Haley Ganzel, 18, of Collinsville and recently moved to Choctaw, has spent the last four years participating in the International Finals Youth Rodeo.
Ganzel is also highly involved in trick riding, which she said is very different. She said trick riding is very fast paced, all about entertainment and not so much about the competition. One of the most important things with trick riding is pleasing the crowd.
“I’m a people pleaser. I want everyone to be happy and have a good time,” she said.
For this year’s IFYR, Ganzel will be competing in breakaway and barrel racing. She said her favorite thing to compete in is breakaway. She said her breakaway horse, Pearl, is ready for competition but she is a little worried about her Barrel racing horse, King, because he recently sustained a minor injury that might keep him out of the competition.
Ganzel said King’s veterinarian will check him over and let her know whether or not he is cleared to run, but if he’s not, she has a back up horse a friend is lending her.
“It’s my senior year, so I would really like to ride my own horse,” she said.
She said riding someone else’s horse is difficult because the horse is not familiar with the rider and vice versa.
Ganzel almost lost the opportunity to purchase one of her horses. She said she needed to come up with the money to buy her barrel racing horse, but was short a little and he was almost sold to someone else, but at the last minute, she was able to come up with enough to purchase him.
“Both my horses are a huge blessing,” she said.
One of Ganzel’s favorite things about the IFYR is all of the competitors.
“There is a ton of competition,” she said.
She said having a lot of competition is great because it makes the best come out in everyone and allows people to challenge themselves. This year Ganzel said she’s very excited about her new sponsorship with the Cherokee Nation.
Ganzel said she turned away rodeo scholarships so she could focus her summer between high school and college on trick riding. She has several events lined out including acting in the sequel to the movie Cowgirls and Angels.
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Ganzel was in the first movie where she was a stunt rider and was cast as Rose. She said when she was cast for the first movie she thought it was a one in a lifetime opportunity, and then she was cast for the second movie.
“Who gets to say they were in a movie? It was really fun,” she said.
After high school, Ganzel plans to attend a community college to work toward a degree to become a nurse practitioner.