Photo provided by Alaysha Kushneryk
Before the barrel races at the upcoming Mary Reimer Memorial Rodeo, rider Alaysha Kushneryk could most likely be found near her horse trailer, tending to her horses and making them look good.
Moments before her race, she’ll envision what she wants her run to look like and how to set herself up for success in the arena.
“It’s mind blowing that I get the opportunity to do it. I love doing it and it gives me a rush. You’re on a high when you’re doing it, it’s the best feeling in the world,” she gushed about competing at rodeos, whether it’s barrel racing or roping.
A daily highlight for Kushneryk is just seeing her four horses every morning when she wakes up, which is not surprising for someone with big aspirations of professionally riding horses at rodeos one day.
Kushneryk started riding competitively at just seven years-old and now 10 years later she still has the motivation and passion to keep going.
“I really enjoy doing this sport, it being competitive and me being a competitive person definitely is a big part of the motivation,” said Kushneryk.
Even with this year’s rainy weather, which created a mud pit in the Hinton arena, she’s continuously practicing at home and at the Edson indoor arena.
Since she was just a kid, Kushneryk has taken part in rodeo events including barrel racing, in which a horse and rider complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time; breakaway roping, where a calf is roped but not thrown and tied; pole bending, in which a horse and rider run a weaving path around six poles in a line; and team roping featuring a steer and two riders.
At the Hinton rodeo on Aug. 26 to 28 this year, she’ll be using multiple horses for varying events at the Mary Reimer rodeo in Hinton from July 26 – 28. She plans on competing in pole bending, roping, and barrel racing.
“I’ve moved up to ladies this year so it’s my first year running with what we call the big dogs. Trying to catch my ground a little bit and feel my groove with them but my horse has been keeping up and we’ve been placing in the top 20 most of the times we’ve ran,” she said.
She doesn’t anticipate making it to the finals this year but hopes to do well enough in breakaway roping for a possible shot at the finals.
Throughout her year so far, she was the season leader for five rodeos and was close to going to the finals of high school rodeo before backing off to focus on the Wildrose Rodeo Association (WRA) and the Lakeland Rodeo Association (LRA).
“We wanted to try and catch the groove earlier on in the season,” she said.
Kushneryk hopes the level of competition at the WRA and LRA will help her become more competitive as she attempts to push herself further with her riding.
“I’m hoping that I’ll go pro one day, maybe not within the next year or whatever, because I want to go to school after, but I’m hoping to go pro in either the breakaway or the barrels,” she said.
Kushneryk believes rodeo is a huge part of Canada’s heritage and that it’s important to keep the tradition of rodeos alive in Alberta.
“A lot of people really enjoy it as their own family thing or a sport to them. I think it’s just a fantastic thing for people to do and for people to see,” she said.