Father, Justin Wright, shares his love for the sport with his two children Judd, 8, and Anne, 4.
The National Junior High Finals Rodeo will be June 18-24 in Wilson County, the second time for the National High School Rodeo Association to bring its annual event east of the Mississippi River. It is also the second time the event will be at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.
Justin Wright, now 34, began competing in the rodeo as a sophomore in high school and continued to compete through college. He was originally brought to the sport after he watched a rodeo event while on a trip.
“I was raised around horses,” said Justin Wright. “We took a trip out West when I was probably 13 or 14 years old. We stopped at a high school rodeo – I think it was in Oklahoma – and I saw all these kids who were my age doing this, and I thought, ‘Man, this looks really neat. I would like to try this.’”
After college, Justin Wright continued to compete in National Cowboy Association and International Professional Rodeo Association events for a few years before settling down in Lebanon.
“I don’t travel like I used to,” said Justin Wright. “I used to keep the road hot, but now I just do local jackpot rodeos.”
After taking a break from the rodeo life to start a family with his wife, Erin, Wright found his way back to the rodeo through his two children, Judd and Anne Wright.
“We wanted to start a family, you know young married couple,” said Justin Wright. “Now that the kids have gotten involved, I’ve gotten back involved. It’s kind of rekindled the fire.”
Justin Wright began working with the children in different events from a young age, helping them to train for competition. At 5 years old, Judd Wright won the all-around saddle award at the Middle Tennessee Junior Rodeo.
“All the events he did, he won points,” said Justin Wright. “At the end of the year, they tally all those points up, and the kid with the most points wins the saddle.”
Anne won her first buckle at 3 years old.
“Now she’s doing barrels and poles on her own,” said Justin Wright. “She’s my headstrong kid. She’s kind of the one who, if she doesn’t want to do it that day, there’s nothing you can do. She wakes up in a good mood, she’s probably going to have a good day.”
Both children currently compete in the Star Rodeo series, a local youth rodeo program.
Judd Wright recently told his father he would like to go for the all-around saddle award again this year. His father responded that he would be willing to help, but Judd Wright would have to put forth the hard work required.
“I told him that this year he knows what he needs to do. He knows that he needs to practice, knows what it takes to get him in the top seat,” said Justin Wright. “If he wants the saddle, he’s going to have to work for it on his own. I’ll provide everything it takes to win it. I’ll get him there, I’ll put him on the best horse that I’ve got, and he’s going to have to do the rest.”
Erin Wright recently started working with her husband and two children to learn more about the events.
“My wife, she’s never done it, but we’ve kind of been working with her,” said Justin Wright. “She’s learning the fundamentals of how to do it and how to be safe about it. She’s gotten her a little horse, and she’s enjoying it, as well.”
While the two children aren’t yet old enough to compete in the National Junior High Rodeo Finals, the family plans to attend the competitions, and Justin Wright will help out as a volunteer.
“I’ll be helping with check-in, and I’ll be helping with the ground crew some,” said Justin Wright. “If my work schedule allows, I’ll probably stop by during the week and help out.”
The opening ceremony for the National Junior High Rodeo Finals will be Sunday at 7 p.m. For more information on the event or to buy tickets, visit nhsra.com/junior-high-division.