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Young Rider Q&A with AJ Yarbrough

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AJ Yarbrough fell in love with horses at a young age, and dreamed of becoming a competitive rider after watching a Barrel Race at a local show in Louisville. She first learned how to ride on a rescue horse that was bound for slaughter. She now has her eyes set on qualifying for the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Alayna Jaide Yarbrough, known as AJ is from Louisville, Mississippi. She is a 15- year - old sophomore at Nanih Wayia Attendance Center and currently competes in Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Quadrangles and Stakes.

She fell in love with horses at a young age, and dreamed of becoming a competitive rider after watching a Barrel Race at a local show in Louisville. She first learned how to ride on a rescue horse that was bound for slaughter. She now has her eyes set on qualifying for the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

How long have you been riding?  How did you get into riding?
I have been riding since I was 12, but I have wanted to ride since I was 9. I went to a barrel race at my local arena and saw girls my age barrel racing for the first time and thought “well, that looks fun, if they can do it I can too”.

Who taught you how to ride?  Do you train with anyone?  If so, where?
I started off riding with my parents, in my backyard, on a horse we got from a horse rescue in Jackson Miss. She was literally pulled off a trailer bound for slaughter in Mexico. There was only so much I could do in my pasture /yard at home so I began to attend Barrel Racing clinics. I attended a Connie Combs clinic and a Martha Josey clinic to learn how to properly ride and compete.

After these clinics I started working with some amazing people who have taught me everything I know today. These people still help and encourage me today. My coach right now is Mrs. Kasidi Smart.

What type of riding is your favorite?  AND what's your favorite thing about riding?
I enjoy Barrel Racing more than anything else. I have done several different sports such as softball and cheerleading, but riding horses and competing has so far been the only one that I have felt a genuine passion for. It never feels like something I am forced to do, it's just something I enjoy and want to do myself.

Tell us about your goals for the NLBR in Oklahoma and why you are determined to qualify/ compete?
My goal for the NLBR this year is to qualify and experience the finals. It has been my goal to qualify for Guthrie ever since I joined Little Britches, and I think once you make it there you can make it anywhere.

Tell us about your horses.
I have six horses, five of them have competed with me. They have each taught me different things which is important because I think riding different types of horses helps when it comes to advancing in Barrel Racing and riding in general.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the sport?
The biggest challenge I have faced in this sport is feeling as if I’m not enough, or not as good as everyone I see competing. I often compared myself to others, without realizing how much work they have put in to get where they are at. I find myself always wanting what everyone else has, and being at the level others are at, without realizing that if I stick with it and put in the hard work then I will be there one day too.

What has been your biggest success so far?
My biggest success has been overcoming all kinds of big emotions, and learning to just have fun with this sport.I believe once you start focusing on having fun then you truly do realize that there isn’t anything like it.

 

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