Meet Jenna Smeenk, 26 year old barrel racer. Jenna started riding practically from the moment she was born. “From a young age the western way of life was instilled in me, and I just kept that trend all the way up past high school.” She said. Shortly after high school, Jenna took a break to go into the military and since leaving, she has been rodeoing for about a year.
Jenna says one of her biggest accomplishments was being able to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo, not once but twice! Shortly after that was when she joined the military, and she adds that something she is proud of was serving 2 tours overseas. She talks about how her last time competing before joining the military was at the High School Rodeo finals and that she couldn’t have asked for a better ending, but now she’s incredibly happy to be back at it.
When asked about people who have been mentors or inspirations to her, Jenna named her boyfriend Tavis Walters and Fallon Taylor. Jenna bought her horse Fultastic from Fallon over a year ago and she said it’s amazing how far they have come. She says Fallon has played a huge roll in that, not only in the training process but in Jenna’s mental preparation and riding ability. Jenna talks about how Tavis has helped an incredible amount being Fultastic’s trainer. “I don’t know where we’d be today without him, I definitely got in a little bit over my head when I got an off the track 4 year old, so Tavis has been an amazing help.”
Jenna described competing against friends as an invaluable experience. “It’s nice to have someone that you can look to for advice and comfort after you run, but it’s also great to have them there because if anyone is gonna beat me I want it to be them.” She said. Jenna talks about how being a team on the road is great because no matter who it is, if one of them wins, they all win.
If she could change one thing about the industry, Jenna says she would love to see more male competitors. Barrel racing is obviously a female dominated sport, but there are a few male competitors. Jenna laughed and said until then she’s happy to just kick some female butt, but she’ll look forward to some males coming in.
Jenna had a perfect answer when I asked about any rivalry and negativity between competitors. “In the barrel racing community, I feel like we’re more family. Especially those of us that travel and do this for a living, because all we have is each other. If you get stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire I can pretty much guarantee any horse trailer that passes by is gonna pull over and lend a helping hand.” I’ll let that comment stand alone without any more commentary, because it was flawless.
The best advice Jenna was ever given was by her boyfriend Tavis and it was “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” Jenna said it was incredibly applicable to what she had been trying to do before focusing solely on barrel racing. She had been trying to do dance, military, queening, and rodeo all at the same time and it was not working out. “I think that if I had tried to continue doing several things I’d be kind of a jack of all trades and master at none.” She commented. After deciding to focus solely on barrel racing, Jenna said it has made all the difference.
Jenna’s advice to those starting out or wishing to pursue barrel racing is to seek guidance from those they aspire to be like. She talks about how it doesn’t have to be a world champion but any peer that is doing well in competitions. There are so many people in this industry that will gladly help anyone out, all you have to do is ask.
My last question to Jenna was asking how she balances rodeo with other aspects of her life and she felt like the advice Tavis had given her applied to this as well. Once she decided to focus on barrel racing, it became the biggest aspect of her life and it’s been working out great. She says you just need to take that leap and have faith that it’ll all work out for you.
This woman was one of the funniest people I have had the chance to talk to in a long time, so you can imagine how I was a little taken off guard when her advice was incredibly well thought out. I met Jenna through Stormey Ward who had invited her to come down and do the interview as well. The two of them were hilarious to watch and so supportive of each other. Jenna, thank you for your service, thank you for being a part of my story, and I wish you the very best in your career. You have a big future ahead of you, and I send you and Taz my best wishes!
Click below to see a few shots from Jenna's photoshoot.
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