Quite a trek for Alaskan IFYR contestant and family

Brian Johnson
The Shawnee News-Star
Laura Haight (center) and her parents Mike and Robin Haight pose at the International Finals Youth Rodeo.

Getting to the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee was certainly an ordeal for barrel racing contestant Laura Haight and her family.

Especially coming from Kodiak, Alaska.

From a ferry ride to a blown transmission on their motor home to veterinary visits for their horses and even a robbery of one of their associates, the Haight Family's trek to the IFYR will be one they soon won't forget...make that never forget.

Their journey, which also included two dogs and two cats in tow, doesn't end here. Laura and her parents, Mike and Robin Haight, are headed to next week's National High School Finals Rodeo in Lincoln, Neb.

More:Students, fans glad to be back at the International Finals Youth Rodeo

But first for the journey, which included a flat tire right before it started, and began more than two months ago.

“It was a journey,” said Mike, taking the circumstances in stride. “The money part was stressful, but what other family has those experiences and have stories to tell. We learned how to deal with disappointment and keep going. In fact it was satisfying to actually make it here. It's a sense of accomplishment.”

Their more than two-month — approaching three-month —  journey began with a 12-hour ferry ride from Kodiak, situated on an island about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage, to Homer, Alaska on the Alaskan mainland. Then came the lengthy drive through Canada. Laura actually made the ferry ride with two of her horses before Mike and Robin came later.

Vehicle issues, theft plague Laura Haight's family on trip from Alaska to Oklahoma 

The family made it to Wyoming when one of many big problems occurred.

“Our motor home went smoking and the transmission was blown,” Robin said. “We had it towed into Laramie. We had to shove everything (personal belongings) we could into the horse trailer and left the camper in Wyoming.”

With no living quarters, that led to added expenses in staying in their vehicles and hotels.

“I even slept in the car a couple of nights,” Laura said.

They finally arrived at their destination here in the state in Sallisaw, where they get sponsorship help and support from Brian Muse and Mark Holder. They also made a new friend in Charlie Hunter, a Sallisaw resident and Vietnam veteran.

The family bought Hunter a bus ticket to go up to Laramie and pick up their motor home, but at some point Hunter's wallet was stolen, which ultimately set the family back even more.

In Tuesday morning's go-round, Laura Haight's first try in the barrels wasn't what she wanted as she and horse Ayra got off to a good start after the first two barrels.

“By the time we hit the third barrel, I knew something was wrong because Ayra came up coughing and wheezing. We just let up and coasted the rest of the way,” said Laura. “We bought a machine (an equine nebulizer) at the trade show to hopefully help her.”

Not all has been doom and gloom for Laura, who won at a rodeo at Purcell and finished first at rodeos in Checotah and Wilburton here in the state. She finished fourth at another rodeo at Checotah.

However, it's been an expensive venture for Laura and her family. The expenses have exceeded well over $30,000. Mike says that doesn't include food, some vet bills and some training sessions to name a few.

Despite the numerous difficulties, Mike has been appreciative of the help and support his family has received.

“There have been a lot of helpful people like vets and trainers, those who gave an extra effort to help us,” Mike said.