[caption id="attachment_80992" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/04\/Hannah-Burks.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="507" class="size-full wp-image-80992" \/> Hannah Burks, a freshman at Pocahontas County High School, said riding and rodeo get in your blood, but it takes a lot of work. Your horse can take you there \u2013 but you have to do the rest of the work yourself. Photo courtesy of the Burks family[\/caption]\r\n\r\nLaura Dean Bennett\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nFour young people from Pocahontas County are currently competing in the West Virginia High School Rodeo Association.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThey are Hannah Burks, Mya Workman and Lilly Stephens, who are competing in rodeo events \u2013 and Keaton Baldwin, who is the West Virginia state high school champion bull rider \u2013 two years running.\r\n\r\nIn the upcoming weeks, we\u2019ll meet all four rodeo riders and explore the world of West Virginia High School Rodeo.\r\n\r\nHannah Burks, a 15 year-old freshman at Pocahontas County High School, has always been a sporty girl. She plays soccer and basketball, but, even as a two year-old toddler, she took to horses like a duck to water \u2013 and she\u2019s been in the saddle ever since.\r\n\r\nHannah started competing on the Junior High School Rodeo circuit when she was in seventh\u00a0grade and now, as a freshman, she\u2019s still at it \u2013 still training, taking clinics and travelling to every rodeo she can to earn experience and points.\r\n\r\nShe does goat-tying, barrel racing, pole-bending events, and wants to get into break-away roping, too.\r\n\r\n\u201cI think I was about four or five when I started really riding,\u201d Hannah recalled. \u201cRiding and rodeo gets in your blood, but it takes a lot of work. You really have to love it.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnd I do.\r\n\r\n\u201cI play basketball and soccer, too, and that helps me keep in shape.\r\n\r\n\u201cBut it\u2019s hard to keep up with another sport when you do rodeo competitively. It takes so much time, because you have to travel so much.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019m missing a lot of basketball practice because of my rodeo schedule, but I have to get my rodeo points in, and I can\u2019t miss any competitions,\u201d Hannah said.\r\n\r\nLike any sport, serious competition takes passion and dedication.\u00a0\r\n\r\nBesides early mornings \u2013 rising before daybreak \u2013 and the hard work on and off horseback in all kinds of weather, there\u2019s chasing points to qualify for the next rung of competition.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s an endless quest to improve skills and beat the clock \u2013 to shave seconds and tenths of seconds off of each goat-tying time.\r\n\r\nIt was her cousin, Nicole Brock, who can take credit for getting Hannah interested in rodeo.\r\n\r\nBrock, the president of the Pocahontas County Saddle Club, also started competing in West Virginia High School Rodeo as a young lady.\r\n\r\n\u201cFrom the time I was a freshman through my senior year, I competed, and \u201cgoats\u201d was my favorite event,\u201d Brock said. \u201cIt\u2019s that adrenalin rush \u2013 jumping off a horse that\u2019s going 15-20 miles an hour.\u201d\r\n\r\nBrock will never forget the day Hannah sat on her first horse.\r\n\r\n\u201cOne Easter, when Hannah was two years old, I was out riding and John Paul and Cindy (Hannah\u2019s parents) pulled up beside me with a very fussy baby in the car. I mean, you could hear Hannah having a fit,\u201d Brock said.\u00a0\u201cShe was all dressed up in a pretty Easter dress, and she was not happy.\r\n\r\n\u201cI was sitting on my horse, and Cindy handed her up to me and said, \u2018Here, take her.\u2019\r\n\r\n\u201cI did, and Hannah stopped crying right away.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnd I guess that was that.\r\n\r\n\u201cHannah was like a little sister to me. I taught her how to ride and started her doing barrels and poles and then she got serious and wanted to start High School Rodeo.\u201d\r\n\r\nHannah\u2019s not the only Pocahontas County girl Brock introduced to rodeo \u2013 she trained Mya Workman and Lilly Stephens, too.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey all started riding with me as little girls in elementary school,\u201d Brock recalled. \u201cWe had some real fun times \u2013 trail riding and sleepovers.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cBeing around horses is a great way for girls to grow up.\r\n\r\n\u201cRodeo is good for girls. They learn to train hard and become strong, healthy, independent women.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe have a whole horse family in rodeo. The kids support each other.