This Ain’t Her First Rodeo

McKinley Pieper, Photo Editor

PVHS junior, Ella Petak, is a world champion horseback rider who has won numerous titles for Western Riding and Horsemanship. She has committed to Texas A&M on a college scholarship as well. 

Petak excels in the category of Western Pleasure, which is a Western style that evaluates the horses on its quality of gait, lead changes, rider response, and calm disposition. It is a judged event, not timed. 

“I am judged on body position and connection with my horse. I am given a pattern and I must execute it,” Petak said. 

2018 was a fantastic year for Petak.    She placed first in Horsemanship at World Championships, third in Western Riding at the World Show, and first at All-American Quarter Horse Congress Horse Show. 

National Collegiate Equestrian teams compete in the Equitation on the flat, the Equitation over fences, Horsemanship, and Reining. 

Texas A&M is seeded second in Division I of the NCAA. In college, Petak will compete in the Horsemanship category. 

Petak has been riding since she was four years old. She grew up around horses and formed a strong bond with them. 

“My dad rode bulls in the pro rodeo and jumped horses, so my parents have always owned horses,” she said. 

“My dad started riding bulls when he was 13 when he joined the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association in the 1980s.”

Petak owns four quarter horses, but she competes with Mako, a seven-year-old male horse who lives in Texas. 

She shows all over the country in various states approximately once a month. She also travels to Texas once a month to work with her trainer, Reid Thomas. 

“My trainer is like a second dad.Every time I go to Texas I stay at his house with him and his partner,” she said.

 “I travel to shows with him all summer. I usually live in Texas in the summer and my parents fly to the different states to meet me at horse shows.” 

Despite her grueling travel schedule, Petak balances school, activities, and friendships. 

Her mother, Lynn Petak noted her daughter’s biggest struggle is time, and since she is traveling for competitions, she is missing school. This makes it especially difficult to keep up. 

Petak said, “I always bring my homework with me to the shows and do a lot of work on the long airplane rides.”

At shows, she designates a few hours a day to make sure all her homeowork is finished once she returns home. 

“When I am home, I always make time for my friends to maintain my connections, they are all very supportive of me,” said Patek. 

When she competes year-round for Texas A&M, she must ride the school’s horses. 

Mrs. Petak has never missed a competition and is preparing for her daughter to go to college. 

She said, “I will be very lonely. I will miss her, but I will be there to go watch her ride.” 

Petak plans on majoring in psychology. She would love to ride competitively after college. 

“I could turn my horse backing riding into a job and eventually be a trainer,” she said.