Red-headed girl dressed in western style apparel next to a rodeo gate
Rhylen Morgan is already a master of the rodeo

Rodeo Queen | Rhylan Morgan Rides the Road Less Traveled

Rhylan Morgan knows her way around a rodeo.

Gifted with a competition horse at the age of age 5, she showed a proclivity for riding early on, eschewing other sports such as tee-ball and basketball for rodeo. Barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying are her passions.

“We weren’t really a horse family, but we couldn’t deny Rhylan’s keen interest from the start,” said her mother, Jennifer. A few miniature ponies nurtured Rhylan’s interest in horses, while her father, Jessie, who rode growing up, and her older brother, Gunner, have consistently shown their support.

At age 3, Rhylan began lessons with her neighbor, Debi Osborn, learning the basics of horse grooming, haltering, caring and feeding. Summer day camps became a mainstay. From kindergarten through eighth grade, Jennifer drove Rhylan to weekly junior competitions in Salem for the Southern Indiana Junior Rodeo Association.

“Rhylan still does all of the grooming, saddling, tack, feeding and watering,” said Jennifer, who recognizes that some of her daughter’s competitors leave that work to their parents.

Now 18, Rhylan’s future looms bright, with an Ivy Tech degree in radiology technology on her radar, aided by a scholarship from the Indiana High School Rodeo Association.

Young woman riding a rodeo horse
Rhylen Morgan participating in a rodeo competition

“I still see myself competing in rodeo down the road,” said Rhylan, sitting in the kitchen of her family’s comfortable home near Prairie Creek Reservoir. A massive horse trailer, the one the family hauls to weekend competitions, flanks the property.

The precious cargo includes Rhylan’s two beloved quarter horses, Shelly and Charlie, who have buoyed their owner to winnings all over the state and beyond. Surprisingly she also holds memberships in 4-H and the Little Britches Rodeo Association in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where Reba McEntire competed. Rhylan herself ensures her horses obtain the best veterinary care, shoe fittings and personalized attention possible.

“You’ve got to love what you do,” she said.

Competitions often comprise entire weekends, with the family heading out on Friday afternoon and not returning home until Sunday evening. Based in part on this summer’s state final’s competition in Edinburgh, Indiana (where Rhylan placed first in poles and fourth in barrels), she has a solid chance of advancing to nationals, held in Rock Springs, Wyoming, in July.

“We’re pretty confident Rhylan will be in the running,” said Jennifer, who will be there every step of the way, cheering her daughter on.

Young woman riding a rodeo horse in an outdoor competition setting

Despite such a demanding schedule, Rhylan has retained an impressive 3.8 grade point average. At a recent school awards ceremony, she took home a Student-Athlete Special Recognition Award. She is the lone student in her entire school who competes in rodeo.

“Rodeo isn’t your average high school sport,” said Jennifer.

How does Rhylan handle the inevitable injury from falling or being thrown from a horse?

“Thankfully I’ve never had a serious injury,” she said. “I’ve always told myself that I better just get back on.”

That commitment to excellence has proved successful for this seasoned rider.

“I think she’ll always work with horses,” added Jennifer.

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