\r\n\r\n\u201cWorking with horses teaches you how to put hard work into something and be a good sport.\r\n\r\n\u201cI always say, horses are expensive, but they\u2018re a heck of a lot cheaper than drugs or jail,\u201d she said.\r\n\r\n\u201cRiding well isn\u2019t automatic. It\u2019s not something you can just get on and do. It takes patience and dedication and time.\u201d\r\n\r\nRodeo\u2019s a real family affair for the Burks family.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s not just the rider who has to be dedicated \u2013 it\u2019s a commitment for the whole family.\r\n\r\nThe High School Rodeo competition schedule and the other rodeos she competes in have Hannah and her family traveling at least one or two weekends every month.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAnd this means trailering horses and driving great distances.\r\n\r\nBesides Brock, Hannah\u2019s mom and dad and her 21 year old brother, Logan, are her biggest fans.\r\n\r\n\u201cLogan\u2019s more into mud bogging, but sometimes he comes to the rodeos, too,\u201d Hannah said.\r\n\r\nCindy and John Paul are both members of the West Virginia High School Rodeo Association, and they stay busy at the rodeos.\u00a0\r\n\r\nJohn Paul helps out in the arenas, and Cindy is the West Virginia High School Rodeo Secretary.\r\n\r\nTalking about their recent trip to Texas for the Junior American Circuit Patriot Rodeo Finals in Fort Worth, Cindy said it was good experience for Hannah.\r\n\r\nHannah was competing in the 15 and Under category, and placed a very respectable 42nd\u00a0in the goat-tying Semi-Finals, and she ran her fastest personal time ever.\r\n\r\n\u201cI was competing against 110 goat tiers, and\u00a0I made my best time ever \u2013 8.9 seconds,\u201d Hannah said.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe were so proud of her,\u201d Cindy added. \u201cWhen she finished, her face just lit up because she knew she had just beat her best time.\u201d\r\n\r\nHannah can tell you why goat-tying is her favorite event.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve been competing in goat-tying since my first year in Junior High School Rodeo, she said. \u201cI started in seventh grade.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s exciting, and each time\u2019s a little different, and it can be tough, sometimes.\r\n\r\n\u00a0\u201cI\u2019ve come off wrong, hit hard and rolled over in the dirt, and sometimes I\u2019ve face planted.\r\n\r\n\u201cBut I like it. It\u2019s not scary, but it gets my adrenaline going.\u201d\r\n\r\nAt this age level \u2013 15 and Under \u2013 all goat-tying contestants are female.\r\n\r\nRider and horse gallop past the timer toward the tethered goat, the timer starts and when the rider finishes tying the goat and gets her hands in the air, the judge drops the flag, and the timer stops.\r\n\r\nWhen she judges that she\u2019s the right distance from the goat, the rider leaps off the horse and grabs the goat.\r\n\r\nThe idea is to get the goat off its feet and securely tied and to do it faster than anyone else.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cI have to hit the ground running, and I have to be running as fast as the horse was going or even faster,\u201d Hannah said.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen I come off the horse, one end of the rope is in my mouth and one end\u2019s in my hand.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe goat is staked to the ground.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cBut it can still move away from you, and you don\u2019t know which way it\u2019s going to move,\u201d Hannah explained.\r\n\r\nHannah breaks down what it takes to keep improving her time.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen I come off the horse and start running to the goat, I have to match the horse\u2019s speed or maybe be able to outrun her,\u201d she said. \u201cI have to be able to shift and shorten my stride \u2013 take shorter steps \u2013 as I get close to the goat, and adjust to whichever way he\u2019s moving.\r\n\r\n\u201cI hold the goat\u2019s feet with one hand and tie with the other hand.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cOnce I get him tied, the goat has to stay down for six seconds for my time to count,\u201d she added.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s takes a lot of practice to get good at rodeo skills.\r\n\r\n\u201cShe\u2019s up\u00a0at 5:45 a.m.\u00a0and practicing tying \u2013 fifty times in the morning and fifty times every evening,\u201d Cindy said of her daughter.\r\n\r\nThe family has a farm, so there\u2019s often farm work to be done, as well.\r\n\r\n\u201cSometimes she has to get up even earlier to squeeze in time to bottle-feed a calf,\u201d Cindy said.\u00a0\r\n\r\nHannah and Slider, the 17-year old Quarter Horse mare she uses for goat-tying are well matched.