HASTINGS — Twenty-two rodeos took Alliance rider Lauren Lehl all over Nebraska this spring. Not everybody made the last stop. Lehl placed 10th in Pole Bending at the Nebraska State Finals High School Rodeo at Hastings, June 13-15.
Lehl, 15, daughter of Kris and Steve Lehl, will be a sophomore at Alliance High School this fall. She worked to score as many points and go to as many rodeos as possible this year. She qualified for state, her first year, by being in the top 30 in both pole bending and barrel racing.
Riders strive to reach Friday at state. Wednesday’s short go sets the pace. The second go on Thursday is important to advance as Lehl saw. She turned in her best performance on poles, finishing second. “Happened to be … pressure to stay in the top 10, needed (a better run). Worked hard to keep the poles up,” she said. If Lehl had not been in the top 10 she would not have made the short go on the last day. “I would’ve been bumped,” Lehl said.
Two horses come with Lehl to every rodeo, one for each event. Joe, a grey quarter horse, saddles up for poles. He is older than most riders at any given rodeo. Lehl said she has been riding the 18-year-old for seven years. “Very quick, very strong and has a lot of heart, that’s his main attribute, that’s why he’s competitive at 18,” Lehl said.
Practice at home improves skills first learned more than a decade ago. Lehl first ran when she was four years old at Rushville Fun Days, her mom Kris said. “First day she did it by herself.”
Describing take aways on her best pole bending run, “Timing with the horse to move over and have right md-set, know where you’re at. (Stay) in sync … with the horse.”
Lehl said the season was long, “but really fun.” Riders must learn to ride in sloppy mud, on good ground,” she said and know how to balance conditions.
Friends were a highlight throughout the season and especially at state. Family also supported Lehl as she expressed her appreciation for her parents, aunt, uncle, and grandpa.
High school rodeo resumes this fall with eight more on the schedule. Lehl is working on breakaway roping, which she plans to add to pole bending and barrel racing. Her goal is to return to state and qualify for nationals.