Jayna Hale is not a typical bronc rider.
The shy 12-year-old from Alberta, Canada, didn’t get on her first bareback bronc until June.
“My brothers were doing it and I got bored of watching them,” Hale said. “So I decided to try it.”
Hale proved to be a natural. She won four of the first rodeos she entered in the junior bareback competition. Her success continued through the summer and fall, capped by her winning the reserve junior bareback championship at the Rank Mini Pony Canadian Classic in Edmonton in early November.
Hale’s accomplishments landed her in Las Vegas for this year’s Junior National Finals Rodeo presented by YETI. She had a 57-point ride Friday, but was bucked off short of the 6-second buzzer Sunday at the Wrangler Sports Arena.
Oh yeah, the other thing that helps Hale stand out from the rest of the roughstock competitors at the competitors? She’s the lone cowgirl among the almost 200 cowboys competing in the roughstock events – junior bareback, junior saddle bronc, mini bull riding – this week.
“I thought it was pretty neat that she wanted to do it,” Brad Hale, Jayna’s father, said, “but I wanted her to ride saddle bronc instead of bareback. I thought it might be tougher on her, but she is as tough as or tougher than her brothers.”
Jayna’s brothers – Dexter, 14, and Brody, 11 – are also competing this week, albeit in saddle bronc. Brody also competes in bareback, although he didn’t qualify for the Junior NFR in the event.
“When she tried it at first at home I gave her a couple of tips,” Brody said. “And then when we went to some rodeos she started beating me.”
While Dexter doesn’t have to concern himself by getting out-pointed by his younger sister in the arena, that doesn’t keep the siblings from being competitive.
“I don’t know,” Dexter said of who is the better bronc rider between the two. “It kind of depends on the day, I guess. Some days she’s better and some days I’m better.”
So how did Dexter feel about having his little sister get on top of a bucking bronc?
“At first, I said, ‘No way,’” Dexter said with a smile. “But then I was OK with it and now we help each other out.”
Besides, it’s not like Jayna didn’t know her way around horses. In addition to being raised on a ranch, Jayna has been a trick rider for years. Last year she was the Canadian national trick riding champion and performed at the inaugural Junior NFR.
“My initial thought when she wanted to start doing this was OK, because she’s been trick riding for a few years,” said Roxanne Hale, Jayna’s mother. “I didn’t think she would take to it like she did, though. But she got off the first one and she was like, ‘Get me another one, I want to do this.’
“She’s a tough little girl and she’s been riding horses forever. But my heart sure beats faster watching her do this than (when she does) trick riding. Today my shirt was literally moving because I was so nervous.”
It’s understandable that Roxanne is nervous watching her only daughter try her luck on top of bucking ponies weighing around 200-300 pounds. In reality, though, Jayna has already proved she belongs in the rodeo arena.
“She’s a strong kid,” Brad said. “And I think trick riding really helped with her balance.”
Jayna and her brothers also have benefited from their upbringing in Hussar in southern Alberta.
“We live out in the middle of nowhere on a ranch,” Brad said. “We’re about 40 minutes from anywhere and we’ve got a bit of time to kill so they started (riding broncs).”
Now that Jayna has gotten a taste of success riding bucking ponies, her trick riding days might be over.
“I’ve had a lot of fun doing this,” she said. “I don’t do trick riding as much anymore.”
And that’s fine with her parents.
“We’ll just let her keep doing it and let her decide what she wants to do,” Brad said before adding, “maybe she’ll start riding broncs instead.”
When all is said and done, though, Jayna has plenty of time to decide what she wants to do. Remember, she is only 12 years old.
“It’s OK not having a girly girl,” Roxanne said. “But she’s hitting that age where she’s got to make sure the hair is right and she has to have a little bit of makeup.
“She has those girly girl tendencies, but she’s still tough as nails.”
Added Jayna: “Being the only girl (competing) here is cool.”