GREAT FALLS — 18-year-old Rayna Warneke, from Great Falls, heads to Gillette, Wyoming, July 17-23, to compete in her third and final National High School Rodeo finals in reined cow horse, a specialized rodeo event that requires a deep connection with one’s horse.
The event starts with a reining pattern to show off what the horse can do then follows up the display by turning and circling a cow twice with the horse. The judges score based off the execution of the patterns. For Warneke, she’s ranked second in the state in that event and will look to build upon her past experiences despite still having some nerves ahead of her last go around as a high school rodeo athlete.
“I definitely am not quite as nervous as I would have been two years ago when I first went but you're always nervous," she said.
At nationals in 2021, Warneke placed 26th out of 180 with the help of her horse and costar Sparrow, a relationship that Rayna knows is crucial to being successful in her event.
“In my event, they have to know what you're feeling and if he's not feeling you then it's probably not going to go the way you want it to go," she said.
Rayna, along with four other Central Montana qualifiers will be at nationals along with the other Montana qualifiers looking to represent their state well and for some end their high school careers on a high note.