Marley Hammer, 16, and Dixie are headed to Wyoming for the National High School Finals Rodeo. Hammer, a rising junior at Soroco High School, will compete in pole bending.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Marley Hammer, 16, and Dixie are headed to Wyoming for the National High School Finals Rodeo. Hammer, a rising junior at Soroco High School, will compete in pole bending.

South Routt cowgirl heads to national competition

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Marley Hammer, 16, and Dixie are headed to Wyoming for the National High School Finals Rodeo. Hammer, a rising junior at Soroco High School, will compete in pole bending.

— Marley Hammer grew up a rodeo girl, and today, as a newly minted 16-year-old, she dreams rodeo dreams.

“I’d like to go pro someday,” she said. “I’d like to go pro in barrels.”

The South Routt teenager, just two weeks into having a driver’s license, has a rather measured world view. Rodeo, she said, has taught her that unexpected things happen. Helping raise her horse, Dixie, a beautiful chestnut from her family’s ranch, taught her that patience is key, in both Dixie’s world and in her own.

“Someday” doesn’t mean tomorrow, next week or next month. She’ll ride the barrels under the bright lights and for the big checks when the time comes.

Until then, she’ll enjoy the ride. And this week, she’s bound for one trip that has her grinning wide.

Hammer qualified earlier this summer for the National High School Finals Rodeo, which begins Friday in Rock Springs, Wyo.

“I plan to win it,” she said. “That’s the goal, anyway. I’m pretty happy I got there. Coming from an itty-bitty town like Burns, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.”

Four athletes in each event from each state qualify for the rodeo. Hammer competes in several, but it was in pole bending that she shined when it mattered the most. Pole bending sends a horse and rider through a course of six poles set up in a straight line down the middle of a rodeo arena. A precise pattern must be followed, rider and horse bobbing and weaving through the poles as fast as possible.

“It takes a lot of practice,” Hammer said. “When Dixie was a colt, we went down to the arena and practiced poles at least three times a week.”

It hasn’t been an easy path. Hammer, who picked up the sport from her parents Steve and Melinda Hammer, has spent many weekends traveling ever since she began to get more involved and competitive.

First, there were trips for Gymkhana and Little Britches rodeos. More recently, it has been high school events. They’ve kept her on the road, traveling across the state every weekend for nearly six months.

“Lamar, Cortez, we hit pretty much every corner of the state,” Marley Hammer said.

She learned to trust herself at a young age. Anytime she went missing from the house, she was to be found on a horse.

“She just has a natural ability that we’re very blessed with,” Melinda Hammer said.

She learned to trust Dixie through years and years of riding.

“She looks out for me,” Hammer said confidently. “I look out for her. We’re pretty good friends.”

Now, she’s hoping that trust and the confidence in her dreams will pay off on the big stage in Wyoming.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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