Australia and New Zealand are in the arena at the 2018 International Finals Youth Rodeo. Brandee Ferguson and Tegan O’Callaghan traveled 14 hours to land in the United States and compete. This is the first time the two have met and they borrowed horses and an RV to make Shawnee, Oklahoma, their home for the week. To be part of this experience, each girl had to fill out a form to apply for the team, raise the money necessary to make the journey, and then the journey began.
Tegan is from New Zealand and traveled to Australia to compete in a two-country rodeo challenge. This is the 18-year-old’s first trip to the United States and her first impression of America: “really, really, really hot. Everyone is really polite and nice.” She also notes that New Zealand has one youth association and “we don’t goat tie or breakaway or pole bend.” She has never experienced anyone opening the door for her until she came to the United States. The other thing she shared is that her country is known for birds, lots of birds. “We have kiwis –– it’s our signature animal. It’s a flightless bird. People call us Kiwis. You don’t see them very often, but we have them.”
Their rodeo season runs from Christmas until March and when she’s not rodeoing, she plays soccer and field hockey. “When school finishes in November, I will go to university and study environmental planning and will go into that field.” Tegan lives on a farm where her family raises beef that is sent to the United States. “We have 1,500 acres and run 2,000 cattle.” They can do this because of the heavy rainfall as well as the management techniques. “The animals are put into small mobs (herds) and moved every second day. They are on a rotation of 60 days.” They also have 50 sheep and since there is no snow, the entire operation requires no hay.
15-year-old Brandee Ferguson is a veteran at competing in the U.S., this is her fourth trip. “I’ve been to the Junior High Finals, and this is my first time at the IFYR. I didn’t sign up for high school rodeo so I could come here. It’s really nice– it’s fun to look up in the stands and see all the competitors in the grandstands and below in the boxes.” She competes in barrel racing, breakaway roping and pole bending and has ridden the horse she’s competing on for the past two years. “This year I didn’t get to ride him beforehand – I ride the same horse in barrels and poles, and a different horse for the breakaway.”
She says the difference between rodeo in the U.S. versus Australia is the focus we put on youth rodeo.
“Most rodeos in Australia are open rodeos, with junior events that will qualify for the Junior Finals.”
She lives in Queensland and her dad owns a saddlery shop and does leatherwork. Her mom owns a travel agency and works for the government. She has two more terms of high school and has offers to come to the U.S. and go to school. “Both my parents think it’s a good idea, but I’m not too sure what I’d do with my horses. I own two myself, but my family owns six. My horses are my main priority – well my family is too but I can always FaceTime them.” She has a little brother, 11, and an older brother, 21, who goes to the University of Wyoming. He competes in bronc riding.