Moo-ving on up: Socastee teen heads to national rodeo finals in Wyoming

For Socastee teenager Emma Kay Branham, it has always been a dream to compete in a rodeo at the national level.

And after riding horses since she can remember, the 16-year-old has qualified for girls cutting in the National High School Rodeo Association finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

“I am very excited because it’s always been a goal of mine, but I’m very nervous,” Branham said.

The rising 11th grader — who previously went to Socastee High but will be home schooled next year — competed against about 14 others in South Carolina’s finals before making it to nationals. She is one of four from the state competing next week.

She will compete twice on a horse she plans to lease for the week.

“It’s kind of exciting I’m going in on a horse I’ve never seen,” she said.

Each cutting competition is a two and a half minute “run” where the horse rider rides into a herd of cows, pushing one cow away from the herd and trying to keep the animal from returning to the herd.

“You have to go in thinking like the cow,” Branham said. “It’s really kind of hard — the cow wants to go back to its herd, of course.”

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Courtesy of Allison Connelly

Branham’s mother Allison Connelly said her daughter worked hard to make it to nationals, competing in rodeos for a year and finshing high in the state competition.

“This is something she’s never done,” Connelly said.

“I want her to have that feeling of accomplishment,” she said, adding no matter the outcome, she wants her daughter to know “she made it there.”

Branham will compete Tuesday and Thursday in hopes to make it to the final round July 20.

The Sun News Reporter Hannah Strong is passionate about making the world better through what she reports and writes. Strong, who is a Pawleys Island native, is quick to jump on breaking news, profiles stories about people in the community and obituaries. Strong has won four S.C. Press Association first-place awards, including one for enterprise reporting after riding along with police during a homicide. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Winthrop University.