Meet the Member Haleigh McNeil

by Rodeo News

story by Lily Weinacht

Haleigh McNeil never suspected she’d won the 2017 NLBRA Senior Girls All-Around Champion, until a friend called her while Haleigh was at her horse trailer after her final run. “It was a complete shock!” Haleigh recalls. “We were all focused on my other events, and never even thought twice about the all-around.” After competing in the NLBRA for 13 years, the all-around is Haleigh’s first world title in the association, while she won reserve world champion in the trail course, and finished fifth in the world in ribbon roping with Cody Troyer. “I’ve won a lot at my state level, but this was my first time to bring home a world title. It made it a very special way to end my senior year.”

Paulette McNeil (Nana), Emily McNeil (cousin), Haleigh McNeil, Cade McNeil (cousin), Misty McNeil (aunt), and Chris McNeil (uncle) – Courtesy of the family

Haleigh was raised by her grandparents, Paulette and Charles McNeil, whom she calls Nana and Papaw. “My Papaw stays home and tends all the animals for us, and I definitely look up to my Nana. She used to pro rodeo and barrel race, but when I got to about four years old, it was hard to keep me contained because I always wanted to be riding when she was at rodeos,” says Haleigh. “She decided to give up her career to haul me down the road and help me start my own career. She was competing in the PCA and PRCA, and she’s the one that always told me that just because something bad happens in one event, you can’t hang on to it and carry it over to the next event. You have to let it go.”
That mentality served Haleigh well during her 13th NLBFR, where she competed in all seven of the senior girls events. “It was non-stop, but I’ve learned to take it one event at a time. Really, my motivation for rodeo is that I love it. It’s the only sport I’ve ever been a part of, and I don’t know what my life would be like without rodeo.” Of all her events in Little Britches, trail course is Haleigh’s favorite, though it didn’t start out that way. She went through four horses before settling on a 3-year-old mare named Precious. “I started and trained her myself, so being reserve champion on her was pretty special, too. I like goat tying, too, and the adrenaline rush of getting off your horse and trying to stay on your feet and tie that goat as fast as you can.”
Haleigh practices daily, whether on horseback, or roping the dummy or tying goats in the barn if it’s raining. Her younger cousin Emily McNeil started Little Britches last year, and she’s entering the junior girls division this fall. “She got to go to her first (Little Britches) finals and it was my last finals, so we got to go one year together,” says Haleigh. “She graciously let me borrow her pony, Paris, to do goats off of, because when I went out to practice on the horse I hauled out to do goats on, he would buck every time.” She adds, “I’m really going to miss it because one of my favorite things about Little Britches is how family oriented everything is. You never really meet a stranger, and someone’s always there to help you. But I’m excited to see what the next chapter of my life holds.”
While Haleigh is eligible for one more year of Little Britches, she decided to focus on her courses at Meridian Community College. “I’m majoring in polymer engineering, and maybe I will invent something that will help the rodeo industry. I’ll still be home riding horses and helping Emily with her new events, and I’ll still do the amateur rodeo associations around here,” says Haleigh, who’s enjoying going to a school close by, which allows her to still spend time with her family. “Besides graduating and getting a good job, my goal is to make it to the NFR. What else would a rodeo kid want?”

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