Siblings learn the hard way

Horsepower, skills | Sport offers adrenaline jolt but requires discipline, trust and dedication

MORTLACH, Sask. — Ty Hicks climbs atop a horse in the chute, wanting it to buck hard, while in his sister Lexi’s rodeo event, horse and rider lean so sharply around a barrel that a fall seems imminent.

“It’s a dangerous sport. You just have to know that you can get hurt,” said Ty, which is short for Tyrell.

He is this year’s saddle bronc champion for the Saskatchewan High School Rodeo Association and qualified to compete in Wyoming at the National High School Rodeo finals.

He also competes in team and calf roping.

“I never told anyone I’m not scared,” said Ty. “I do saddle bronc because I like the adrenaline rush, jumping on the back of a wild horse. It’s a lot of fun and when you make a good ride, the crowd goes nuts.”

The Mortlach teen has come a long way from his start four years ago, when he felt like throwing up.

Lexi and Ty compare a good ride to the feeling of a rocking chair when everything goes right.

Lexi said nerves come with the territory. “If you’re not nervous, you shouldn’t be doing it. That shows some of the respect you have for the event,” said Lexi, who recently won her first Canadian Cowboys’ Association barrel racing event.

She also participates in pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping and has travelled to events as far away as New Mexico.

The Hicks’s mother, Karla, keeps calm by staying behind the video camera recording their events.

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“It’s like you’re watching someone else’s kid,” she said.

Karla hopes the worst wrecks, such as Ty’s recent spill at Val Marie, Sask., and ambulance ride to the hospital for stitches, are behind them.

“It’s to the point where I’m not screaming anymore,” she said of her role as spectator.

She normally feels less anxious for Lexi, although a recent wild ride on a powerful new horse still makes her “sick to her stomach.”

“All the stars have to line up for the perfect run,” said Karla.

Lexi said rodeo events take much discipline and dedication to master.

“Most of it is trust in your horse, partner and especially yourself,” she said, noting a good rodeo horse should be well muscled, with a long stride and power to spare.

The Hicks seek out good training for their children and actively support their efforts, but some have doubted the young siblings’ ability to handle the demands of the sport.

For Ty, who gave up hockey for rodeo, it made him more determined to prove them wrong.

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“I said, just watch me.”

Lexi said not much scares her brother.

“Once he puts his mind to something, he goes for it.”

The siblings support one another, often getting more nervous for the other than for themselves.

They prepare by focusing on their best ride and challenging themselves to repeat or improve on it.

The Hicks stay rodeo ready during winter off season by doing chores on their 800-head Black Angus and custom grazing operation, breaking colts and training in a nearby indoor arena.

“If you don’t stay in shape, there’s no point in entering the next rodeo,” said Ty.

Karla said the children were fortunate to grow up riding horses, showing cattle for 4-H and being mentored by the skilled horsemen who work for them.

“The kids realize how blessed they are to spend time with them.”

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