In the world of music and song, there’s no shortage of songs about cowboys. Many a chorus has been penned about the wild world of buckin’ broncs and rodeo, perhaps most famously summed up by Willie Nelson’s “Mama’s, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” No one ever said, however, that little buckaroos (or is it buckarettes?) shouldn’t dream of growing up to be a cowgirl! We sat down with one Billings equestrienne who is making her dream a reality right here in Big Sky Country. Rylee Anderson is a junior at West High School who is hoping to qualify for the national Montana High School Rodeo team. With interests as wide as the Montana sky, and a heart for friends of the four-legged kind, Rylee shares a glimpse into her rustic lifestyle with us.
How did you get into rodeo, and where is it taking you these days?
My family has always had horses and I have been riding for as long as I can remember. I participated in youth rodeos when I was younger, and then went on to Junior High and High School rodeo. Currently, I go to barrel races and goat tying or roping jackpots. I have been blessed with great horses that helped me win money, buckles, prizes, and many fun rodeo trips across the country. I would love to college rodeo somewhere nearby and have my sights set on nursing school as well.
What do you love about the western lifestyle, and what are a few of its challenges?
One of my favorite things about the rodeo industry is the people. There truly is a rodeo family at every event we attend. Even though we usually only see each other on the weekends, we are very close. Although we are ultimately competitors, everyone looks out for each other. The biggest challenge in rodeo is definitely the unpredictable Montana weather! When the weather gets really bad, it can be dangerous for the contestants and animals. I think another challenge is that rodeo is not as common as other sports, and many people aren’t as educated on the rules or issues surrounding it.
What life lessons have you learned from being involved in rodeo?
I can’t pick just one lesson because there have been so many! Over the years of riding and training horses, one thing I have learned is patience. Horses are just like us and want to learn and be praised, and I am learning how to work with them so we can be successful together. In rodeo, you learn something from every run. I think it is important to let the experiences help you so you learn what to do next time, or how to improve in the future.
Tell us about your favorite four-legged friend.
The two horses I have been rodeoing on the most are my mares Charly and Bell. Bell is my goat and pole horse. We both like goat tying the most. She has helped take me to state twice, and nationals last year. Bell is the sweetest little horse you will ever meet and she runs her heart out. Charly is my younger horse that I have trained since we bought from the NILE horse show. The fall of 2017 was her first time on the rodeo road. I could never pick a favorite between these two because they both try so hard and help me out with rodeo runs in unique ways. One of my favorite horses I had was named Chase. I don’t remember the first time I rode him because I was so young, but as I got older we went faster, and he always took care of me. He was smart and careful when he ran, but he gave it his all. I rode him for 12 amazing years. Two summers ago he got sick and passed away. He was 23 and still smoking pole patterns at rodeos. Chase was the best friend I could have asked for growing up. I was the only person he would allow to cuddle with him, and before our runs, we would eat some peanut M&Ms together. I learned that I couldn’t take the time I spend with my horses for granted, and I am so unbelievably grateful for them and all of the things they have helped me to achieve.
Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s March 2018 issue.
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about the author…Brooke Wagner is a Southern girl at heart, but a Montana girl by choice. She lives in Billings with her husband, three children, one dog who thinks she is human, and one very therapeutic horse.
featured photo by Acentric Video