Teen at top of the ladder
WHAT does it take for a 16-year-old to win a professional rodeo title?
Well, if you ask Ellysa Kenny, who did just that earlier this month, she will tell you it involves driving thousands of kilometres, the loan of her dad's best calf-roping horse and plenty of family support.
The Emerald high school student won the Australian Professional Rodeo Association all-round cowgirl buckle in Warwick late last month.
She is believed to be the youngest in the association's history to have won the title.
Getting to the championship event was an effort in itself, as the family had to drive about 10 hours from their Emerald property.
But life on the road is nothing knew to Ellysa.
She admitted much of her homework and assignments were finished up on the road, while her mum Leanne was behind the wheel.
This week the Rural Weekly chatted to the humble teen to learn more about her passion for rodeo.
Ellysa has been raised in a family that has shown the sport of rodeo incredible dedication for decades.
Shane Kenny, Ellysa's dad, has won the APRA all-round cowboy title a whopping 15 times.
He won his first title as a teenager too, in 1992.
Ellysa thinks she would have been about four years old when she started riding on her own.
These days, she usually works her horses about twice a week to keep them fit and competes most weekends.
While Ellysa rides with fierce competitiveness in the arena, she is a softly spoken young lady on the phone.
She said rodeo would always be a big part of her life.
"Roping is my favourite,” she said.
"You get an adrenalin rush.”
Her dad's calf roping horse, Jelly Bean, also doubles as Ellysa's break-away roping horse.
The Warwick Rodeo, being a premier event, can rattle the nerves of even the most experienced competitors. And Ellysa felt those nerves too, but she said they quickly evaporated.
"As soon as I sit on my horse and start riding... my nerves just go away,” she said.
Although raised in central Queensland, a hub for local rodeo events, Ellysa said she didn't have many high school mates competing in rodeo as much as she did.
However, she was able to list a handful of other young women around her age she knew on the circuit who were competing in open divisions.
Ellysa couldn't imagine a future that didn't involve horses, and said she was keen to apply for a rodeo scholarship from an American university when she finished high school.