Falkland’s Taya Hamming competes in barrel racing at the Canadian High School Finals Rodeo in Merritt. (Bernie Hudyma - photo)

North Okanagan rodeo kids make continental impressions

Sisters from Falkland, Vernon cowboy, have top-10 finishes at Canadian and North American events

Older sisters will sometimes ask younger sisters if they can borrow a brush, jewelry, maybe a top or a pair of shoes.

In Taya Hamming’s case, she asked little sister Zoey Hamming if she could borrow her horse.

Falkland’s Taya Hamming, 15, asked little sister Zoey, 14, about a loan of Jags, a 10-year-old quarterhorse who is faster than Taya’s ride, for some high-level summertime rodeo competition.

Aboard Jags, Taya finished 11th out of nearly 200 competitors in barrel racing at the National High School Rodeo finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and ended up the reserve World Champion Rookie of the Year at the event. And at the Canadian High School Finals Rodeo in Merritt, Taya placed sixth in pole bending and eighth in goat tying.

“She also borrowed Jags for the provincial finals,” said the Hammings’ mom, Skye, a former rodeo competitor. “They were only able to do this for this year only as it’s the only year that they were in different divisions; Zoey a junior and Taya a senior.

“Jags is faster than Taya’s horse. He has put on the miles this year. Taya also got a bye into the BC Rodeo Assoc. finals in Barriere on Jags and to the Rising Stars rodeo in Red Deer Nov. 1 for winning the provincials. Zoey isn’t loving sharing him but will like the paycheque her sister will have to hand over to her.”

Taya qualified for Wyoming and Merritt by finishing in the top-four (top-five for Canadian finals) on the B.C. High School Rodeo circuit in her events, which also included team roping and breakaway roping.

“We practice everyday. During school (the sisters attend Vernon Christian School), we practice when we get home, usually 4:30 to 8 p.m. and in the summer, we practice pretty much all afternoon,” said Taya who, along with Zoey, works on the family dairy farm. If they’re not competing in rodeos, the sisters are working or involved with 4H activities.

Jags also had a busy summer with Zoey, who competed in Merritt and qualified for the National Junior High School Rodeo Finals in Huron, South Dakota. Zoey was fifth in Merritt in barrels (second highest B.C. result) and sixth in Huron in the same event (winning a buckle and a scholarship). She qualified for both by winning the provincial championship.

Zoey also competes in goat tying, ribbon roping and team roping.

“Jags is a fast horse and, no, no problems at all loaning him to Taya,” said Zoey, who began rodeo competitions at the age of three. “Taya and I have friendly competitions at rodeos and it’s all good. It helps up with our events.”

“Their passion is the same as what I had,” added Skye. “It’s a big commitment. They’re on the road every weekend. If it’s not at a rodeo event, it’s at a 4H event.”

Sharing the Hammings’ rodeo dedication is Vernon’s Jaret Cooper, who turns 16 in September and is headed to Grade 11 at Vernon Secondary School.

Cooper also qualified for Rock Springs and Merritt in tie-down roping, steer wrestling and saddlebronc riding. While things didn’t go too well in the U.S. (78th in tie-down roping, best overall result), Cooper made up for it in Merritt.

He was second in Canada in steer wrestling, third in tie-down roping and tied for seventh in his favourite event, saddlebronc.

READ MORE: Vernon cowboy collects Canadian saddlebronc title

“Top-three in Canada is pretty good, I was very excited,” said Cooper, who began rodeo competitions in 2011, and who competed at the 2018 National Junior High School Finals Rodeo. “Saddlebronc is the just the most cowboy-like event. When you’re training a horse and it starts bucking, you have to ride through it.”

In Rock Springs, Cooper’s dad, Tim, brought along a hopeful good-luck charm on the trip: Cooper’s best friend Tayber McLean, whose grandfather is legendary pro rodeo bronc rider Hall of Famer (and former Vernon resident), the late Kenny McLean.

“I just didn’t get the animals I needed (in Wyoming),” said Cooper. “It was disappointing.”

The 2019-20 B.C. High School Rodeo season begins in a couple of weeks in Prince George. The Falkland Stampede Grounds will be the site of an event on the schedule Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21 and 22.


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Falkland’s Zoey Hamming gets ready to round a barrel in the barrel racing event at the Canadian High School Finals Rodeo in Merritt. (Bernie Hudyma - photo)

Vernon’s Jaret Cooper competes in tie-down roping at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming. (Photo -submitted)

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