By Dan Walton
The National High School Finals Rodeo in Wyoming is the Stanley Cup Championships of teenage horseback riding, and British Columbia’s Rodeo Queen – Keianna James from Oliver – has qualified for this year’s Queens Competition.
James, who’s almost 17, was crowned Rodeo Queen after finishing top spot in a provincial tournament last month in Merritt.
“Oh my gosh it took so much work,” she said of the provincial competition, which she qualified for by competing in other events throughout the school year.
To finally earn the title of Rodeo Queen, she had an exceptional performance at a series of pageants. “I had to do a two-minute speech, I had to model, answer impromptu questions and demonstrate horsemanship patterns; patterns specific according to the rule book – it shows how much horsemanship you have in your horse.”
James rides a 10-year-old horse named Auzzie who belongs to her sister, and James said much of her experience was gained by watching her sister compete with Auzzie in years past.
“Auzzie is a nice easy-going horse and I have a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s easy for me with calm horses. You need to be more energetic to get them excited and moving. We’re kind of the perfect pair because we’re opposites. He’s really nice to everyone, relaxing and enjoyable to ride.”
And after busily practicing and competing together, James said it was a major excitement and relief to receive the crown, banner and title of BC Rodeo Queen.
“I’m still blown away that I’m the queen,” she said. But beyond the honour and prestige of being the province’s Rodeo Queen, James will forever be drawn to the sense of community that riding offers, which she said is like one big family.
“I love rodeo and I love spending time with my family; travelling to ranches outside of Oliver, meeting new friends and making tons of new memories with them,” she said. “Falling off the horse and getting back up has really sunk in as a major lesson in life.”
Between July 16 and 22, James will be taking her riding career to the next level at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming. She’ll be competing against riders from 47 different states and provinces. “It’s a really good opportunity because everyone is so humble.”