Cowgirl Tough: Rayne Grant Dominates National High School Finals Rodeo in Barrel Racing, Pole Bending Despite Injury


You might be tough, but are you Rayne Grant tough?

The world watched as Wyoming cowgirl Rayne Grant took control of the All-Around Cowgirl race at the National High School Finals Rodeo, held July 19-23. She did so by dominating her events, earning a pole bending world championship, reserve championship in barrel racing, and top 11 goat tying finish.

Don’t get it twisted—just because Grant’s performance was spectacular doesn’t mean the cowgirl has had an easy road. That black brace that she wore all week long over her western shirt, it isn’t just for show. 

Rayne Grant’s 17.003-second short round barrel racing run. Video courtesy Brian McNamee

The Accident

“I had a horse fall down with me about a month ago in the pasture,“ Rayne explained. 

Her dad, Mike Grant, chimed in.

“It was in a grassy pasture and she came up on a ditch. He stumbled in the front and flipped forward,” said Mike.

Rayne somehow managed to get back up and finish out the remainder of the day at the ranch in Douglas, Wyoming, where she was working. She refused to go to the hospital but called her parents later that day.

“She called us that night and said, “Oh, I was in a little bit of a horse wreck, but I’m going to be okay,’” mom, Becky said. “I could tell she was hurting, talking in short breaths, but she kept saying she was fine. Her buddy said it was the worst wreck he’d ever seen and he’d never been so scared. They thought she was dead at first.” 

Rayne got up the next morning and attempted to go to work again. That is, until the pain became unbearable, and she finally agreed to go to the emergency room. Mike went to pick up her horses from the ranch, while Becky met her at the hospital to hear her diagnosis and offer support.

“She was wrecked,” Becky recalled. “Parts of three of her vertebrae were broken off, her ribs were broken, she had dislocated ribs. Something’s still wrong with her collarbone.”  

The Comeback

Rayne’s accident happened on a Tuesday, and she had the Wyoming State High School Rodeo Finals coming up the following weekend. Her parents had varying opinions on the matter, but Rayne checked in with her doctors to confirm that by competing she wouldn’t put herself at risk for further injury. However, it was acknowledged that the pain she would have to deal with could be unbearable.

“I was pretty against (her going),” Becky said. “She said, ‘I’m going to do it. I want to,’ so we bandaged her up and went.” 

Rayne Grant Barrel Racing at National High School Finals
Rayne Grant and VF A Famous Lady running barrels at the NHSFR in Gillette, Wyoming. Image by Acentric Rodeo Photography

Unbelievably, Rayne managed to hang onto qualifications for the NHSFR in barrels, poles and goat tying. She had an opportunity in the breakaway, but her body failed her despite her try.

“She just couldn’t swing her rope in the breakaway to be fast,” Becky explained. “Her core was so weak. She’s a quiet rider in the poles and barrels, so she can try to brace herself and hold the horn in those events.”

Rayne continued to exercise horses at home and practice in preparation for Nationals despite the pain.

“She was dialed in, being her quiet self. I don’t think a lot of people even noticed she was in pain.”

Becky Grant

“There was never a doubt I’d be here,” Rayne said of competing at the NHSFR. “They (the doctors) said to take it easy and do what feels good to me. The brace hasn’t changed my riding. If anything, it’s helped me stay more square.” 

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VF A Famous Lady

As impressive as Rayne’s story is, the little sorrel who took her to the winner’s circle all week long in barrels and poles possibly stole the show.

VF A Famous Lady, known as “Chili,” is a 12-year-old sorrel mare by Born Ta Be Famous. Chili was voted the American Quarter Horse Association Cowgirl’s Horse of the Year thanks to the impressive way she stepped up in both events for Rayne in Gillette.

“I had an idea she was going to win (Horse of the Year) going into the short go,” Rayne said. “But when they actually called my name and I saw the saddle, my heart dropped a little bit. It was honestly my favorite thing I won all week. Chili deserved it.”

Rayne Grant accepts AQHA Horse of the Year for VF a Famous Lady
Rayne accepts the Cowgirl’s AQHA Horse of the Year honor on behalf of VF A Famous Lady.

The Grant family purchased Chili four years ago from a family friend. They knew Chili had potential and they had some success with her from the start, but things took a turn for the worse after a short time.

“It got bad,” Becky explained. “She was refusing the gate, she would kick—one time she kicked another kid’s horse so hard it sounded like a gunshot. She got turned out of three different rodeos. We had her vetted, she had nothing wrong. We tried everything we could think of.” 

Rayne has worked under trainers like barrel racer Ashley Schafer and renowned horseman Phil Haugen, and she continued to work on herself during Chili’s struggles. At one point, Rayne’s health took a dive, and Chili began to look dull, skinny and unhappy at the same time. 

The Grants never found a smoking gun with the mare or with Rayne, but the two worked their way back to health together.

“She just wouldn’t give up on that horse,” Becky said. 

