(first appeared in the June 2014 issue of  The Equiery)

Although there are many young people in Maryland who compete in rodeo events both here in and outside the state, until this year, there was no formal local association for these riders to compete within even though at that national level there is the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA). Karen Anderson of Waldorf changed this by forming the Maryland High School Rodeo Association (MDHSRA), which is a local branch of NHSRA.

“It really just started with a post on Facebook asking for anyone interested to come to an informal meeting. We finished the meeting with the association all in place,” Karen stated. That was in November of 2013. Before the meeting, Karen had been in contact with Fred Wilcox, who worked with the Virginia group and received guidance on how to start a group in Maryland.

Last year Karen set up booths at several county fairs handing out literature from NHSRA just to see if there was any interest. “Everywhere we set up, we ran out of supplies,” she said. After its first meeting, MDHSRA had a complete board, student board and about 35 members. In January, at the NHSRA annual meeting, MDHSRA was officially voted in with around 25 youth members and 70 total members.

Sixteen-year-old Amber Goff of Westminster High School had been looking into the Pennsylvania chapter of NHSRA when she came across the Maryland group on Facebook. “I never knew there was one. I messaged the page to see if it was real and that is how I got in contact with Karen.” Now, Amber is the student president of the club and this season has been competing in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, the queen contest and shooting sports. “I wanted to join high school rodeo because I like the variety of the events,” Amber said adding, “everyone is there to support everyone else. They are just a great group of people.”

Earlier this spring, members were invited to compete at Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia rodeos before hosting their own rodeo on May 10-11. This first rodeo was open to MDHSRA members only “so we can work out all of the kinks” with the hopes that next year, they can open it up to nearby states.

What is most interesting about NHSRA is that members not only compete for ribbons, trophies and belt buckles, they also earn points towards scholarship money to be used at the college of their choice. Anyone can donate at the national level, with the NHSRA matching the donations. Funds are then given back to members in the state the donation is from.

Members can compete in the following events: bareback riding, barrel racing, breakaway roping, bull riding, cutting, goat tying, pole bending, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and the queen contest. The top four in each event are invited to the national competition in July.