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What’s Up South Texas!: Rodeo teen barrel races past life’s obstacles to find success

SAN ANTONIO – A 13-year-old barrel racing Ray D. Corbett Junior High School student is inspiring others to push through challenges while following your dreams.

Clayann Holbrook made state finals at the Texas Junior High Rodeo Association last year, but starting out, she knew nothing about the sport.

“I wanted to do gymnastics,” Holbrook said. “I was in gymnastics since I was two until I was seven or eight. I guess I had watched a bunch of things on gymnastics on Netflix and it was something I thought I wanted to do.”

Clayann said her interests began to change.

“To me, it was kind of boring, so I figured I wanted to ride horses and that is what I did,” Clayann said.

“We were on vacation in the Dominican Republic,” said Daniel Holbrook, Clayann dad. “We did a pony ride and we got back home she was saying how she wanted lessons. I think that planted the seed.”

Clayann eventually quit gymnastics and picked up horseback riding which led to barrel racing and pole bending. The journey, however, hasn’t been easy.

“I didn’t start with horses,” Clayann said. “My parents didn’t rodeo or anything so starting off, it was pretty hard. It was a lot of core muscles and leg muscles and trying to stay on the horse.”

Her coach wasn’t easy on her, either.

“My coach she was tough love,” Clayann said. “A lot of tough love. Made cry a few times,” she said through laughter.

Learning her horses was challenging task, Clayann said.

“There was a lot of times where we would make a run and I didn’t like it and we would go all over the place and I would start crying,” Clayann Holbrook said. “’I don’t want to do this anymore. This isn’t for me.’ That was tough but then it got better, and I stuck with it.”

Highly decorated for her young age, with four horses and good grades, Clayann Holbrook said she is happy at the level she is at right now.

“I am proud of myself that I worked through difficulties and all things that brought me down at times and I am proud for sticking with it and not giving up,” Clayann Holbrook said.

Her family said her tough love instructor is now one of her best friends and biggest mentors pushing her in the sport.

“It amazes me every time and we would watch her do something and we would be impressed with what she did, and we would look at each other and think, ‘there is no way we could do that,’” Daniel Holbrook said.

Now Clayann Holbrook and her family hope to encourage others in life to fight through the challenges that may stand in the way of their dreams.

“She used to be very shy and was always a focused little girl,” Adrienne Holbrook, her mother, said. “Being around horses and riding, her confidence level has changed and her personality has changed for the better. I would just tell others to never give up on your dream, even if you fail. Get back up and try again. Failure is easy to do in this sport. You just got to get back up and try again.”

After Clayann Holbrook’s latest competition, she is currently fifth in pole bending and 10th in barrel racing in Region Six.

“The goal is to ultimately make nationals,” Clayann Holbrook said. “That is really what it is about just being passionate and not giving up.”

If you know someone like Clayann Holbrook who is making a difference in the South Texas community or who has a unique story, send us your tips. Contact Japhanie Gray on Facebook or @JGrayKSAT on Twitter. You can also send your tips to KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Facebook.


About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray

From the home of the Seminoles, Japhanie Gray grew up in the town of Osceola, Arkansas. She graduated as the Salutatorian of the Osceola Class of 2011. She attended Arkansas State University, where she participated in the National Association of Black Journalists and the Spanish Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi.