If Jessalyn Gingrich wins any more competitions, she’s going to need a bigger jacket. The Rockford resident has been riding horses since she’s been able to walk, and has racked up so many wins in competitions from barrel racing to roping that the list of her championships, embroidered on her coat, literally can’t get any longer. But she continues to win.
Jessalyn is a junior at Grand Rapids Christian High School. Competition in 2011 represents her sixth year of involvement in Michigan High School Rodeo. She competed at the junior high level (sixth through eighth grade) and now competes at the high school level (ninth through 12th).
Jessalyn uses three horses in her competition. Booker is a Palomino that she uses for barrel racing, Jax is a big black mare used for pole bending and goat tying, and Nick is the roping horse used in breakaway roping and team roping.
Jessalyn was selected to be a member of Team Cinch, which is the All Star team. In order to qualify, riders must be a top contestant in one of the seven events. Jessalyn’s selection was based on her team roping event.
She was a national qualifier in three events: pole bending, goat tying, and team roping. To qualify for nationals, Jess ended the season in the top four of the event. National finals were held in Gillette, Wyo. in July 2010. The Gingrich family made the trip with all three horses along with another family to share expenses. Competition consists of qualifiers from each state, Canadian provinces and even Australia.
High school rodeo is also committed to community involvement in Michigan. Jessalyn participated in a Special Needs Rodeo held at Bristle Farms in Tecumseh, Mich. last October. High school contestants gave demonstrations of rodeo events to kids with varying degrees of disability. They also pair up with the kids and teach them the events with roping dummies, stick horses, and a mechanical bull. It’s hard to say who has more fun, the high school contestants or the kids with the disabilities.
Jessalyn is also involved in open rodeos outside of high school competition. In February, she had the privilege of carrying the American flag at a rodeo held at JDJ ranch in Evart, Mich. It was a special honor to wear the Wagon Wheel Rodeo (WWR) chaps that belonged to Jim Fusee, the owner of Wagon Wheel, who was tragically killed in an auto accident in late January.
The next Michigan High School Rodeo will be held at the Michigan State University pavilion on Friday, March 11 at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the Horse Expo being held that weekend.
For more information on the rodeo schedule or if you are interested in joining, go to the website for Michigan High School Rodeo at MIHSRA.com.