VF A Famous Lady Rayne Grant horse of the year NHSRA

NHSFR Performance

Upon arrival in Gillette, Rayne didn’t waste time making her presence known. 


The pole bending turned out to be Rayne’s storied event of the week. Her slowest time of the week came during the first round, where she finished fourth with a 20.178-second trip. MaRynn Watterson claimed the win in that round with a 19.783, representing Utah. 

However, after that, Rayne took the lead of one of the saltiest classes of pole benders in NHSFR history. She raised the bar with a 19.608 in the second round and took command of the aggregate. The short round saw an unbelievable nine separate sub 20-second runs, and Rayne was again the fastest, with a 19.522. 


With three broken vertabrae, Rayne Grant wins the #NHSRA World Championship in #PoleBending thanks to this smoking 19.522! #NHSFR #RodeoTok #Cowgirl #HighSchoolRodeo #BigInkEnergy #Athlete #HighSchoolAthlete #Motivation #BarrelRacingMag @Rayne Grant @NRSworld @NHSRA #Utah

♬ How Low – Ludacris


Rayne got the ball rolling in the first round of barrel racing with a 17.236, which was good enough for fifth in the round. The second round run produced Rayne’s slowest time of the event, but her 17.403 still landed her 15th and brought her back to the short round in the No. 5 position. 

The short round is where Rayne and Chili shined. Their 17.003 would have been good enough to win either of the first two goes, but landed her third in the round. Her aggregate 51.642 earned her bragging rights as the NHSRA 2022 Reserve World Champion Barrel Racer.

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Rayne was consistent in the first two go-rounds of goat tying and came back inside of the top 10 to the short round. Her goat ran down the rope slightly, and it threw her momentum slightly off, but Rayne tied fast and managed to hang onto the No. 11 position in the aggregate.  

“Rayne came to the trailer one night (in Gillette) and said, ‘I am in so much pain, mom. So much pain.’ I told her she could quit at any time. She said, ‘I’m not going to quit.’ All I could do was give her ibuprofen. She had painkillers from the doctors, but didn’t even want to take those.”

Becky Grant

Rayne’s performance over the course of the week would have been impressive with or without injury, but her grit and determination is something to be admired by any cowboy or cowgirl.

So, what did Rayne think of her final NHSRA event?

“It was—it was just incredible,” she said with a pause. “I had my goals set and everything came true.”

The Coaching of a Champion 

“From home, it’s easy to see her week and think, ‘Oh, that’s great. She won a lot,’” Mike said. “But I think people underestimate how tough it is to win at that level, in multiple events. It’s just so tough out there.”

So, the question that parents and other youth are dying to know: During the saltiest youth competition in the world with hundreds of entries, how is it that one cowgirl can stand out so starkly from the pack?

“She competes with herself, and only herself every day,” Mike noted.

“We’ve never told her that she has to beat another girl,” Becky said. “For example, she was fourth in the first round and had a 20.1-second pole run. That’s a great run. But she knew she could do better; she knew Chili could be faster. She worked on things between rounds to just keep getting faster.”

Rayne Grant father's message to her at national high school finals rodeo
Mike writes notes for Rayne at each rodeo. Here, her short round notes are pictured with her All-Around World Champion buckle. Image courtesy Grant family

Coaching high school students isn’t easy, but the Grants noted that they can’t take all the credit for Rayne’s stellar attitude, huge heart and pure love for rodeo.

“People always ask us, ‘How’d you get such a great kid?’ and we try to tell them that she’s always been that way,” Becky said. “She’s always been disciplined and wanted it, and she’s so kind. We don’t force her to do it.”

Rayne, when asked well out of earshot from her parents, still gave them praise. She has worked with some of the best instructors in the world, but when asked who her biggest mentors are?

“My parents have helped me so much and been so supportive,” she said. “They’re amazing.” 

Rayne Grant accepts awards in barrel racing, pole bending and all-around
Rayne poses with her saddles at NHSFR. Image courtesy Brian McNamee

NHSFR Pole Bending Results

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1. (WY) Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyo., 59.308

