Rodeo queen

Out of the saddle, barrel racer Amee Riley is a normal teen

  • During a competition, Amee scrapes mud off the bottom of Banjo’s foot to help with his traction. Banjo is much calmer when he’s around Amee’s other horse, Pistol. “She’s his girlfriend,” Amee says.During a competition, Amee scrapes mud off the bottom of Banjo’s foot to help with his traction. Banjo is much calmer when he’s around Amee’s other horse, Pistol. “She’s his girlfriend,” Amee says.
  • Several ribbons from barrel racing hang from Amee’s bedroom wall. She was crowned the Missouri High School Rodeo Queen for the 2011-2012 season.Several ribbons from barrel racing hang from Amee’s bedroom wall. She was crowned the Missouri High School Rodeo Queen for the 2011-2012 season.
  • Amee feeds cattle at her home before leaving for a rodeo. “My dad won’t say I do a lot (on the farm), but I do,” Amee says. “I do some.” When her friends need assistance with barrel racing, they come over to Amee’s so she can help them out.Amee feeds cattle at her home before leaving for a rodeo. “My dad won’t say I do a lot (on the farm), but I do,” Amee says. “I do some.” When her friends need assistance with barrel racing, they come over to Amee’s so she can help them out.
  • Photo by Marissa WeiherPhoto by Marissa Weiher
  • Amee puts on mascara before leaving for the rodeo. “You never know who you’re gonna see,” Amee says. She likes to attend rodeos with her friends, many of whom also barrel race.Amee puts on mascara before leaving for the rodeo. “You never know who you’re gonna see,” Amee says. She likes to attend rodeos with her friends, many of whom also barrel race.
  • Amee and her friend Jonathan “Possum” Gibson talk while they make their way to a barrel racing competition. Gibson drove from Arkansas to watch her race in Centerview.Amee and her friend Jonathan “Possum” Gibson talk while they make their way to a barrel racing competition. Gibson drove from Arkansas to watch her race in Centerview.
  • Before a rodeo, Amee takes a minute to snap a few selfies. “My friends call me the selfie queen,” she says. For fun, they like to go to country music concerts and muddin’ with their vehicles, but the movies aren’t Amee’s style. She says she tends to fall asleep in the theater.Before a rodeo, Amee takes a minute to snap a few selfies. “My friends call me the selfie queen,” she says. For fun, they like to go to country music concerts and muddin’ with their vehicles, but the movies aren’t Amee’s style. She says she tends to fall asleep in the theater.
  • Amee turns a corner with Banjo at a rodeo in Sedalia. When she isn’t working on racing, she’s at school or working at Boonslick Animal Hospital. Amee says her dad wants her to be a vet, but after working for one, she doesn’t think that’s what she wants to do.
Photo by Marissa WeiherAmee turns a corner with Banjo at a rodeo in Sedalia. When she isn’t working on racing, she’s at school or working at Boonslick Animal Hospital. Amee says her dad wants her to be a vet, but after working for one, she doesn’t think that’s what she wants to do. Photo by Marissa Weiher

When Amee Riley was 2 years old, the horse she was riding got spooked and bucked her off. Seventeen years later, Amee still is careful when she saddles up her horse Banjo for a barrel race. If she’s nervous — he’s nervous. And she gets the jitters before every single race. “You can feel his heart beating and beating,” Amee says.

Barrel racing is a rodeo event where a rider runs a horse in loops around three barrels in a three-leaf clover pattern. The fastest rider wins. Amee has done enough races and won so many times that she can’t keep track. She was even named Missouri High School Rodeo Queen for the 2011-2012 season after winning a competition that includes interview and horsemanship categories.

Barrel racing was developed specifically for women. When the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association was founded in 1948, its primary event was barrel racing, which remains so today. For a woman like Amee, who lives on an 80-acre farm and whose mother used to race, barrel racing is a way to make an impact on the rodeo circuit.

Amee lives with her dad, Bob Riley, in Boonville, and he does his best to accompany her to every race. Bob watches everything she does during a long day and picks out things she needs to work on.

Amee stands with her dad, Bob Riley, shortly before a barrel racing competition in Eldon. Bob likes to keep Amee company at rodeos, which they attend almost every weekend in the summertime. “He doesn’t like me to go by myself,” she says. Photo by Marissa Weiher

Amee stands with her dad, Bob Riley, shortly before a barrel racing competition in Eldon. Bob likes to keep Amee company at rodeos, which they attend almost every weekend in the summertime. “He doesn’t like me to go by myself,” she says. Photo by Marissa Weiher

“I’m like, ‘Yeah, whatever, Dad,’ and it’s like I don’t listen to him,” she says. “But I really do; I just don’t act like it. Then I go try what he said, but I don’t tell him I really tried it.”

The farm she and her dad live on gives Amee room to practice with Banjo and their other six horses. “I practice and practice so I can get better,” she says. “But with school and work, it’s not very easy to keep my riding schedule.” She attends State Fair Community College and thinks she might want to be an equine chiropractor someday, but Amee dreams of making it to the National Finals Rodeo. “I’m gonna try, but it’s going to be hard,” she says of the prestigious competition. “Very hard.” Barrel racing might involve lots of work and calming of nerves, but Amee loves everything about it. “To go in there and have a good clean run is the best ever,” she says. “I hate being done if it’s a good day.”

Amee walks with her horses Banjo and Pistol before a barrel racing competition. To deal with nerves before competing, Amee says she will “take a deep breath and tell myself, ‘It’s just a race; there will be more.’ I don’t need to be all nervous.” Photo by Marissa Weiher

Amee walks with her horses Banjo and Pistol before a barrel racing competition. To deal with nerves before competing, Amee says she will “take a deep breath and tell myself, ‘It’s just a race; there will be more.’ I don’t need to be all nervous.” Photo by Marissa Weiher