Twenty years after her mom claimed the South Dakota High School Breakaway Roping Championship for the second time, Jada Maher, of Mclaughlin, South Dakota, a soon-to-be-senior at McIntosh, South Dakota, captured the same championship in North Dakota.
“My mom was a good breakaway roper and I’m following in her footsteps,” Maher said. “She’s the one person who really believes in me and knew I could do it, and I know that I can do it too. She has believed in me the whole time.”
Maher’s horse Superstar Frost, or as she’s known to her owners, Hen, is a star in her own rights. She earned the honor of 2016 North Dakota American Quarter Horse Association Horse of the Year.
“AQHA picks one horse from each state who earns the most points, so it’s not on politics or anything. She will get the chance to run for National Horse of the Year,” Maher said. “Winning on her is different than winning on a horse you just bought. She wasn’t very expensive and feels better than just jumping on a horse that was already trained.”
Having just moved from North Dakota to South Dakota a year ago, Maher is able to continue to rodeo in North Dakota. She and Hen qualified for the short go in three events: goat-tying, pole bending, and breakaway roping, at North Dakota High School Finals on Hen. She missed qualifying in barrel racing by one place.
In addition to winning breakaway roping, Maher took home the goat tying average, and fifth in the final round of goat tying.
“We were first in breakaway going into state finals, but Hen and I started out rough the first two rounds and got moved to second,” Maher said. “The girl in front of me either had to miss or there needed to be enough placings between us for me to win. With a 3.2, I won the short go, and the girl sitting in first missed.”
The team will make an appearance and compete for the National High School Breakaway Roping Title in Gillette, Wyoming, July 17-23.
Hen, a 14-hand bay mare, was raised by Terry and Laurie Goehring, whose daughter-in-law Jessica Routier, of Routier Ranch in Buffalo, South Dakota, connected Hen and Maher.
“My mother-in-law Laurie did most of the beginning work with Hen,” Routier said. “My husband Riley started her roping when she was younger. I ran her on barrels some. She was always a real quick, catty-type mare, and she took a little extra seasoning for Jada. She liked to look at things and be distracted. It’s been a lot of fun to watch her do so well.”
In 2013, Maher won NDJHRA All-Around and State Champion Goat Tying and Breakaway Roping.
“Hen has been high strung from the beginning and Jada has great patience with her,” Maher’s mom Tracy said. “In her first season with Hen, she made it to Junior High Rodeo Finals in barrel racing, then her freshman year she kind of struggled. Junior high to high school is a big step; juniors and seniors are a little more experienced. This year they’ve totally come together; that’s been really fun to watch and see how confident she is.”
Hen is the first horse in the Maher herd that is solely Jada’s, though her sister Maci, 12, did borrow her at North Dakota Junior High Rodeo Finals.
“Maci barely made state finals, but she ended up winning the first round in poles with a 20.9-second run, second in the second round with a 21.3, and ended up second in average. In the short go, she won third with 21.5,” Jada said. “The ground was bad; they were pretty much on ground on the last pole, which was a little scary. She jumped on Hen for barrels; she would have won the round, but tipped the second barrel.”
Practicing takes great effort for Jada due to her 45 minute drive to school.
“My parents go to work on central time, and we go to school on mountain time. I’m in volleyball, basketball, track, and rodeo. I ride at Jason and Cody Kraft’s, which is 45 miles from school in the other direction, so it’s an hour and a half to rope and practice,” Jada said. “I get home at midnight, and then leave horses at school. I also do a lot of tying goats on the ground and roping bales on the ground and riding in the field.”
Jada’s full schedule doesn’t prevent her from being a model student.
“When my parents are working, I pretty much live by myself. I work in the day babysitting, get off work, get horses, drive to practice, have supper there, then come home,” Jada said. “It’s the same thing in school year, then the homework starts. It’s a lot of late nights and early mornings, but I have a 3.8 GPA, in National Honor Society, President of FCCLA and went to Nationals, and Vice President of North Dakota High School Rodeo Association. I can handle it.”
“My family is really good at supporting and making sure we get everywhere. Everyone is there to help out including my siblings Maci, Ruby, 7, and Pete, 6,” Jada said. “My dad, Cody, is pretty good at driving and helping hay and carry water to the goats in the winter, fixing things on the trailer. He calls himself the chore guy.”
Cody, a SDHSRA Bareback and Bull Riding Champion, has faith in Jada and Hen as a team.
“Her dad teases that with this horse, he’s going to buy her a Cadillac and a one-horse trailer because that’s all she needs,” Tracy said.
Maher plans to hit the rodeo road this summer at SDRA and NDRA events. In the future she will pursues degree in law, social services, or criminal justice.
“A few colleges have asked me to check them out, but I’m still undecided,” Jada said. “I plan to continue my rodeo career.”