When Abby Sigvaldsen put on her cream colored cowboy hat with the black trim and stood next to her horses, she started to glow.
In just a few short moments, Sigvaldsen entered her true form and when talking about her horses, rodeos and everything in between her eyes gleamed and her smile never faded.
Sigvaldsen is a cowgirl, through and through, and she’ll be competing in the 39th annual Williston High School Rodeo on Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1 at the Upper Missouri Valley Fairgrounds in Williston.
Students from across the state (151 total) will be competing in a variety of events from breakaway roping to bull riding.
Sigvaldsen, a senior at Ray High School, is the only high school student representing the WHS Rodeo Club in Saturday’s rodeo. The club is a member of the North Dakota High School Rodeo Association, which has 182 total members.
Sigvaldsen will be competing in breakaway roping and barrel racing. However, this isn’t her first rodeo.
“I’ve been around horses my whole life,” she said. “My mom had horses, my dad had horses since before I was even born. So I was just kind of born into it.”
Sigvaldsen was six years old when she participated in her first rodeo and has been doing so every year since.
In fact, during her April 27 interview just outside the fairgrounds, she said she recently returned from a rodeo the weekend before.
And on Saturday, Sigvaldsen will be competing with her two quarter horses—Bay (16) and Remmy (5).
In her first event, the breakaway, she’ll be on Bay.
“He’s more of the old veteran that knows what he’s doing,” she said.
Remmy, who Sigvaldsen said is fast, does the barrel race. Sigvaldsen said Remmy loves it.
She said she’s been practicing with her horses quite a bit, but when asked if she gets nervous she smiled, laughed a little and shook her head.
“No, not really,” she said. “I feel like I’ve done this forever. I get more excited, I would say and I’m ready to go but not necessarily nervous.”
Sigvaldsen also has her horses, who can sense how she’s feeling and have formed a strong bond with her, to help her through the events.
Laura Weishoff, advisor for the club and one of the people behind organizing the rodeo, said that’s one of the special things about horses—they can feel you.
“They sense that (nervousness or energy) and they’ll respond in many different ways,” Weishoff said. “Horses will just take care of you.”
Overall, Weishoff said this year everyone involved with the rodeo is just happy to have it back.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers were forced to cancel the rodeo last year, and Weishoff said being able to do it this year is exciting.
“Sometimes, I find myself going, ‘Gosh, I’m rusty, what do I need to be doing here,’ because not having it last year it’s almost like you forgot those normal things you know you need to do each year,” she laughed. “But it’s exciting to be able to, and even though it’s a lot of hard work...we all were just like, ‘Yes, we get to do it this year…’ We’re here, we’re getting to do this, and it’s wonderful.”
Additionally, she said the rodeo is for everyone, and every event in it has a purpose that ties back to the history and the legacy of cowboys and cowgirls.
And on Friday and Saturday she said some very talented kids in North Dakota will be able to continue that tradition, which is fulfilling.
“It just feels good. Usually we’re pretty exhausted but it just feels good that we were able to carry on the heritage of rodeo, which runs so deep in our area and has such character and legacy,” she said. “It’s so good to be able to watch our youth across the state...learn, grow and succeed.”
As for Sigvalden, her events are on Saturday, and she said ultimately she wants to make good solid runs on her horses.
“I just want to do the best I can with the calf I draw and all that,” she said.