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The American: Providing Inspiration!

Dan Mortensen
Paying It Forward: Following Amberley Snyder's
impressive American competition, RFT TV
announced the Amberley Snyder Courage Award to
assist future Farmer of America members who are facing
challenges. Photo above by Kenneth Springer.

The American Rodeo at Texas AT&T Stadium was an amazing production. Each competitor has an inspiring story to tell. I loved hearing that Bare Back Riding Champion and $500,000 Bonus Winner Taylor Price has a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Middle Eastern Studies! I enjoyed the enthusiasm of young Team Ropers Coleman Proctor and Jake Long, who emphatically agreed they were "living the dream." I loved watching Williams and Skelton, Woolman, Jake Barnes and Clay O'Brien Cooper, and the heel catch of Junior Nogueira. Then there was Trevor's broken rope, Tuf's fast time in Calf Roping, Ote Berry and Charmayne James!

There were so many stories and fantastic horses. I was just as interested to watch both the seated contestants and the qualifiers. Where else aside from the National Finals Rodeo can a fan see not only the top 10 cowboys and cowgirls in each event, but also some of the up and coming champions of tomorrow under one roof during one performance!

I found myself hanging onto the interviews and features and loved listening to the words of wisdom from both the announcers and the quest commentators, not to mention comments made by some of the sports great competitors. World Champion Steer Wrestler Rope Meyer said, "A horse can't run fast enough to make up 6" off the barrier." I'd never quite heard it put that way, but it certainly made sense how important a talented horse and an accurate start is to a winning run. Wade Sundell said "Winning means more than anything else." Nine year-old Chayni Chamberland said "Follow your dream and it will probably come true." Hunter Herron said "Never quit." Ty Murray said "Keep trying, no matter what." Rich Skelton said "Go rope and have fun." Speedy said "This is where preparation meets opportunity." Perhaps the best of all was John Wayne's quote, "Find the courage to saddle up, even when you are scared to death!"

The Barrel Race was both inspiring and exciting! No wonder it's the fastest growing equine discipline worldwide! I admired the run of former NFR competitor Trula Churchill. Then there was beautiful and talented Navajo Cowgirl Cassidy Dennison, Sharon Hall pulling her stallion our of retirement, Jackie Jatzlau riding a four year-old, Brittany Diaz riding a horse she bought for $800, young Lindsey McLeod resetting her first barrel, Jane Melby riding a horse she has owned for six weeks, New Zealand cowgirl Carmel Wright, Charmayne back in the saddle, and back-to-back American Champion Lisa Lockhart's display of great horsemanship and consistency on the horse we all want in our barn, Louie. WOW! I remembered how I felt as a 12 year-old aspiring cowgirl seeing my first National Finals Barrel Race. It was that exact moment my career path was established!

Perhaps the best moment was favorite Amberley Snyder receiving a standing ovation from over 40,000 fans! Paying Forward is a hobby we all should aspire to take up, and my cowgirl hat is off to World Champion Fallon Taylor for her post on GoFundeMe.com, promoting donations for a stand up wheel chair for Amberley to aid in her future endeavors which include teaching and "being able to clean my own stall!" It is amazing to me how little things so many of us take for granted are huge things in others' lives.

Aside form great competition, the concept of The American is a great way for the world to get a glimpse of individuals who help keep equestrian sports alive. Their stories show that the promise of hard work, honesty and a little luck bring big dividends.

Thanks to Randy Bernard and Patrick Gottsch at RFD TV for their vision in promoting our top rodeo performers and providing a showcase for talented up and comers. Watch for your chance to compete at one of The American qualifier events in your area.