Tenille Rhodes lives for fun
Photos courtesy of the family/Kora Hughes
Tenille Rhodes does it all. She plays the violin, snowboards, plays basketball, rides dirt bikes, and rodeos. And she does it all just for fun.
Rhodes, who describes herself as “a tomboy who just likes to have fun,” lives life to the fullest. “I was born in St. George, Utah,” says Tenille. “We lived in New Harmony for a long time, then moved to Kanarraville a couple years ago.”
This location is perfect for someone like Tenille. Opportunities for excitement are all around. “There are dirt bike tracks close by and I snowboard at Brian Head,” explains Rhodes.
The school she attends, Cedar City High, offers many extra-curricular activities, including women’s basketball and orchestra. Rhodes participates in both and plays games and attends competitions across the region. “I played on the freshman basketball team and we did pretty well. We won all but three or four games this season,” she reports. When asked how she became involved in orchestra and why she chose the violin, Tenille keeps it simple, “When I was going into middle school I had the choice of band, art, or orchestra. I wanted to play the drums, but they required two years of piano to do that. I’d never played the piano, but had a neighbor who played the violin and offered to give me lessons.” There you have it.
Rhodes does not recall ever choosing whether or not to rodeo. “I’ve been riding horses since I could walk,” she remarks. “My parents started me on barrels and poles and I just grew up doing it.” Tenille’s parents, Jay and Sheri, decided early on to share their love of horses with both Tenille, and older son, Jayden. Both were raised with horses and Jay spent time training at the racetrack. While Tenille doesn’t remember being asked if she wanted to enter up – the end results are fine with her. According to Rhodes, “I love riding and competing and realized when I was pretty little that I may have what it takes to be good at this.”
Rhodes is really good at “this” and currently sits in 12th place nationally in the Senior Girls All-Around standings of the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA). She competes in other associations too, including the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) and the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA), but prefers NLBRA events due to their convenience and fun. “There are a lot of Little Britches rodeos close by,” offers Tenille. She continues, “NLBRA rodeos are not as long as others and the people are really nice. Little Britches rodeos are both competitive and fun.” As mentioned earlier, Tenille is all about fun.
She has a competitive side too, and to win in this sport you have to ride good horses. Tenille relies on four equine partners to work the six events she competes. Her barrel horse, Scooby Doo, is an 18-year-old retired race horse. Tenille defines Scooby in two words, “pretty amazing.” She explains her pole bending and goat tying mount as, “Grandpa’s trial horse.” Secret is the steed’s name, and for good reason. Rhodes tells the story. “The original owners didn’t know her mom was pregnant until they found her on the ground. So, she was a secret.”
Cash handles breakaway and team roping-heading duties for Tenille. The 8-year-old gelding started out as a ranch horse, but now works pretty well for roping calves and steers. Tenille adds, “My dad and brother heel off of Cash too and I also use him for the trial course. He does it all.”
Horse number four is the baby of the family. “Tucker’s just learning,” Rhodes explains. “I’ve started him on barrels and poles and heeling a little. I take him along for the ride to rodeos where we don’t have to rent stalls.”
Planning is not a priority for many 15-year-olds but Tenille is a little different in this respect. She has set several goals for the future and is dedicated to achieving them. “My goal for the end of the school year is to earn a 4.0 grade point average,” she says. Another, longer-term, goal includes attending college while continuing to compete in rodeo. In the interim, Rhodes is focused on the summer months ahead. My goal for the rest of this rodeo season is to qualify for nationals (the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo July 23-28 in Pueblo, Colo.), and earn as many points as possible prior to heading there.” She is especially motivated to earn points this year due to what she considers an average performance in 2011. “I went to the finals last year and didn’t do the best,” she remembers.
To be in a position to do your best, it takes support. Tenille gets this from many sources, starting with her immediate family. “My parents are my biggest influence,” she proclaims. “They got me started and have helped with everything. If they didn’t know a lot about something they would learn or get me hooked up with someone else who could help.” She continues, “My grandparents, Jay and Phyllis Williams, have been very supportive too. They live about 40 miles south of us, in St. George, but still manage to come to nearly all of my events including, rodeos, basketball games and orchestra concerts.”
Outside of the family group, Rhodes looks to professional rodeo hands for inspiration. Two of her rodeo idols are Sherry Cervi and Charmayne James. “I watch Sherry compete at the WNFR almost every year and have seen tapes of Charmayne run too,” says Tenille. “I want to be like them someday.”
Rhodes then tells the story of getting to meet one of the role models in person. “I was able to talk with Charmayne during last year’s NLBFR. I was at the trade show there looking at ropes and looked up to find her in one of the booths right next to me. I introduced myself and we just chatted for a while about barrel racing, horses, nationals and stuff.” Tenille then reveals, “My mom’s a huge Charmayne fan too. I took her back to the trade show later and she got Charmayne’s autograph.”
In this family, living for fun is hereditary.