Small town local girl Rayne Grant accomplishes the impossible

Gillette, Wyoming, hosted the National High School Finals Rodeo to complete the season of hard work for all the nation’s high school rodeo student athletes. Qualifiers from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, coast to coast from California to Maryland, countries including Canada to Mexico, (and all the states in between), brought over 1700 contestants to compete in all the events of high school rodeo. Rayne Grant, a senior and daughter of Mike and Becky Grant, is no stranger to the arena. Rayne has made it to nationals before, but this year she earned the title of 2022 All Around Cowgirl, World Champion Pole Bender, Reserve Champion Barrel Racer, and was awarded the AQHA Horse of the Year riding “Chili”, VF A Famous Lady, in both of these events. She made it to the short go and earned points in all 3 events she qualified to go to Nationals in, also placing 11th in Goat tying. Rayne was also honored with big wins during the Wyoming HS Rodeo State Finals. She came away with Champion Pole Bender, Reserve Champion Barrel Racer, 4th in Goat Tying, 5th in Breakaway, 5th in Reined Cow horse, 16th in Team Roping, and was the Reserve Champion All Around Cowgirl. State Finals were held in Buffalo, WY earlier this year.

GILLETTE – Growing up on a quarter horse ranch just south of Wheatland, Wyoming, may not be big news, but small-town girl Rayne Grant created some massive waves in the National High School Rodeo competition in Gillette, Wyoming, and some would say that she accomplished some impossible feats.

Riding strong in every competition she faced this past year as she was finishing her high school career, she has turned some heads already in professional rodeo circles.

Last week in the National finals, Grant did what perhaps no other rider has ever accomplished. From one of the smallest populated states, from Slater, Wyoming, a town of 49 people, she took a horse that she had trained herself and with the confidence and love she had in VF Famous Lady, better known as “Chili” she rode to a National Grand Champion in pole bending and a Reserve Champion in barrel racing. She also placed 11th in goat tying. Whereas some kids compete their entire career and never even punch their ticket to a national stage, Grant not only qualified in three events, but placed in three events. All with the same horse.

There were those, including her mother, Becky who is no slouch in the knowledge of quarter horses didn’t think that Chili would pan out. She didn’t like the horse and didn’t think it should be the horse that Grant should even bother with.

“I just knew this horse was fast,” Rayne Grant said. “I knew if I worked hard it would pay off.”

And here we are four years later and that little sorrel was taking the breath away from people who admired the prance, the swagger, the confidence and the speed of this amazing horse. “Chili” so wowed the crowd and the judges that this 12-year-old mare by Born Ta Be Famous was selected as the AHQA Women’s Horse of the Year.

“Going to Nationals, it was so exciting,” she said. “This was my seventh and final year competing.”

Grant went to Nationals three years while in junior high and four years while in high school.

“I was really confident and really prepared,” Grant said. “I really knew what to expect going in. I’ve competed in multiple events all my life, and for me it was part of my goals and it was truly a blessing.”

Grant’s father, Mike said that his daughter has an amazing work ethic.

“She’s up early every day,” he said. “She spends many hours working and training her horses and even when she comes in the house for lunch or after a long day, she is watching video or studying and preparing for an upcoming competition. She has a sandwich in one hand and her video on her phone in the other. She is so focused.”

Grant’s mother tends to agree and says that her daughter is constantly striving to get better.

“When she watches others run and she she sees the hoofprints in the dirt, Rayne knows that their path was too wide and then mentally prepares herself to shave time off her run with what she’s learned.”

As a trainer who hopes to make that her profession one day along with being part of the professional rodeo has a sense with horses. It’s one of the reasons she had her eye on “Chili.” According to Rayne, there was just a “knowing” inside that the horse was fast and that she could make that horse a champion.

“Although I wasn’t convinced,” Becky said, “She just would not give up on the idea of that being the horse and then knowing she had the best. She now measures every horse she trains to “Chili.”

Rayne rides her horses every day. She is not a part-timer in her work because she is a young woman who has found purpose and passion in what she does and cannot get enough of it.

“I wouldn’t consider it work because I love it,” she said. “We wake up about six or seven every day and work until dark. And Chili? She’s amazing. I’ve had her for four years and I’ve ran her in the barrels and the poles all year including the Nationals. We have a really special bond, and when others questioned what I saw, I saw that she was just so fast. I couldn’t give up on her. She’s just special and I knew that right away. I knew she was capable of winning and taking me all the way to the winner’s circle.”

Grant was the National World Champion pole bender after her competition and her horse did indeed carry her into the winner’s circle, but before that, she took Grant on a very quick series of rides. In the first round, she had her slowest time (19.783) and then began to study where to improve. Although her slowest time, she was still holding fourth-place after that run. Another girl who was representing Utah had moved into the top spot.  

In the second round, she blistered the course with a 19.608 time and like a derby horse who moved up on the inside, she took control. In the short round, nine other riders broke the 20-second mark, but Grant once again raised the bar coming in at the fastest time in the nation with a 19.522.

“During that run I was just so excited,” Grant said. “During the short round my adrenaline was going crazy. I could feel that excitement as she was running faster through the poles and I knew it was going to be a fast time.”

Grant comes from a very tight-knit close family and she says that she draws a lot of strength for her parents. According to Grant, her parents are her mentors and her heroes. When she found out on the big board that she had won the National top spot, she remembers it clearly.

“My dad was down there,” she said. “He was helping me with my horse and it was simply amazing. It was crazy and a moment I’ll never forget.”

In the barrels Grant’s first run was recorded at a 17.236 putting her fifth in the standings. Her second run was her slowest in the event and though she took a big dip in the placing, she then ran a 17.403 and remained in the fifth spot.  In the short round “Chili” came up big and the team recorded a 17.003 which put her third in the round, but her total score of 51.642 was good enough to take them to the title of Reserve World Champion Barrel Racer.

The competition was stiff and according to Mike Grant there were over 1700 competitors from not only the United States, but from Canada and Mexico.

When talking about the races, again, Rayne Grant dotes on her beloved “Chili.”

“I believe she tries her hardest every single time,” she said. “I can feel it in her that she’s trying hard so I am truly happy with my run every time. As long as I do my job, I’m happy with it because I know she’s giving me her all.”

Grant says that her plan is to go to LCCC (Laramie County Community College) and then perhaps get on the professional rodeo circuit.

She won in multiple events on the same horse. A horse that she herself trained. She’s won a lot in her career and that seems to come naturally to her, but she is never at a plateau to rest or take a break. She is driven by her passion; she has live-in heroes and a horse that for all intents and purposes is a part of her heart – almost like they were cut out of the same cloth.

The secret, says her dad is that she doesn’t compete against another human being.

“She has learned to compete only against herself,” Mike Grant says. “The focus is on her performance and how that stacks up against only her.”

As a result, she has the strong parental bond and leadership, she has the focus and work ethic that few athletes master and she has a horse that she adores. Her horse is the best according to not only her, but as voted on by the AHQA. She was the best in the world in pole bending. Second-best in barrel racing. She placed for goat tying. She represented a Wyoming girls’ team who placed second in the nation. And the cherry on top of the sundae was that she was selected as the National High School Rodeo Champion All-Around Cowgirl.

You will get a chance to see her perform next June in the college rodeo championships in Casper, and from there, keep your television tuned to the rodeo channel. With her never-give-up attitude, she will be there.

Small-town girl with big-time dreams and if anyone can pull that off, it’s Rayne Grant.