She’s taking the reigns of her future


When the sun beats down on the soft ground below, adrenaline courses through her veins. Chaos outside the ring acts as a distraction, but she looks ahead to focus her mind. Staring at the obstacles ahead of her and her equine friend, she knows she made the right decision to choose this as her future.
“COVID-19 hobbies” don’t often end in a change of career choice.
“I did not think it [horse riding] was going to turn into what it is,” junior Katie Bertram said. “It definitely struck the first time my horse, Comanche, and I started actually practicing.”
Bertram began horse riding in June of 2020 when she discovered a woman offering lessons for children.
“I found a lady on Facebook saying that she was giving [horse riding] lessons to young kids because it was like mid-COVID,” Bertram said. “[When you ride horses], you’re outside and you can stay socially distant.”
After months of practice, Bertram realized she had found a passion as she worked on her newly growing skill.
As she suffers from anxiety, in Bertram’s experience, riding horses helps her feel calm. She states that horses “can sense that and act based on how you feel”.
“I grew up being scared of horses, and I wanted to get over my fear because I was tired of feeling inferior,” Bertram said. “But then I realized I was at peace with myself, I was calmer.”
While Bertram has grown to be a skillful horse rider, having trained her horse after only having ridden horses for six months before, she strives for more. She began running rodeo events – specifically barrel racing.
Barrel racing is a rodeo event where a rider and their horse must complete a course that consists of weaving in between barrels.
Barrel racing, like most rodeo events and horse riding in general, can be dangerous. Bertram has suffered injuries because of mistakes.
“It has its dangers,” she said. “I’ve cracked my rib and dislocated my hip but that’s also because I trained the horse I’m competing on.”
Despite the requirements and downsides, Bertram is determined to compete because she loves “building trust and the adrenaline rush of working with a horse”.
“It’s a really good bonding opportunity for you and your horse,” Bertram said. “You have to trust them as much as they have to trust you to get through the course. You have to have a good relationship with your coach in order to be able to push you to that level of competition and I just love competing.”
Bertram intends to work with horses as a career. She is going to go to college for Equine Management, which is a degree that teaches students how to manage a horse ranch, where people can board their horses.
“(My plan is to) move to Curtis, Nebraska because it has one of the best rodeo schools in Nebraska, and I don’t really want to move very far,” Bertram said. “During the summers when I’m not in school, I plan on going to Montana to work on a ranch.”
Bertram is overall very excited to have found her calling.
She says that she feels “almost accomplished” and it gives her “something to work towards”.
“It’s scary, looking into the future, and thinking that everything could change on a dime,” Bertram said. “After I get my degree, everything opens up for me.”