2. (NV) Emma Garijo, Winnemucca, Nev., 59.799

3. (UT) MaRynn Watterson, Delta, Utah, 59.896

4. (TX) Taylor Davis, Alto, Texas, 60.134

5. (AZ) Ashlyn McCleve, Gilbert, Ariz., 60.34

6. (CA) Brianna Sharp, Brentwood, Calif., 60.356

7. (NY) Nicki Davidson, Canterbury, , 60.55

8. (LA) Landan English, Bossier City, La., 60.57

9. (MS) Kelly Smith, Monticello, Miss., 60.9

10. (WY) Ashlyn Goven, Rozet, Wyo., 60.91

Short Go

1. (WY) Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyo., 19.522

2. (AZ) Ashlyn McCleve, Gilbert, Ariz., 19.631

3. (MT) Lexi Murer, Bigfork, Mont., 19.746

4. (TX) Taylor Davis, Alto, Texas, 19.826

5. (NV) Emma Garijo, Winnemucca, Nev., 19.852

6. (AK) Mackenzie Betts, Chugiak, Alaska, 19.869

7. (OK) Camree Slavin, Canadian, Texas, 19.939

8. (NY) Nicki Davidson, Canterbury, , 19.999

8. (CA) Brianna Sharp, Brentwood, Calif., 19.999

10. (WY) Ashlyn Goven, Rozet, Wyo., 20.016

Go 1

1. (UT) MaRynn Watterson, Delta, Utah, 19.783

2. (CO) Harley Baas, Hudson, Colo., 20.071

3. (TX) Taylor Davis, Alto, Texas, 20.103

4. (WY) Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyo., 20.178

5. (NV) Emma Garijo, Winnemucca, Nev., 20.184

6. (NV) Italy Jo Holman, Carlin, Nev., 20.221

7. (AZ) Ashlyn McCleve, Gilbert, Ariz., 20.264

8. (NY) Nicki Davidson, Canterbury, , 20.28

9. (LA) Landan English, Bossier City, La., 20.333

Go 2

1. (WY) Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyo., 19.608

2. (NV) Emma Garijo, Winnemucca, Nev., 19.763

3. (NV) Anna Van Norman, Tuscarora, Nev., 19.848

4. (UT) MaRynn Watterson, Delta, Utah, 19.902

5. (LA) Landan English, Bossier City, La., 19.906

6. (MS) Kelly Smith, Monticello, Miss., 19.922

7. (MT) Ella Begger, Townsend, Mont., 19.998

8. (CA) Brianna Sharp, Brentwood, Calif., 20

9. (OK) Dessa Hext, Canadian, Texas, 20.057

10. (AK) Mackenzie Betts, Chugiak, Alaska, 20.08

Barrel Racing


1. (UT) Morgan Beckstrom, Spanish Fork, Utah, 51.351

2. (WY) Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyo., 51.642

3. (MT) Lacey Lawrence, Jordan, Mont., 51.643

4. (TX) Spring Pennington, Stephenville, Texas, 51.647

5. (MT) Rachel Ward, Philipsburg, Mont., 51.745

6. (OK) Dessa Hext, Canadian, Texas, 51.881

7. (OK) Hazlee McKenzie, Muldrow, Okla., 51.942

8. (ID) Anneliese McCurry, Nampa, Idaho, 51.955

9. (MO) Merrin Frost, Baldwin City, Kan., 52.028

10. (WY) Ashlyn Goven, Rozet, Wyo., 52.032

Short Go


1. (UT) Morgan Beckstrom, Spanish Fork, Utah, 16.892

2. (TX) Spring Pennington, Stephenville, Texas, 16.93

3. (WY) Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyo., 17.003

4. (OK) Hazlee McKenzie, Muldrow, Okla., 17.031

5. (MT) Lacey Lawrence, Jordan, Mont., 17.09

6. (UT) Maklee Larsen, Genola, Utah, 17.118

7. (SK) Olivia Parsonage, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, Can., 17.147

8. (WY) Ashlyn Goven, Rozet, Wyo., 17.189

9. (MO) Merrin Frost, Baldwin City, Kan., 17.21

10. (IA) Carli Stuva, Fontanelle, Iowa, 17.221

Go 1

1. (TX) Devin Young, Rosanky, Texas, 17.193

2. (OK) Dessa Hext, Canadian, Texas, 17.223

3. (CO) Loralee Ward, Fort Lupton, Colo., 17.228

3. (TX) Spring Pennington, Stephenville, Texas, 17.228

5. (WY) Rayne Grant, Wheatland, Wyo., 17.236

6. (ND) Faith Heim, Bismarck, N.D., 17.237

7. (ID) Meg Fillmore, Rexburg, Idaho, 17.264

8. (MO) Merrin Frost, Baldwin City, Kan., 17.321

9. (MT) Rachel Ward, Philipsburg, Mont., 17.351

10. (UT) Morgan Beckstrom, Spanish Fork, Utah, 17.362

Go 2

1. (MT) Rachel Ward, Philipsburg, Mont., 17.024

2. (UT) Morgan Beckstrom, Spanish Fork, Utah, 17.097

3. (AZ) Sofia Borowski, Queen Creek, Ariz., 17.149

4. (MT) Lacey Lawrence, Jordan, Mont., 17.184

5. (IA) Carli Stuva, Fontanelle, Iowa, 17.192

6. (SD) Piper Cordes, Wall, S.D., 17.235

7. (OK) Hazlee McKenzie, Muldrow, Okla., 17.264

8. (GA) Rachel Kittle, Woodland, Ala., 17.325

9. (ND) Mika Guty, York, N.D., 17.348

10. (ID) Anneliese McCurry, Nampa, Idaho, 17.36

For full NHSFR Results, click here.