It came down to one run for Rianna Brill who was vying for a qualifying spot for the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) Finals.
Brill was competing for one of four spots against almost 100 other Virginia high-schoolers in goat tying and pole bending, a timed event weaving around six poles on horseback.
Before the final runs Rianna’s dad, Kevin, said he was more nervous than she was.
“Rianna and I were talking, and I said it’s funny we’ve had 10 or so rodeos this year, and out of all the runs it’s come down to this. It was that close.”
Rianna’s final runs earned her a spot at the finals in both events, tying for fourth place in goat tying and fifth in pole bending. The 15- year-old is now heading to Rock Springs, Wyoming next month for the NHSRA Finals.
“I was a little nervous because I knew this was my one shot at going. I’ve worked so hard for this. I’ve been through so much for this,” she said. “I thought I’d blown my goat run. They told me I did qualify, so that was a great mood booster. I knew I qualified in poles, but I really wanted to qualify in goats because that’s what I’d worked hard for this year.”
Rianna’s journey to rodeo began three years ago when she asked her dad for a horse simply to trail ride. After seeing it on TV, Rianna decided a year after getting her first horse that she wanted to try her hand at rodeo events.
“I kept thinking maybe she’ll just forget it, but she just kept on with it,” Kevin Brill said. “We got her a horse and that got it started. I wanted [rodeo] to be her decision, and I encouraged her to do it.”
In the beginning, Rianna started barrel racing—a speed event where a horse and rider attempt to complete a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels. But Rianna admits that at first she had her own doubts about getting into rodeo.
“In the very beginning I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this because I was having issues with one of my barrel horses. My trainer would not let me back down off of it. She made me continue to do it, and I’m thankful for her because that’s where I am now,” she said.
Rianna’s trainer, Tiffiney Sims, said the duo prayed for guidance and to learn.
“The first thing I told her is we are going to pray before we begin,” Sims said. “We prayed that I would guide her in the right direction and that she’ll learn.”
The same day, however, Sims said she gave Rianna a push to keep going.
“She expressed to me that [she wanted to] walk that day and didn’t want to do much more. I said ‘No, ma’am, we’re going to do what Tiffiney says to do.’ She giggled at me and trusted me from that moment on. I pushed her. Real cowgirls fall off, and she’s dusted off and get right back on.”
For others wanting to get into rodeo, Rianna says to “just go for it.”
“It’s a lot of work and you’re going to have those days where you feel like you can’t do it or think, ‘This isn’t for me. I need to give up.’ But don’t give up. It gets better. You have good days and bad days. It’s taught me a lot on hard work and what I need to do to be a better person. You can’t have a bad attitude in rodeo,” Rianna said.
Rianna and her 18-year-old horse Reggie will make the 29-hour trip to compete in pole bending and goat tying at the NHSRA Finals July 14-20. The event will be broadcast live on www.ridepass.com.
“I’m looking forward to the experience because it’ll be good for me and my horse to bond, and it’s a new experience,” Rianna said. “I’m grateful just to be doing this. Some kids don’t get these opportunities. I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me along the way and congratulated me or asked me how I’m doing. That means a lot to me.”