Adriene Steffen has a short memory, which is a necessity when competing in multiple events. And it’s a trait the Sisters, Oregon, cowgirl used to her advantage Thursday at the Junior World Finals.
“I knocked a pole over this morning, which was really disappointing,” Steffen said.
Less than an hour later Steffen reentered the Wrangler Rodeo Arena to compete in the Kelly Kaminski Run for Vegas senior barrel racing competition aboard Sister.
Two days after Steffen and Sister won the first go-round with a 14.538-second run, they once again blazed through the cloverleaf pattern. Steffen’s time of 14.533 seconds was the fastest of the week so far and put her at the top of the average with a two-run time of 29.071 seconds. Defending champion Morgan Beckstrom of Spanish Fork, Utah, is second with a 29.580.
“It’s all her,” Steffen said of the palomino. “I’m just the jockey.”
The two have had a busy, and successful, week so far in Vegas. Steffen and Sister had the fastest time at the Vegas Tuffest barrel racing competition earlier this week.
“I think that was key in me gaining confidence coming here because that was a really small pattern, kind of the same setup trying to get into the arena as here,” Steffen noted. “So, I came in here with a lot of confidence and she knows what’s happening now.
“I was worried about the amount of times I had to run her down here but it just seems like each time she wants it more and more. She craves it.”
Steffen and Sister are both Junior World Finals veterans, but this is their first time competing as a team. In fact, the relationship between the two is still a work in progress.
“I’ve only had her about four months,” Steffen said. “She was a friend’s horse that ran her down here last year. Now my friend goes to Cal Poly and decided to spend more time on school, which is very respectable.
“They weren’t really ready to sell her,” Steffen added, “but decided to let me give her a try and it just clicked. Now she’s ours and I’m super grateful for that because she’s super cool.”
Steffen has done well at the Junior World Finals over the years. She was the reserve champion in pole bending in 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas; finished third in poles last year; and made the short go in the breakaway in 2020. This is the first time in five years, however, that she has competed in barrel racing. And it’s the first time she has done so on her own horse.
“In 2017 I jump-rode a horse because mine showed up lame,” she said, “and we were top five in the first round of barrels.”
Obviously, the 17-year-old senior knows her way around an arena no matter the event. And there are a lot of events for the Oregon cowgirl.
“I do barrels, poles, breakaway, goats, team roping, cutting and reining cow horse,” she said.
Steffen currently leads the Oregon high school standings in breakaway and barrels, is second in reined cow horse, third in poles, fifth in girls cutting and eighth in goats. Not surprisingly, she leads the all-around standings.
“There’s a lot that can go wrong in all of those so you just have to keep looking forward,” she said. “But I think doing all of those events really helps me when I come to a big event like this because then I can have a run like (my pole bending run) and just look at the positive and move on.”
While Steffen was disappointed in her pole-bending run on Bully earlier in the day, she still made it back to Saturday’s short go sitting seventh with a two-run time of 46.573 seconds. And getting at least one more run on the 23-year-old gelding she has been competing on for the past five years is an added bonus.
“I did shed a tear because I was going to retire him after this year, but I think I want to run him again.
“The girl I bought him from had him retired, but she came home from college and looked at him in the pasture and decided that he wasn’t ready to be retired yet. And sure enough he wasn’t.”
Steffen hopes to compete in the KK Run for Vegas barrels and poles the next two years as well as qualify for the National High School Rodeo Finals this coming summer. As far as college, Steffen is still weighing her choices.
“I’ve talked to a couple of schools down here,” she said, “but it’s going to be a really tough decision because they all have stuff to offer. I’m looking down south where it’s warmer. Personally, I don’t like the cold. So I hope my horses are OK with the warm.”