Miller sisters of Bowman, North Dakota push each other to success
Sibling rivalries can sometimes lead to conflict, emotion, and turmoil. For Jayda and Carlee Miller, 16- and 12-years-old, respectively, the opposite rings true. The sisters who are currently at the Lazy E in Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) Finals, push each other to be more competitive in a healthy, encouraging manner.
In fact, at this very moment they are supporting, cheering and overcoming frustrations, together. Although National Junior High Finals was canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns, Carlee isn’t letting her own national finals disappointment over missing it keep her from cheering on her big sister at her national finals.
“They definitely put a lot of work into rodeo,” their mom Ali said. “We’re really proud of them. They make their horses what they are; I don’t think anybody could just jump on their horses and have the same results. They’ve worked hard on their way of riding and how to ride quiet and still keep their horses working and their horses confident in what they do, which I think is a really big deal. They’ve turned into good trainers.”
The two daughters of Chad and Ali Miller, who ranch south of Bowman, North Dakota, were born into a rodeo family. Mom and Dad both competed in their own respective events as did three of their grandparents. Much of what they know in regard to horses and rodeoing has been gained from the expertise within the family.
Purchasing horses for the girls to ride, develop, season, and finish is also a family affair.
“Chad’s folks, Gene and Sandy Miller, do a lot of searching for horses,” Ali said. They’ll usually find young horses, horses that are just started training, or someone didn’t get along with and they’ll buy them, and the girls will take them and train them to fit them. The horses that they’re on right now are both horses that Gene and Sandy picked up somewhere. They weren’t finished when the girls got them, they took them and finished them themselves and hauled them and seasoned them and got them to where they are now.”
The aforementioned horses have earned prestigious titles with the girls aboard, including North Dakota AQHA Horse of the Year last year for Carlee’s barrel horse, DHR PerksOnlyOkie, a 12-year-old mare by Oh Whatta Boy by Dash for Perks. Jayda’s goat tying horse, Wrangler, a 21-year-old son of Frenchman’s Guy, was awarded North Dakota High School Rodeo Association (NDHSRA) Horse of the Year at this year’s finals.
In both seventh and eighth grade, Jayda took the overall barrel racing title at North Dakota Junior High Rodeo Association (NDJHRA) Finals, and in eighth grade, she also won goat tying at the same event. In her freshman year, she was honored as rookie of the year at NDHSRA Finals and was reserve champion barrel racer on her mare, GirlStoppinTraffic. As a sophomore, Jayda is competing at NHSRA finals in barrel racing and goat tying after winning reserve at the state level.
Carlee kindly refuses to stand in her big sister’s shadow, however. She is leading the Slope Summer Circuit, a local amateur rodeo association, though her big sister isn’t far behind, and Carlee is sittig second in the North Dakota Rodeo Association open barrel racing standings.
Last year, Carlee captured the NDJHRA barrel racing and pole bending year-end titles and was named Reserve All-Around Cowgirl and Rookie of the Year, as a sixth grader.
All of the sister’s titles are no surprise given the amount of work they put in during their off time. Each pushes and coaches the other through practices, offering support, love, and a competitive streak.
“I really love having my sister to practice with,” Carlee said. “It makes it more fun to actually help me learn things and help me with stuff I need to work on, but, yeah, we do get competitive sometimes when we’re practicing.”
“And especially at rodeos,” Jayda added to her sister’s comment.
From her older sister, Carlee said she has learned to “just go for it and don’t hold back,” and from her younger sister, Jayda has learned to “try to go faster, so I can beat her,” she said, laughing.
The dedicated young ladies have a following of family and friends who constantly ask Ali how the girls fared at each of their events. She regularly posts videos and updates on Facebook to keep everybody in the loop.
The girls are also sponsored, adding to their already impressive list of achievements. Jayda has been a member of the Rock ‘N Roll Denim team for about five to six years, and Carlee is a member of the Priefert Junior Elite Team. Each month, Carlee receives work sheets and videos of speakers on topics such as how to be a good role model or be confident while competing.
“The girls do that to promote sponsors, and I think it has helped them be good kids and good role models,” Ali said. “It’s just something else for them to be proud of when they’re in the rodeo arena. They love what they do.”
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