Part of what makes sports exciting and intriguing are when things happen in athletic competition for the very first time. Peyton Ridgely, freshmen at Caesar Rodney High School, claimed her own spot in the history books becoming the first female from Delaware to qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo where she’ll compete in Barrel Racing.
In July, Ridgely will compete at the 66th annual National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The competition will feature more than 1,500 contestants from 42 states, five Canadian Provinces and Australia in the world’s largest rodeo event.
While Ridgely has found success at the high school level early on in her career, this isn’t her first rodeo. Ridgely’s family ties to the sport run deep, and her experience in the sport has propelled her to this point.
“My family is a second generation rodeo family,” said Ridgely. “I’ve been doing this all my life and I’ve been around horses my entire life.”
For those unfamiliar with the competition, Barrel Racing is a rodeo event which a horse and rider complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels while attempting to clock the fastest time.
For Ridgely, the speed and grace of the event are what attracted it to her the most.
“The most exciting part is definitely the thrill of the actual event,” said Ridgely. “It’s a timed event, so the fastest time wins which makes it very exciting.”
Since she was a little girl, Ridgely has traveled all over the country putting in countless hours of traveling and practice time. While Delaware does not have a rodeo association, Ridgely rides out of the Pennsylvania association where she most recently competed in Ohio for, finishing among the top five.
“I travel all over the country since Delaware doesn’t have an association” said Ridgely. “Sometimes it’s a five hour trip; sometimes it’s seven or eight hours away.”
Along with traveling across the country to different events, Ridgely spends a lot of her time practicing and bonding with her horses. Anyone who has been around horses knows that trust is a major part of a relationship between them and the rider, especially when it comes to competitions like Barrel Racing.
“I ride every day and have multiple horses riding two a day mostly,” said Ridgely. “I feed them every morning and night, and do my best to bond with them. I usually put in just over four hours a day preparing for competition.”
Time and effort are the keys to success at any level of athletic competition, and for Ridgely the time spent is well worth the accolades she has received as she prepares for the National High School Finals Rodeo later this month.
“It’s an amazing honor and experience being the first female selected from Delaware,” said Ridgely. “It definitely takes a lot of time, it’s not like soccer or another sport where what you need to do is kind of self-explanatory. You have to have a bond with your horse first off, and you have to have a force and a drive to want to do it because there’s a lot of practice time that has to go into it.”
Peyton will compete at the Nationals in Wyoming from July 13 through July 19. To follow along with Ridgely’s progress you can go to NHSRA.org for complete daily results.