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Local Polk County Teen Hayleigh Rodgers Ranks 134th out of 585 at 2024 NBHA State Championships

Local Polk County Teen Hayleigh Rodgers Ranks 134th out of 585 at 2024 NBHA State Championships

hayleigh

by James Coulter

The bad news is that Hayleigh Rodgers, a 14-year-old high school student from Frostproof High School, was only five spots away from reaching the finals at the 2024 NBHA State Final in Kissimmee, Fl last weekend.

The good news was that she was able to provide rodeo-riding experience to two of her horses, including 18-year-old mare Reba and a 5-year-old gelding Snoopy.

Her five-year-old horse proved skittish at first, what with this being his first competition. His first-round competition had him complete a 26-second run. From there, both Hayleigh and him took it slow the rest of the competition that week.

“It was his first time,” she said. “He was really confused about it all. He didn’t know what going on. He was really stressed out. He took off with me in the warmup area. However, I did get back on him and I took him back in there.”

As for her 18-year-old mare, they experienced their fastest time riding in that arena, which lasted approximately 15.3 seconds. Having attended that rodeo for the past five years, she was able to ride her fastest time ever that past week, Hayleigh said.

“My past week was really stressful, but it was also really fun at the same time,” she said. “I really have to put my trust into my horses and trust that they will take care of me and that helps them trust me to take care of them.”

Rodgers has been horseback riding since she was six years old. Recently, she was named the 3D Youth World Champion last years. Her awards included a championship belt buckle, two finalist buckles, a customized leather jacket, a new saddle, and $2,500 in cash.

Having ridden for nearly a decade, Rodgers has learned that the secret to riding horses is to remain calm. She and her father talk with each other before her runs, helping her to calm down before the competition.

“He stands there the whole time before I run to talk and it helps me to relax and that helps the horses relax,” she said. “I loved hanging out with the horses, friends and family. Having fun out there is really all that matters, just having fun and making memories.”

Hopefully, by their next competition, her five-year-old horse will have worked up the strength and courage to run better in the arena. Rodgers hopes to train him well before then.

“I want to put in more work with my five-year-old to help him get ready for next year so he will be ready for state and world finals. And [also] moving up in my career to benefit myself and my horses,” she said.

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Staff Reporter

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