Jayde Atkins, 18, of Broken Bow, Nebraska, celebrated a gratifying end to her High School Rodeo career when she won the Reined Cow Horse Championship at the 2016 National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming.
“I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet,” Atkins said, when asked how she felt about being a National Champion. I’m still in in the ‘Ah, is this real?’ stage. But it’s cool so far! Because it’s the last time I get to compete at the high school level, and having good memories, all that’s pretty awesome.”
Atkins dominated throughout the Reined Cow Horse competition in Gillette, winning the high scoring buckle in the first go-round and making good runs in the second go-round, which gave her a 7.5 point lead coming into the short go on Saturday, July 22. Even with that substantial margin, Atkins knew she was facing 19 other tough competitors in the short go, and had no room for error.
“The short go, loping into the arena, I kept telling myself to be calm. With all these kids who were throwing out big scores, it was pretty nerve wracking. I knew I was ahead, but I wanted to keep it. Coming through my pattern, I was worried about my horse a little too much. When I got through my first circles, changed leads, and went to my second set of circles, I decided to trust him, and I put my hand down, and he worked even better,” she said. “Our stops were awesome. He always stops huge. The cow work was the fun part we all love, and for me personally, I felt it was the best I’d ever done. It was just awesome. It’s so much fun, and an adrenalin rush, and I came out not being able to breathe!”
Her 146.5 in the short go rein work and 150.5 in the short go cow work not only earned Atkins a total 884.5 in the average for the National Championship; they also garnered prizes from the NRCHA and the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA). For her high scoring cow work, Atkins took home a plaque from the NRCHA. For her high scoring rein work, she won a $2,500 scholarship from the Reining Horse Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA); and a Morrison bronze from the NRHA.
“My horse is more of a fence horse, not a reining horse, and watching some of the kids who scored higher reining scores than I did in the first two go-rounds, I figured that in the short go, I would try to have a solid reining score, have a big cow score, and hopefully win it. Winning both the rein work and the cow work is very humbling, and it proved to me that I can do it, and my horse is that good, and it’s just really cool. I’m excited,” Atkins said.
Atkins rode her family’s 2003 gelding, Sonitas Last Dual (Dualin Jewels x Sonitas Ann x Sonitas Last), known as “Harry” around the barn. Jayde and her parents have a history with reined cow horses; her parents have trained and showed cow horses in the past, and Jayde showed them early in her youth career. When Jayde got older, the family’s focus switched to high school rodeo, and the Atkinses were happy to merge the two disciplines when Reined Cow Horse became a National High School Rodeo event in 2015.
“We all jumped on the boat right away, and I was excited because I hadn’t gotten to do reined cow horse in years. My first cow run at our state finals last year was really really good, and I was hooked – again. It was tons of fun,” Atkins said.
She thanked her parents, and reined cow horse trainer Jeremy Knoles of Nebraska, who also helped coach her.