Santa Fe’s Aspen Miller will compete in the International Finals Youth Rodeo next week for the first time in her life, and while she’s expecting to go up against many experienced riders, she’s not running short on confidence.
“I am a freshman in high school, and there are seniors competing, so age and size could make a difference, but since I’ve never been, I don’t know what it’s exactly like,” Miller said. “But, I still feel confident with my horses.”
The rodeo will take place in Shawnee, Okla., at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center and will run from July 8-13.
It’ll be the world’s richest youth rodeo Miller will participate in, as she attempts to win her share of more than $250,000 in prize money and championship saddles and buckles.
“It’s a big deal for me because anyone in the country can go to it,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a big competition. It’ll be a fun rodeo. It’ll be fun to compete against everyone.”
Miller will join more than 850 of the top high school rodeo athletes from around the world at the competition.
Contestants will compete in 10 events running simultaneously in three arenas throughout the week. Events include barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, goat tying, team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding.
Miller said the event she looks forward to the most is the breakaway roping.
“I feel like that’s my strongest event,” Miller said. “That’s where I rope the calf. That’s my favorite event for sure.”
The IFYR consists of two long go-rounds and a short go. All contestants compete once in each of the long go-rounds. The top 15 averages in each event will compete in the short go finals Friday next week.
“It’s a large rodeo,” Miller said. “It’s more spread out over a week. Your event may be going on, but you may not be up that day. They have more than one arena, and it’s pretty cool from what I’ve heard.”
Miller has been following a rigorous practice schedule to get ready for internationals. She’ll usually begin practice at 6 p.m. and train for five hours with her horses.
“We don’t want to start too early in the day because of the heat, so we’ll be practice at night until around 11,” Miller said.
Her training schedule has been plagued with a few disruptions from Mother Nature in the last week, however.
“We’ve had a few delays because of the rain,” Miller said. “We were going to be out roping on Wednesday night but then we had a lot of rain. But most nights, we’ve been out practicing at the arena until almost midnight.”
But ever since the school year finished, it’s been easier for her to get ready for next week’s rodeo.
“It’s made my practice schedule easier because I can have the horses saddled before my dad gets home,” Miller said.
Miller has competed in many rodeos throughout her life, including most recently, the high school state finals in Abilene last month.
She also competed in the KK Run for Vegas/Jr. National Finals Rodeo Barrel Race in Las Vegas, Nev. in December.
“That was a fun rodeo,” Miller said of her event in Nevada. “I felt like I did fine. I don’t think I did great in the barrels, but I felt like I did well in the break away. I won a couple of checks. I did as well as I could.”
She knows all too well that there will be plenty of good competition at next week’s rodeo in the Sooner State.
But she’ll get a chance to experience it next week at one of the world’s grandest stage in youth rodeo.
“I hope to take home the win for sure,” Miller said. “I’m hoping to do well but even if I don’t, there’s still next year. But I want to do as well as I can.”