In the Arena: Tri State Area Teens Claim NHSFR Success
Mere tenths of a second make a big difference when it comes to barrel racing and pole bending.
Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyoming, knows this well. The high school senior has been competing since she was five years old. She currently competes in multiple events including barrels, poles, goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping.
“I’ve been riding horses since forever,” she said. “I have grown up on a ranch and been around horses and ranching all my life. This lifestyle is so amazing.”
The National High School Rodeo Finals (NHSFR) was held in Gillette, Wyoming, July 17-23. Rayne qualified for the finals in three events: barrels, poles and goat tying. She came away with a championship in the poles, a reserve championship in barrels, eleventh place in goat tying, and the All Around Cowgirl award.
Grant’s wining composite time for the three rounds in the pole bending was a scant half-second less than the reserve champion’s time. Her reserve championship in the barrels was under three tenths of a second behind the championship composite time. She placed fifth in the first goround in barrels, fifteenth in her second run, and fifth in the finals, her total times good enough for a reserve championship.
She placed fourth in the first goround in poles, and first in the second and finals rounds to win the championship. Her horse Chili carried her through both events.
“We bought her four years ago, as an eight year old,” Grant said. “I do train some of my own horses; we buy a lot of colts and train them. My goat horse, Chavez, is one that we trained.”
The All Around Cowgirl award goes to the young lady who competes in at least two events and has the most points by the end of the finals. It’s an honor Rayne is proud to have received.
Rayne graduated from high school this year and plans to attend Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, this fall. She plans to rodeo there while studying for an Applied Management degree.
“Hopefully I can start competing in pro rodeo soon,” Grant said. “I want to train barrel futurity horses in the future.”
Rayne’s parents, Mike and Becky Grant, have given her a good foundation.
“My dad grew up rodeoing and still team ropes,” she said. “My mom grew up around horses but she didn’t rodeo. I have two older sisters who have already moved away and have children; one of them still rodeos a little. I enjoyed competing in the finals with all my NHSRA friends. We’ve grown up together and enjoy seeing each other every year at Nationals.”
While Rayne shone brightly in the spotlight at the NHSFR, you’re most likely to find her at home, riding and training her horses.
“I like to be at home with my horses and spending time with my family,” she said. “It’s a good place to be.”
Thayne Elshere overcame a broken hand this summer to qualify for the saddle bronc at NHSFR. Son of J.J. and Lindsay Elshere, Hereford, South Dakota, the junior has been riding bulls for years but broke his riding hand this summer.
“I had to switch hands, and came in 5th in state in bullriding,” he said. “Only the top four placers qualify for finals.”
But the broken hand didn’t stop him from making a good show in the saddle bronc. He came in just three points shy of the Champion, Statler Wright, from Beaver, UT.
“I’ve had a lot of good practice horses and a lot of good people behind me,” Elshere said. “I’m pretty lucky. I go down to New Underwood every chance I get, there are several people who bring practice horses there. I’ve had the opportunity to ride some that are pretty good, to ride some that I knew I might ride in the finals, and to ride some that are a real challenge to stay on.”
Elshere is following family tradition as he finds success riding saddle broncs.
“My older brother Talon made the High School finals three times,” he said. “He took second place last year as a senior. My dad just retired last September; he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo five times. He and mom have been behind me the whole way.”
“Thayne got on his first bronc the day before regionals as a freshman,” Thayne’s mother, Lindsay Elshere said. “He’s short and athletic, built just like his dad. J. J. knew he’d be talented if he’d just do it. So we kind of nudged him in that direction.”
Thayne’s three younger brothers, Trik, Tell and Trailon all participate in 4-H rodeo, and love bareback and bullriding, so the family keeps busy with their events as well as working together on their ranch near Hereford. But Thayne takes every opportunity to get on practice horses and hone his talent.
Sam Stoddard, Bud Longbrake and Louie Brunson bring practice horses to New Underwood frequently for kids to practice on. They have been instrumental in getting local kids started riding saddle broncs and bareback horses. Thayne is thankful for all of the opportunities they have provided him.
“We have a nice crop of young bronc riders coming up,” Lindsay said. “A few years ago there weren’t many, but now we have fifteen or sixteen kids showing up. It’s nice to see them keeping the tradition going.”
Thayne is also a talented bull rider, a roper, and enjoys participating in football and wrestling, although he plans to forego his football season this fall to get his hand healed up for wrestling. He plans to buy his PRCA card after he turns eighteen this fall so that he can follow in his father’s footsteps and start competing in the saddle bronc professionally.
“I love the adrenaline rush of riding broncs,” he said. “It gets me pretty pumped up. There’s nothing like the feeling of making a good ride. It’s pretty exciting, and it’s a good sport to be in.”
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