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Rodeo queen offers horsemanship tips to beginning riders

Nebraskan Jessica Lange, the reigning Miss Oregon Trail Rodeo queen, shares her enthusiasm for riding and working with horses.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

June 26, 2024

4 Min Read
Jessica Lange a rodeo queen standing with two horses
GROWING UP WITH HORSES: Jessica Lange, with horses Sugar Bear and HB, has competed in horse competitions and 4-H contests as soon as she could sit in the saddle on her own. photos by Curt Arens

These days, you might find Jessica Lange busy fixing fence or hauling cattle for neighbors, as well as training and caring for her mares, Sugar Bear and HB. Living on the family farm in Knox County, Neb., she says she has cared for horses as long as she can remember.

And at only 23, Lange has made her mark on the rodeo circuit in Nebraska. The Miss Rodeo Nebraska contestant garnered rodeo queen status from the Days of ’56 Rodeo in Ponca and in Cedar County at Hartington. She is the reigning Miss Oregon Trail Rodeo queen for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo in Hastings.

“My main goal with this platform is to just inspire the next generation of young girls to follow their dreams and never give up, and hopefully, have a thriving future for female farmers and ranchers in Nebraska,” Lange says of her rodeo title.

Tips straight from trainer’s mouth

Lange offers these tips to anyone beginning to ride horses:

Try older horse first. Lange advises young and beginning riders to not be afraid to steer toward an older horse. “They might not be around forever, but they tend to be more easy-going, making them safer to ride for someone just learning the ropes,” she explains.

Take it slow. “Don’t be in a rush to step outside your comfort zone, and be safe by yourself with your horse,” Lange says. “Stepping outside that comfort zone or rushing into the ‘fun’ stuff before you are ready could lead to many issues for yourself and your horse.”

Enjoy your animal. “Horses can be so much fun for any age, so do not be intimidated by them or the thought of getting into them at a later age, because they just might change your life,” she says.

Keep up with maintenance. “Proper nutrition, vaccines, hoof care and teeth care are not luxuries,” she says. “They are necessities.” Horses require more care than dogs and cats, for instance, but Lange says that this shouldn’t stop horse owners from asking a trusted veterinarian to teach the young riders in the family about proper care of their animal. “Don’t be afraid to ask,” she advises.

Lange says that she even loved going along on veterinarian appointments, so she could learn at an early age about proper feeding of her horses and other equine maintenance.

Passion for horses

Lange’s passion for horses has been lifelong. “I competed in horse shows as soon as I could walk [and] then moved on to 4-H shows when I was of age,” she says. “Then, I went on to rodeos and ranch horse competitions as I got older, even winning the Nebraska State Working Ranch Horse competition in 2018.”

The first horse Lange remembers was a Shetland pony named Fluffy that she shared with her brother. “But the first horse that I rode on my own was a gorgeous buckskin named Babe,” she says. “She was the horse I gained so much confidence from riding, so one day in the future I could compete. This was when my obsession with horses really blossomed, and I was blessed to have such a great first horse.”

Jessica Lange, with her mother, Jeanine, both are standing with a horse

Lange also credits her mother’s involvement. “I owe my mother so much,” she says. “She taught me about horses in my early years. She pushed me to do more on my own from the beginning,” including putting on the horse’s saddle and bridle.

“While growing up in 4-H, I always favored the fun events, like barrels and poles, because it was fast and exciting, but my mother always encouraged me to do the performance events like horsemanship and western pleasure,” Lange says.

“I thought this was a waste of my time, but looking back, I am so grateful that I stuck to it, because it helped me improve my horsemanship and to learn proper riding techniques,” she says. “I encourage others to do the same.”

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About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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