By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Strathmore trick riders Mackenzie Jensen and Jayna Hale, 17, have been invited to perform at the Ponoka Stampede this summer.
The Ponoka Stampede is regarded as the second-to-largest rodeo event in Alberta, following the Calgary Stampede and it will be the girls’ first time being asked to perform there.
“You put your bid in (to perform) and they choose. Usually, there is more than one group that wants to be there, so they just choose who they think is the best suited for the job each year,” explained Jensen who added that trick riding is a sport that is not for the feint of heart, as it is a demanding and time-consuming sport to be able to do both well and safely.
“Me and Jayna practice together once a week and we also ride every single day to keep ourselves and our horses in condition,” said Jensen. “It takes a lot of determination and hard work. You have to be in good physical shape and willing to ride your horse every day, so they are in good physical shape. You have to not be too scared of stuff.”
Jensen started trick riding when she was five years old, being introduced to the sport through regular exposure to rodeo. She suggested that she was bored with riding normally and wanted something a bit more exciting.
Hale started at a similar age and has been in competition since she was nine — claiming three Canadian championships, a reserve north American championship and several competitions based out of Calgary.
Jensen has also been awarded several Canadian titles and is the reigning two-time North American Champion.
“I also grew up in rodeo and I actually got invited to a clinic by a friend of ours, so I decided to try (trick riding) and I really liked it,” said Hale.
Trick riding, Jensen explained, is a sport that takes daily dedication to both maintain one’s own physical shape, as well as to build trust with the horse.
“Finding motivation to not just ride, but workout and stretch every day, eat right and have a good routine — it’s pretty challenging,” said Jensen.
Typically, Jensen and Hale will spend at least an hour each day riding and working with their horses.
The two youths explained they attended school together and had ties with each other’s families, adding it just made sense to begin riding together.
Regarding their invitation to perform in Ponoka, Jensen and Hale explained it is an intimidating prospect, but among the rodeo season it is certainly something they are excited to be a part of. Similarly, it will be the largest stage the two have taken to performing at.
Having both received their professional accreditation from the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, Jensen and Hale are looking to achieve performance goals throughout Canada and in the United States for the upcoming season.
The girls will also perform in Taber, Lea Park, Grande Prairie, the Stompede, TeePee Creek, and the Strathmore Stampede this season, among other shows.