By Wrangler Network contributor Miss Rodeo America
Representing the one light town of Upper Pittsgrove, the 2016 Miss Rodeo New Jersey, is Briana Merriel. The county I grew up in, and will show the most pride in has the most preserved farm land in all of New Jersey, and is home to Cowtown, the oldest weekly running PRCA Rodeo, in the country! With the honor of representing New Jersey, the PRCA, and the western way of life style, I get to remind people, not only in my state, but all over the country, that rodeos come in all sizes, shapes, and states.
I was the little girl on the frisky Appaloosa pony named Cupcake, dragging me around the arena. Cupcake wasn’t as sweet as she sounded, And like always, a frisky pony had a frisky colt that turned my love for horses internally. Literally, it’s in my blood! After I grew out of my first pony, I moved on to years of no stirrups and rocks in my hands, to keep my fingers closed and thumbs up. After riding at local show barns for the next 6 years it was time to get my very first horse! Once I realized my 14.2 hand stocky quarter horse couldn’t jump the way I wanted her to, I switched over to western. Her little legs and big heart made me realize it wasn’t about the ribbons or trophies, but the memories you make and the goals you accomplished. I made her as versatile as it gets, jumping 2’3 courses, running barrels, ranch sorting, and even riding in local parades. 2 years later I bought my Off the Track Thoroughbred that I swore I would NEVER barrel race! Little did I know, she wanted to run just as much as I did. In 2014 I took her to her very first game show and won grand champion, that’s when I knew our English days were going to be put on the back burner, because I have championship buckles to chase.
I was not born into a rodeo family, but was welcomed with open arms into one! Growing up as an English rider I never got to feel the need for speed. It wasn’t until my 2nd consecutive year of 4-H did I dabble in the great events of gymkhana. As soon as I turned the legal age to drive on the road, I was hauling my American Quarter Horse, Annie, to open jackpots, drill team practices, and local game shows. All while keeping 4-H close to my heart. I competed in both county and state level in English, Western, Dressage, Western Dressage, Games, Horse Bowl, Hippology, and Horse Judging.
4 years ago if you told me I had to wear a white hat and keep it clean to, I’d ask for rubber gloves, and a sink in my horse trailer. When I found out New Jersey had a Rodeo Queen I turned to my friend and said, “I want to do that!”. After a couple chuckles and 2 years later I was crowned Miss Rodeo New Jersey. My goal for this year is to show New Jersey as well as the rest of the country that Rodeo Queens can ride a horse, get covered in mud, and still be ready for an interview 5 minutes later. We are not just big hair and big smiles, but ambassadors for the PRCA, we are the glam and grit of the rodeo. I believe that, “Confidence is key. When life knocks you down, you get back up, tighten your cinch, and ride it out.”