For four years, Jaylyn “J-Bug” Brazzel has made the trek around the Southwest – and sometimes farther -- winning and having fun in barrel racing.
And just a few weeks ago, 11 1/2 –year-old Jaylyn got the experience of a lifetime: competing in the annual KK Run For Vegas, the biggest barrel racing competition for youth in the nation, held each year in Las Vegas as a part of the National Finals Rodeo circuit.
Young Jaylyn and members of her family were gone to Vegas for two weeks, and she competed Dec. 13 and Dec. 15 against kids just like her: there to finish that course in about 13 seconds, hoping to bring home prizes, yes, but for the love of the competition and simply being the best. Judges take the average of a competitor’s two best times, and pen size varies.
The riders had to qualify, of course, to even be in Vegas, and then Jaylyn and her family had to do some fund-raising in order for her to make the trip.
There was a miscue, though. Jaylyn’s horse, Razor, bumped its head hard on a metal gate, disorienting the horse somewhat, although the duo were still able to complete the three-barrel run in just under 15 seconds. She didn’t come home as the top in her age group – there were roughly 118 total right around her age group competing (59 in one session, 59 in another) – but she did learn some valuable lessons.
“Everything isn’t always going to go as planned,” Jaylyn told the News Herald, with a smile, this week. “You’ve got to cowgirl up and deal with it.”
Razor’s bump wasn’t the first time Jaylyn’s had to jump over a rough patch in the road. Vegas wasn’t her first rodeo – literally. She’s not even 12, yet she’s been riding four years.
“She loved riding with her grandfather,” said Jaylyn’s grandmother, Jan Duncan. “The Kilgore Saddle Club had a series for girls her age. Her uncle’s old roping horse, Showboat, was at my house, and she and Showboat kind of taught each other.”
There was one other lesson that really helped.
“We used to draw off (the course) in the dirt,” Duncan smiled. “It really seemed to help her.”
Something did: Jaylyn’s newfound talent helped her win a buckle in an event at the Kilgore Saddle Club her first year, and then a saddle in her age group.
Before long, Jaylyn begin traveling to compete, as close as Texarkana, Waco, and Bryan, but as far away as Colorado and Kansas.
She was coached by a few people early on, until she and her family finally found a coach that seemed to get the most out of Jaylyn – and who knows a few things about the sport himself.
Ty Mitchell, of Mitchell Farms in the Marshall area, is a former four-time World Junior champion, and he saw talent in Jaylyn very quickly.
“When she started,” Mitchell said, “she just had the right attitude. She was fearless and had a lot of natural ability, which gives you the right tools to teach somebody. She was very willing to learn. She was very competitive, where most kids her age were counting butterflies.
“You don’t see many her age – you see a few – but the majority aren’t where she’s at mentally. Not that she doesn’t have fun, but she has that competitive spirit and she’s fearless. And that’s two important qualities.”
In order to compete at the KK Run in Vegas, the national event, the girls had to either accumulate points in different events, or finish in the top five at one of the qualifying cities. This year, things will be more difficult: to qualify, a top-three finish will be needed.
Jaylyn has the opportunity to do so at an event in Tunica, Miss., in coming weeks, but with her horse injured, it’s possible she may have to wait until another qualifier to do so.
Of course, it’s not all business. Jaylyn and her family did get to enjoy their trip a bit. Her favorite part, off the course?
“The Zipline at Freemont (Street),” Jaylyn said, with a grin.
Naturally, with the qualifying and the trips come the need for funds, and Duncan wanted to emphasize the people who helped Jaylyn make the trip to compete, including Mitchell Farms, KoolSpeed, MVP, and Exceed 6-Way, her sponsors. Jaylyn even has a nice vest that has the sponsors’ patches on it.
“She does have some great sponsors, and just to be honest, there are so many, they’d be hard to mention,” Duncan said. “We just wanted to be sure to thank everyone who helped out because it is expensive, and we got so much help. There were a lot of people who just really helped, and without them, we couldn’t have made that trip.”
Jaylyn is the daughter of Jenna (Paul) Brazzel and the late Jonathan Brazzel.
To read more about the KK Run for Vegas, check out Kellybarrelracing.com, and follow the links. For more about Mitchell and upcoming clinics, check out Mitchell Farms on Facebook or visit barrelracers.com.