(SHAWNEE, Okla.) The Australian Junior Rodeo Association has brought a team to the International Finals Youth Rodeo for three years. Each family must raise around $4,000 to join the tour. They land in Ft. Worth, Texas, and hit the big stores like Teskeys, NRS, Justin and American Hat with the ultimate destination being the IFYR in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
There are three on the team this year, one from New Zealand and two from Australia. They have travelled to four events along with the IFYR, but this remains their favorite.
“The people here are so friendly,” said event coordinator, Kylee Ferguson, who has been doing this for three years. “We all travel together and stay together and the volunteers here make it very easy to do that. They are amazing!”
Kurtis Pertab is 18 years old and lives with his family of five; two younger brothers and his parents. They train race horses and Kurtis competes in team roping and tie down roping. This is his first trip to the United States and he enjoys how big it is and the professional way they handle rodeo.
“It’s a higher level of competition,” said Kurtis.
He competed in tie down roping Tuesday morning at the IFYR and got a time on the board. He is borrowing a horse that was found by Kylee. When he is done with his trip, he plans to finish school and start training race horses for a career. He lives by the saying: You’ll never have this day again, so make it count.
“When I go to practice sometimes I don’t want to, so I pump myself up by saying that,” said Kurtis.
Brandee Ferguson is 16 years old and this is her second trip to the United States. She was ready for the level of competition and prepared herself for the IFYR by roping a lot and keeping her mental stability active so she “doesn’t go crazy.”
“I stress out a lot and over think my run – it all goes downhill from there,” said Brandee.
She is always amazed by how many people she encounters on her trips to the states.
“There are more people in Texas than in Australia,” said Brandee. “We went to Las Vegas – I enjoyed walking through the streets and seeing all the different casinos.”
Her favorite rodeo she’s been to is the IFYR.
“I like the atmosphere here. I was just ready to rope and I saw three people that I knew,” said Brandee. “I’m very surprised to see that – people were recording my voice and adding me on social media – so I’ll come back next year – they love to hear us talk.”
She is currently living outside of Houston, Texas and has been here since the Junior American and is not homesick at all.
“The family I live with make me feel like I’m at home,” said Brandee. “For me to go to a pro rodeo back home I have to travel 13 hours for one – here I can drive three hours and go to four.”
Full send or no send is a saying she lives by. She is competing in breakaway roping and team roping at the IFYR.
Holly Forster is making her first trip to the IFYR. She wanted to make the trip to experience new rodeos and meet different people.
“It’s really big and overwhelming I reckon,” said the 16-year-old who lives on a cattle property.
She has an older brother who is doing an apprenticeship in another town. The property consists of 60,000 acres of Downs country, mostly flat and in seven years of drought. She attends a boarding school six hours from home and spends most of her time there.
“I like it – I meet new people and get a better education,” said Holly. “I hope to own a cattle property or something like that.”
She competes in team roping and breakaway roping.
“My dad taught me how to rope.”