Born moments apart 12 years ago, Dolores Middle School students Jaida Woody and Rylee Woody have enjoyed a bond that only twins can share.
Now, after years riding around rodeo arenas and watching fellow competitors from the bleachers, the Montezuma County duo have been turning heads on the junior rodeo circuit, where they have both placed well in barrel racing events throughout the West.
“I ride almost every day,” said Jaida. “We go and ride at the fairgrounds during the winter, and we use our arena during the summer. I think I’ll be doing (rodeos) forever. That’s who I am.”
“It’s fun because we always have someone to ride with,” said Rylee, describing the special connection that she shares with her sister. “Because we have each other, we never have to practice or go to rodeos alone.”
Passion born of traditionTo fully appreciate the depth of the Woody girls’ passion for their sport, it is necessary to understand that rodeo has been an integral part of their family’s life since long before they were born.
Among Jaida and Rylee’s many family members who have called the rodeo arena home is their grandmother and longtime Montezuma County resident Kim Russell, who began riding horses at an early age.
Much like her granddaughters in the fact that she was always drawn to horses, Russell competed in numerous junior rodeos before eventually helping her brother found the 4 States Junior Rodeo, which has been taking place at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds for many years.
After giving birth to her daughter, Khrysta, Kim Russell continued her involvement in the junior rodeo circuit as a rodeo organizer and super parent, and when her granddaughters were born, she knew that her presence around the rodeo arena was guaranteed to continue for at least another 18 years.
“I’ve been training and breeding horses for the last 40 years,” Russell said. “When I had twin granddaughters, I just knew that they were going to ride. I got them started at an early age. They were 2 years old when they first started riding.”
Love for equine friendsWhile Jaida and Rylee’s earliest rides were made on horses that were not their own, they received their first exposure to the joys of horse ownership at the tender age of 3 when they were given their first mount, Socks.
A tender-hearted horse with a smooth gate and a nurturing personality, Socks bonded with the Woody twins, and they showed him love in return while learning about the beautiful bonds that can develop between horse and rider.
After a few years riding Socks, Jaida eventually moved on to her current horse, Digger, while Rylee moved on to her current horse, Gracie. In addition to their main mounts, the girls have begun training and riding two younger horses in competitions.
“We want to get our young horses going so that we can use them,” Jaida said. “We start training them in the round pen, and then we eventually get on and ride. We work with them almost every day.”
Lofty goals for the futureThanks in large part to their nonstop dedication to their horses, Jaida and Rylee have experienced consistent success in barrel racing and polls events while competing in approximately 10 rodeos and 15 barrel races during the past year.
Usually traveling with their grandmother, Kim Russell, the twins have competed in rodeos throughout the Four Corners, at the South Point barrel race in Las Vegas, Nevada, and at several events in Utah.
Most recently, Jaida and Rylee competed Jan. 15-17 at one of several 4-States Rodeos at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds and could show off to family members and spend time with some of their best friends.
“I love to meet new people and friends,” Jaida said.
“(The rodeo community) is really nice and fun to hang out with all the time,” Rylee added. “They are very patriotic.”
Asked about their futures in the sport of rodeo, both girls emphasized that their goal is to qualify for the Junior National Finals rodeo in the near future and eventually qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
In addition to barrel racing and polls events, Rylee hopes to also begin roping and has been eagerly practicing on a roping dummy that she received for Christmas.
“I got a roping dummy, and I’ve been doing a lot of groundwork,” the 12-year-old said.
Still in middle school and unsure of where life might eventually take them, Jaida and Rylee have made a habit of giving thanks for every moment while supporting each other and competing in the sport that they love.
“It’s pretty fun to be doing rodeo together,” Jaida said. “We have our sister arguments every once in a while. We call ourselves ‘The Woody Team.’