December 5-14, 2024


road warrior

Dec 13, 2023

road warrior

LAS VEGAS – Maile Read isn’t the only contestant who traveled a great distance to compete at this year’s Junior World Finals. But it’s doubtful any other cowboy or cowgirl put in as many miles in order to qualify as did the 16-year-old from Kailua, Hawaii.

“We traveled all over the West Coast to get her qualified,” Kevin Read, Maile’s dad, said after her first run Tuesday. “I think we’ve traveled 12,000 miles in the past four to five months hauling a 50-foot trailer and living in it. We’ve been on the road this last year probably a solid eight to nine months if we added up all the time.”

Maile Read stands with her horse Jewel (Burn N A LITTLE CASH) after competing in the first round of the Kelly Kaminski Run for Vegas pole bending Tuesday morning at the Junior World Finals in Las Vegas.

All that time on the road paid off when Maile finished second in the Kelly Kaminski Run for Vegas pole bending in Buckeye, Arizona, to punch her ticket to Vegas.

“We came all the way back to Arizona and she qualified in Buckeye,” Kevin said. “So we ended up right where we keep our horses, basically. But it was still a great experience.”

Maile is relatively new to the rodeo world after spending her early years in Hawaii pursuing other interests.

“I did jiu-jitsu for most of my life growing up. I went to competitions and won some swords,” she said. “And then I became a surfer. And then I went on a trail ride one day and just fell in love with it.”

Since that trail ride nearly three-and-a-half years ago Maile has gone from winning swords to winning buckles in pole bending, barrel racing and breakaway roping.

This summer she set an arena record at a barrel racing in Tenino, Washington. She recently qualified for the breakaway finals at the Junior Patriot. Tuesday, Maile had a 26.179-second run in the first round of pole bending inside the Wrangler Rodeo Arena.

Safe to say Maile has traded in her jiu-jitsu gi for cowboy boots and her surfboard for a horse. She’s riding Jewel (Burn N A LITTLE CASH) this week, but she has others waiting for her in Queen Creek, Arizona.

“What made it click instantly for me is just how calming it gets you,” Maile said of her immediate attraction to being on the back of a horse. “But then there’s the thrill of competing. I just fell in love, obviously. And my horses are amazing. I can’t thank them enough for what they do for me every day. We’ve learned to build a bond and we’re clicking. It’s all working out.

“I have an animal that can’t talk but trusts me with their life,” she added. “It’s really amazing, honestly, that they could trust someone like that.”

The bond that Maile shares with her horses was noticeable not only to her family, but to Kalai Nobriga, a native Hawaiian who also spends time in Texas. Nobriga competes in tie-down roping and is recognized as one of the country’s top horse trainers.

“She met Kalai in Texas and he said he saw something special in her and wanted to teach her,” Kevin said. “He said he would train her if I would bring her (to Texas) as a parent. He doesn’t usually train people but he said she had a gift.”

Maile Read poses for a photo with her dad, Kevin, and her horse Jewel (Burn N A LITTLE CASH) Tuesday morning.

Maile is hoping to use her gift to keep making a name for herself on the rodeo circuit before going to college in two years. She admits that schools in Arizona and Texas are currently at the top of her list.

“Whatever school will push me to be better,” she said. “My goal is to make it to the college finals. I want to push the limits, because if I don’t push the limits I’ll never succeed.”

And while Vegas might be the most recent stop for Maile and Kevin – along with her mom, younger sister and other family members this week – traveling around the country and competing against some of the nation’s top cowgirls has pushed Maile to new heights.

“I surprise myself a lot,” she admitted. “I’m just so shocked by how well I’m doing.”

Maile’s success has led to sponsorships – Cactus Ropes, Cactus Saddlery, CSI Saddle Pads and Ohana Organics – and a working relationship with Nobriga.

“He took me under his wing when I made the Junior Patriot in Texas,” she recalled. “And in less than a year with him I’ve come so far and I’m so thankful for that.”

She’s also thankful for the opportunity to continue pursuing her passion, and to the man who has helped make it happen.

“This sport excites me because it’s a lifestyle,” Maile said. “I get to ride these amazing animals and it has taught me so much. I think it’s so amazing that I get to be in this and my dad lets me compete and he funds us. I’m really thankful to him for driving me all the way here because I know it’s a lot.”

Kevin still plans on driving Maile to as many rodeos as he can, but the six-hour flights from Hawaii might be a thing of the past before long.

“We’re looking at moving out here so she can chase her dream,” he said.

Tuesday roundup

Jaden Nowosad of Stephenville, Texas, set the pace in the first round of pole bending with a 20.124-second run.

In senior barrels, Ashlyn McCleve of Gilbert, Arizona, won the first round with a 14.158. Mariella Passalacqua of Healdsburg, California, was second with a 14.190.

On the other end of the arena Tuesday, Ty Burgess of Southlake, Texas, won the first round of the open division of steer wrestling with a 3.8 and Jake Holmes was the first-round winner in the 16-and-under division with a 3.9.

Team ropers Trigger Hargrove of Gracemont, Oklahoma, and Chase Helton of Merced, California, won the first round of the open division with a 4.88; Bronc Evans of Fairview, Missouri, and Eli Green of Oakdale, California, were the #9.5 first-round winners with a 5.94.