While many kids her age are involved in mainstream sports or some other typical extracurricular activity, Tallulah Falls School rising seventh-grader Morgan Ward is wild about rodeo.

Ward, of Alto, has been around horses since before she could walk and has been competing in rodeos since the age of six. The apple, as they say, didn't fall far from the tree.

"I wanted to do Mutton Bustin' [sheep riding], so that was part of why we started going to rodeos," says Ward. "My daddy is a cowboy, and he is my biggest inspiration."

Morgan's father, Tim Ward, grew up riding horses and competing in rodeos for more than a dozen years all across the Southeast, riding bucking horses.

He and Morgan ride together often, and he spends his time now hauling the eager cowgirl to rodeos and helping her practice; he loves watching her do something she enjoys so much.

"Being a cowboy or cowgirl is more than just being a rodeo competitor," states Tim Ward. "It's a way of life in how you live, work and treat others. I hope Morgan understands that is the most important part of being a cowgirl. I'm thrilled she chose to rodeo because of the many life lessons it can give her. I loved the many years I spent being able to rodeo, but it's nothing compared to watching her do something she loves so much."

Rodeoing requires fine-tuning a craft just like any other athlete has to do for their respective sport. Competition days and leading up need a sacrifice of time, energy and money.

"Rodeo days are usually long and busy but fun," says Ward. "We haul two or three horses for my competitions. I compete in barrel racing, pole bending and breakaway roping. The closest we compete is about an hour from home, but we have to travel much farther most of the time. I ride or exercise my horses several days a week and rope a lot as well. It takes a lot of time to keep myself and my horses ready to compete, but I love it. Rodeo days are also a lot of fun because I get to spend them with family and friends. That's a big part of why I love it so much."

Ward competes in rodeos two or three weekends per month on average, all year long. While some rodeos are a single day of competing, others are two days that require overnight stays.

While perfecting this craft, Ward is simultaneously creating lasting memories.

"One of my most special moments would be winning my first saddle," states Ward. "Winning my first All-Around Champion saddle was the best. One of my funniest moments was one night I took a flying fall off my pony during a rodeo. I had a face and helmet full of dirt, but all the kids kept telling me I looked like Superman flying through the air."

Ward actively serves in the nursery at her church, attends student ministry and enjoys hunting, fishing, playing, and working on her family's farm.

With the demand of time interwoven into what makes her successful in rodeo competition, mastering time management is crucial for the middle schooler.

"I have to work hard to keep all of my schoolwork done as well as taking care of my horses," says Ward. "My daddy has always told me 'if you're going to compete on the weekends, your horses have to be ridden and exercised during the week.' Since I love to rodeo, I learned early on how important it is to take care of my horses and make sure my schoolwork is done. It's a balance, but I don't mind because I love it."

Ward hopes the passion she has for the rodeo will become a large part of her future.

"I love competing in rodeos and would love to one day compete at the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in Las Vegas," says Ward. "I have also thought about maybe someday being on a college rodeo team."


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