(This is part two of three blogs about local rodeo competitor, Sadie Hairford. For part one of this series, click here.)
This summer, local Texas Woman's University (TWU) student Sadie Hairford has competed in two high-intensity rodeos. One was for the best of Texas high school rodeo, and the other was for the best in the country, Australia and Canada. Now she's looking forward to bringing it home at the North Texas Fair and Rodeo (NTFR).
In June, she packed up all of her horses for a week in Abilene to compete at the Texas High School State Finals Rodeo. This is where the top 10 competitors from each event come together from all of the regions of Texas and compete in one arena. Sadie is one of the competitors who made it to state all four years of high school in multiple events every year. That’s a hard task. She is competing against the top kids in the toughest rodeo state in the country. It’s all about being at the top of the food chain.
“It’s very intimidating the first time you go into it because of the pressure, and you are competing against seniors who are also in the pro-rodeo circuit," Sadie said. "By the time you are at your last state rodeo, you enjoy it. You crave the pressure.”
After state, Sadie took three weeks off from big rodeos and practiced before she hauled to Shawnee, Oklahoma for the International Youth Finals Rodeo. Shawnee is a new situation to be in, because the competitors are from all over the country, and some are even from other countries. There is still the same amount of pressure as there is at state, but instead of your region cheering you on, the whole state is.
“State helped me get in the mindset I needed to be in to compete at the big rodeos," she said. "It reminds you that you have to be at the top of your game and ready to compete against the best.”
As far as preparation goes, the two are very similar. For Sadie, she wants to be at the top of her game at both the biggest and smallest rodeos. That makes her practice routine the same for all of the rodeos she attends. This summer, since she was a veteran at both state and Shawnee, she got to reflect on what it is like, going from a freshman diving head first into these situations to becoming a senior who isn’t fazed by the pressure.
But you can’t prepare for everything. At state, Sadie went to get her goat-tying horse for the first run of the week. The horse could barely walk, so she had to borrow someone else’s horse. At Shawnee, it rained for three days straight and flooded the arena.
“When your horse is lame, your first instinct is panic," she said. "I kept my head level and found a ride. After the run had been made, I focused fully on doctoring my horse. Shawnee changes under water, and it’s just something you have to mentally overcome. It can and will affect the animals. It changes the dynamics of it all.”
At the end of the day, these situations and challenges will help her compete in the professional circuit. Going away for weeks at a time will be a new normal for her, and facing new obstacles will be never-ending. No matter what though, Sadie always loves coming back to her hometown and showing her skills on her own turf.
“I compete out of town more often than I get to compete at home, so it’s fun when you get to come and see friendly faces,” she said.
The NTFR is an event that Sadie looks forward to every year and is a change of pace from the usual circle she runs in.
“The fair is somewhere I can have my normal mindset but sit back and enjoy the scenery and see familiar faces," she said. "It’s relaxing to be home. I want to go and compete at my highest level and present myself as a good role model and have my colt work well running barrels.”
The NTFR brings together all different levels of competition into one arena for people of all kinds to watch and understand. All of the dimensions of the rodeo that take place is impressive for people to watch and makes the fair a special environment. From skilled contestants to kids riding their first sheep, the fair has it all and makes for a unique and fun experience for the whole family.
Next week, I will tell y’all all about how Sadie does Wednesday night competing at the 21 and Under rodeo. I’ll also tell you about how coaching has helped her prepare and connect with the community!