GILLETTE, Wyo. — A tragedy for a Gillette high school student could have prevented her from competing in the National High School Finals Rodeo.
Instead, Sydney Oedekoven and Ashlyn Goven, two Campbell County girls, are both competing in barrels this week. Goven ran barrels Monday, and Oedekoven will compete at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. today.
Set Your Cash Aflame, also known as Flame, is a 15-year-old quarter horse who was born and raised in Gillette and sold a couple of times before the Oedekoven family bought him through a family member, Sydney’s mother Paige said.
Sydney said that before she began working with Flame, she tended to enjoy roping more.
Paige said other horses weren’t capable of performing at the nationals level.
“[Flame] made it easy,” Sydney said. “He made it fun. … He knows his job.”
Paige said that while her daughter was preparing in Texas for the Hooey Junior Patriot Rodeo in Fort Worth, Sydney’s breakaway horse kicked Flame, the horse she barrel races on, breaking his right front splint bone.
Flame had surgery in March to have the bone removed. During Flame’s recovery, Sydney needed to train and continue competing to have the hope of making it to nationals.
Goven, who said her family has known the Oedekoven family for many years, said Paige had told her mother, Jess, that they were searching for a horse to borrow. Goven said that she and her parents decided that they could offer Hopper, a horse they had available, to Sydney.
“She’s a good rider, they’re a great family, and we know they would have done the same for us if I [had needed it],” Goven said.
Sydney said she and Hopper were able to work together well and win some rodeos.
“I can’t thank them enough for letting me use him. … I had to hold my spot all season, and Hopper helped me do that,” she said.
Goven said it worked out well. Sydney was able to help Goven keep Hopper in shape, and Goven enjoyed seeing Hopper place at the top in competitions.
The Oedekovens’ veterinarian later cleared Flame to begin preparing for racing again, and he returned for the state finals rodeo in Buffalo in June, Paige said. He placed in the top 10 in the first round and won second in the second round. Flame also placed in the short go. At state, getting to nationals is based on points, which can only be gained through placing in the top 10. Doing well in all three rounds at state allowed Sydney to advance.
“We did not know if he would even be able to compete again this year, let alone do so well and secure her spot back to nationals,” Paige said.
Goven also qualified in barrels and poles after winning state in barrels and placing second in pole bending. On Monday, she placed third in the 9 a.m. barrel racing performance with a time of 17.437 seconds. She said she wishes Sydney the best and is excited to see Sydney ride Flame.
Yet, two of Sydney’s supporters won’t be able to cheer her on tomorrow in the way that they usually would: Ronna Carson, her maternal grandmother, who died from cancer July 16, and Leon Oedekoven, her paternal grandfather, who died about two years ago from cancer.
“[Ronna] owns stock in about every one of our rodeo horses,” Paige said. “Either my kids’ or my brother’s, she’s always been a huge rodeo fan. Helped the kids get where they needed to go.”
Leon bought Sydney her first horse, Marshmallow. Sydney was 2 years old, and Marshmallow was probably about 30 years old.
Paige said Sydney wanted the biggest, tallest horse she could find and picked him out of a catalogue. He was a white quarter horse about 16 hands high. Sydney never fell off, the family said.
“[Marshmallow] took care of her,” Sonny, Sydney’s father, said.
When Sydney, at 2 years old, started competing in her first rodeos at the CAM-PLEX, her legs were too short to kick Marshmallow, so she carried a bat she used to move him around the barrels, Paige said.
“[Leon and Ronna] will be riding with her tomorrow,” Sonny said.