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey both have red hair,\u201d Cindy added, laughing.\r\n\r\nHannah also rides Classy, a 19-year old Appaloosa mare.\r\n\r\n\u201cShe does barrels and poles on Classy,\u201d Cindy said. \u201cHannah\u2019s not riding Classy in the shows, but we trailer her along to the shows because Classy likes to go.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cShe wants to be with Slider, so Hannah rides her in the warm-up arena to give Classy something to do.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cHigh School rodeo is like a big family, too,\u201d Hannah explained. \u201cWe all help each other and we\u2019re rooting for each other.\u201d\r\n\r\nIt helps that Hannah\u2019s family buys and sells goats as a sideline.\r\n\r\nIt helps keep Hannah in goats for her to use for practice.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cBut right now we only have one goat on the farm that I can use to practice goat-tying with,\u201d she said. \u201cAll the rest are either too young, or pregnant.\u201d\r\n\r\nSo it\u2019s a good thing she also has a goat \u201cdummy\u201d because the name of the game is \u201cPractice, Practice, Practice.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nHigh School Rodeo is year-round, and it\u2019s all about the points.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ll be going to the state High School Rodeo finals in May at Davis & Elkins arena,\u201d Hannah said.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cSometimes it\u2019s at the state fair, but this year it\u2019s at Davis and Elkins.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe points are double at the state finals, and that\u2019s where riders get their annual awards.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve set some goals for myself,\u201d Hannah said, seriously. \u201cI\u2019m hoping to get an award in goat-tying at the State Finals.\r\n\r\n \u201cNext year, my goal is to go to the High School Rodeo Nationals and place in the top fifty.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe year after that, when I\u2019m a Junior, I want to go back to the Nationals and place in the top ten.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn my Senior year, I want to win it.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019m starting to do some other events on the High School Rodeo circuit, too,\u201d Hannah added. \u201cNext year, I\u2019d like to be competing in barrels, pole bending, goat-tying and break-away roping.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019m hoping to get a college scholarship in goat-tying for a college team, and probably get a degree in some sort of veterinary science \u2013 maybe a vet tech degree.\r\n\r\n\u201cIn the West Virginia High School Rodeo Association, we collect points all year, but the finals rodeos are different. You get just one run and whoever scores the lowest time wins.\r\n\r\nRodeo is all about hard work, having a dream and never giving up.\r\n\r\nHannah summed up her rodeo philosophy this way:\r\n\r\n\u201cYour horse can take you there, but you have to do the rest of the work yourself.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnyone interested in learning more about the West Virginia High School Rodeo Association may find them at wvhrsa.org or on their Facebook page where upcoming events, photos and rodeo results are posted.\r\n\r\nPocahontas County Saddle Club\r\n\r\nFor those who have a horse and are interested in getting involved with some local Western horse shows, there\u2019s the\u00a0Pocahontas County Saddle Club.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s open to anyone who would like to join.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAfter much preparation and planning, the club built a nice arena for their shows.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe looked at three different locations and decided on the one in Marlinton,\u201d Saddle Club president Nicole Brock said. \u201cIt\u2019s centrally located, and the arena is within walking distance of so many families in town.\u201d \r\n\r\nThe Saddle Club arena is located on Second Avenue beside the Humane Society building.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cThere are the typical 20 Western events at each show, so there\u2019s plenty of ways to compete.\u201d\r\n\r\nYoungsters are encouraged to come out and take part, even if they don\u2019t have a horse.\r\n\r\n\u201cFor the kids without horses, we\u2019re planning to get some stick horses so they can run the events just for the fun of it,\u201d Brock added.\r\n\r\nUpcoming Saddle Club horse shows are scheduled for\u00a0July 25,\u00a0August 22,\u00a0September 19\u00a0and\u00a0October 3,\u00a0and the public is welcome to attend.