Cochrane girl aims to outlast all-male competition at national steer riding finals
Bailey Schellenberg, 14, is first girl to ever qualify
Fourteen-year-old Bailey Schellenberg has had a short but wild rodeo ride so far, after becoming the first girl to ever qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in junior steer riding, happening this week in Red Deer.
"Being a girl is just a bonus. Riding steers is what I love to do, and it fills me up," she told the Calgary Eyeopener.
The sport could be called a youth version of bull riding, where competitors under the age of 15 aim to stay on a bucking animal for eight seconds, and riders are allowed to hang on with both hands.
Still, it's risky.
Earlier this year, Schellenberg sustained a concussion after the steer she was riding bucked its head up and slammed its skull against her helmet.
"I got smacked in the head by the cow pretty good," said Schellenberg, who is from Cochrane.
After that incident, her parents thought it might be a good idea to bring her 1½-year steer riding career to an end.
"But I worked really hard at getting back to my normal self, and they let me get on again," she said.
Physically, Schellenberg won't be at her best when she competes at the finals this week in Red Deer. She's been riding with injuries to her wrists since May, and her surgery won't happen until sometime after the finals wrap up on Sunday.
"I just got jerked really hard when both my hands were in the rope, and it just tore all the ligaments," she recalled.
But Schellenberg's deep-rooted love of rodeo spurs her on. With a pickup man for a father, she's been attending the rodeo since before she can remember.
This is her chance to realize a dream she says she's had since she was seven years old: to be the first female to ride in this event final.
Likely her last riding event
Though she's just made a major breakthrough in the sport, Schellenberg says she has no aspirations to move on to bull riding once she ages out of her category.
"I just don't really want to bull ride," she said, offering as good a reason as any.
"I'll probably become a team roper. It makes it easier if I competed in these junior events, because I know the rodeo life now," she said.
But at least until the finals conclude this weekend, she'll be focused on one thing and one thing only.
"Just to do my very best and see the other guys do their very best. It's going to be a fun weekend, and we're all going to try to beat everyone."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.