ROCK SPRINGS — Makenzi Scott, 18, and her horse, Raspberry, last Tuesday posted the worldwide third-best time ever recorded for a high-school pole bending rodeo contestant, 19.461 seconds.
Scott, from Rock Springs, and Raspberry posted their almost unheard-of, sub-20 second, pole bending time at the Open Rodeo competition held at the Sweetwater Events Complex Indoor Arena as part of Wyoming’s Big Show.
Pole bending involves the horse and rider navigating around a normally time-consuming six poles twice, with the poles set 21 feet apart, and the first pole set 21 feet from the timers. A rider and her horse must get around all six poles without knocking any of the poles down. Scott and Raspberry moved with gymnastic-like precision around the poles twice without knocking any of the poles down and incurring a 5-second penalty.
For comparison purposes, the fastest pole bending time ever recorded at the National High School Finals Rodeo was a 19.579 seconds timing by an Ingalls, Kansas rider, Emily Miller, in 2009, according to NHSFR records. The world record high-school pole bending time is 19.251 seconds by one Avery Weatherman on June 18, 2013, at the Texas State High School Finals. Another Texas high schooler, Rylee Hardin, posted a 19.363 seconds clocking on July 23, 2020, according to Texas newspaper The Graham Leader.
Scott’s 19.461 seconds pole bending time is right up there with the Texas girls. Her horse’s full name is Cats Raspberry Beret, a mare, and she is 11 years old. One of Raspberry’s grand-sires was High Brown Cat, a renowned cutter horse. Raspberry is a registered quarter horse.
Here’s her 19.461 second ride.
Scott’s explanation for her success on Tuesday compared with a few past races was both simple and complex. “I sat more forward,” she said, for starters. Not to mention, Scott’s extensive knowledge of horse mechanics and the physics of fast riding.
“When I’m running I don’t even think about any of that, and I don’t think Raspherry does much anymore either, and most of it is her muscle memory,” Scott explained. “Everything’s happening so fast when we are running…I really believe the hours and hours of slow work we do in training really pays off. I think Raspberry’s a natural when it comes to pole bending, and Kent and Stephanie McCann have done an amazing job training her and working with me and Raspberry.”
‘Ras and I are a team, and like any team we each have responsibilities when we are running, and it helps when both teammates love what they are doing, like Ras and I do,” she said.
Makenzi’s dad, Ryan Scott, a financial advisor, credited her work ethic with being the main reason for her success.
“Makenzi rides hours and hours a day,” Ryan Scott said, “and I think that’s pretty cool.”
He added that Makenzi has been able to grow in her rodeo skills largely on her own, without mom and dad being able to give much help. Ryan Scott said he used to do rough stock rodeo years back but hasn’t recently.
“It’s how hard Makenzi’s worked that I think is pretty cool. She always tries to get a little bit better. Plus, it’s teaching her responsibility,” Ryan said. “That responsibility she’s shown is helping her grow into adulthood.”
Scott added that she started in pole bending and barrel racing when she was 11 years old. It was clear from her later comments that Scott’s success was based upon her extensive knowledge of horsemanship accumulated over her years in the sport.
“When you are going right, you want the horse to be in the right lead, which means it is leading with the right hoof. Same for the left lead, but going left. Usually you want the lead to match the direction you are going, unless you are asking for a counter canter, but in pole bending you are always in the ‘correct’ lead, so if you are going right you are in the right lead, and if you are going left are in the left lead.”
“In pole bending, I go down the left side of the poles first, and make a left turn around the end pole,” Scott added, “so I want Raspberry to be in the left lead…When I round that first pole and start making my way through the rest of the poles, Raspberry switches leads between every pole, depending on which directions she’s running. This is called a flying lead change, and to do it the horse has to take all its feet off the ground and switch which hoof is leading. In pole bending there are a total of 10 lead changes. On the second end pole Raspberry is in the right lead so she can make that right turn around the pole. Then we make our way back through the poles, switching leads between each pole, and rounding that last end pole to the left in the left lead, and then we race home.”
It also helps to have a custom-made saddle. “This saddle has a pencil seat, which is really deep and helps me sit deep in my saddle when we are turning our end poles,” Scott said. “It also has a high cantle, which helps with that as well…Raspberry doesn’t have much of a wither, so she rolls saddles easily, and that is why I had to get one custom-made. (The saddle) also has a pretty tall horn, which is nice because I use that horn to push myself into my seat when I’m turning my end poles.”
Scott’s growing knowledge of the finer points of horsemanship, the minute details that spectators rarely see, has played into her posting one of the fastest pole bending times in the United States and the world. But then again, Scott sees herself and her horse, Raspberry, as a team, and they succeed as a team. The result of that teamwork was that horse and rider blew the doors off all but two other high-school pole bending competitors world wide.