TENNESSEE - Rising Vernon High School freshman Kynley Braxton is making a path to rodeo stardom, recently earning a chance to compete at the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Featuring roughly 1,000 contestants from 43 states, five Canadian provinces, and Australia, the NJHFR is the world’s largest junior high rodeo.
While Braxton did not place at Nationals, she dominated the competitions that dotted the road to Tennessee, recently earning three buckles, the Championship Saddle, and several other awards from the Alabama Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA), as well as being named 2017 Reserve Champion Pole Bender in Alabama Junior High School Rodeo Association (AJHSRA).
Braxton has traveled throughout the southeast, competing not only with the AJRA and AJHSRA, but also with the World Barrel Racing League (WBRL) National Barrel Horses Association (NBHA), Jackpot Barrel Races, and other events, including barrel racing and pole bending in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.
"When I won that Championship Saddle, it felt like all my hard work had paid off," said Braxton. "And Nationals were also wonderful because I had a lot of fun and got to meet so many new people."
That hard work includes daily practices while still maintaining her status as a Vernon Honor Roll student and volleyball player.
Now, Braxton has her eyes set on a bigger prize: success at the Professional Cowboy Association (PCA) Rodeo.
"It's a bigger circuit with bigger prizes, and I am ready to move up" she said. "It is just such a thrill when you're in the arena and see the crowds."
Braxton has ridden horses most of her life and began competing when she was 11. She says her advice to other aspiring rodeo stars is to prepare to work for it.
"It is a lot of hard work, and you have to be committed," she said. "In addition to practicing everyday, I feed, groom, and takes care of my own horses. Horses are time consuming, expensive to maintain, and require maintenance and conditioning to continue to compete."
Kynley currently has two horses with which she competes and two others in training.
"I am looking forward to seeing what the future in rodeo and barrel racing is for me and them," she said.
Braxton is the daughter of Scott and Jill Braxton and the granddaughter of Jack and Angia Morris and Virginia Braxton.