made was clean with no knocked-down barrels. I could not have asked for a better outcome from that week.”

Rodgers has been horseback riding since she was six years old. Her grandmother brought her along to watch a rodeo her friend was participating in. Rodgers had an opportunity to ride her friend’s horse. Ever since then, she had fallen in love with horseback riding and has been perfecting her skills over the past eight years.

The hardest part about riding is the pressure to perform well. That pressure makes her feel anxious before a show; yet with her father standing by her side to console her, she is able to calm herself and help her to gain focus.

She practices every week to fine-tune her riding skills. She has remained busy with bake sales to raise proceeds for her trips, and her competitions have allowed her to travel across Florida and Georgia.

“I feel like competing with riders my age or even older than my age allows us to coach each other through our runs and help each other to do better and lift each other [and] support each other,” she said. “For the most part, I am pretty confident, but I do have my doubts because not all rounds are going to be perfect.”

Rodgers was recently interviewed for the Chattin on the Ridge podcast. Listen to her full interview on the latest episode on Spotify: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/fIJoGvNo8Bb

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Staff Reporter

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