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RODE: Rodeo major part of Makayla Willows’ life

It’s not often you find a female roper at any level of rodeo.

It’s not often you find a female roper at any level of rodeo.

But it was second nature for Makayla Willows.

The 20-year-old from Buck Lake teamed with Cayden Nickel for the RDP Royals Rodeo Club to win the regular season high point championship in the Canadian Colleges Rodeo Association.

The pair, with Makayla as the heeler, were awarded saddles for their efforts prior to heading into the college championships in Brooks.

“What a cool way to finish the season,” she said. “You don’t see a lot of women in roping, but there’s more involved all the time, which is great to see.”

Willows grew up in a rodeo family.

“You could say I was born into the sport,” she said. “My grandparents raised horses and my parents raised cattle so I was blessed to be around them all my life. My family competed in rodeo and I have an uncle who called rodeo.”

Makayla rode horses from the time she could walk and got into rodeo when she was six in the Brazeau Junior Rodeo Association.

“It’s an association for kids from about 5 to 14 years, so a great way to get into the sport,” added Makayla.

“My siblings are into roping and so I seemed to have a rope in my hands around the house from a young age. The last couple of summers I worked for the Buck Lake Provincial Grazing Reserve where you had to rope and doctor cattle so I had to pick up a rope every day which expanded my skill set and helped me learn a bit more.”

Makayla is also involved in barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping and goat tying. She competed in all but goat tying at the CCRA finals where she received the CCRA Cowgirl of the Year award and high point award champion.

She made it a clean sweep for the RDP team in the award category with Nickel, a first-year competitor from Evansburg, receiving the CCRA Cowboy of the Year award.

“It was a great honour … super thankful,” said Willows. “It was just a great way to finish my college career.”

Makayla received her Social Work Diploma in two years at RDP.

“I really appreciated being able to work during the summer, compete in some jackpot rodeos plus compete on the college circuit in the fall,” she said. “It was good in that it fit in with my schooling.”

Makayla has yet to make a full commitment on which direction she’ll take when it comes to her education.

“The program pushes you to get work experience after you receive your diploma so you can see a direction on where you want to specialize,” she said.

“There’s a wide variety of jobs but I believe I want to specialize in children and families in need,” she said. ” I took my practicum in Sylvan Lake and worked in school and after school programs and taught programs in mental health and suicide awareness.

“I enjoyed it a lot and that’s an area I’m interested in continuing to work in.”

Makayla will live at home but hopes to teach in small rural communities.

“There is a need in those areas,” she said.

And she’ll continue her rodeo career, although not at the highest levels.

“It takes a lot of time to compete on the major circuits,” she said. “There are a number of jackpots in the area which I can compete in and hopefully win some money. It takes a lot less time and traveling.”

Outside of her rodeo career, Makayla will also look to continue to play hockey.

“My main two sports were hockey and rodeo,” she said. “I played hockey with the boys up until Grade 10 then played with a girl’s team.”

She indicated she had thought about trying out for the RDP Queens hockey team as well.

“I thought about it, but thankfully I went this way as it’s part of my family. But I did substitute with a ladies’ team this year and would like to continue to play when I can.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at