Ariel Wiles: A Rodeo Girl and her Horses Ride for the Win

Ariel riding Fancy’s Honey Bars at the Triple P Arena in Decaturville, Tennessee.

There is no other place 16-year-old Ariel Lea Wiles can think of that gives her more pleasure than sitting in the saddle and riding rodeo on one of her horses, describing the “thrill of speed and becoming one with my horse(s)” as an experience like no other. Ariel entered her third year of rodeo competition in August 2023 and has had a busy schedule riding and trying to raise funds for her continued competition this season.

Ariel competes and represents Tennessee through the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA), one of the oldest youth-based rodeo organizations for children ages five to 18 that has a history going back to 1952. She competed to be eligible to represent Tennessee in the NLBRA.

Ariel and Sail on Coronac at the Triple P Arena in Decaturville, Tennessee.

“To qualify, you must have six placings in the top seven per events you register for that include Barrels, Poles, etc.,” said Ariel who shared her favorite form of competition. “Barrels is my favorite because I have participated most, but I recently got a pole horse, and she is a challenge.”

Ariel fell in love with rodeo at the age of four after attending an event in her hometown of Lexington, Tennessee. Now, almost 12 years later, she finds herself living on a farm with eight horses, three of which she rides in rodeo competitions.

Ariel riding Fancy’s Honey Bars in Evansville, Indiana.

“I own my horses, Sail on Corona, my barrel horse; Fancy’s Honey Bars, my pole horse; and Dash, my three-year old horse training for goat tying and timed trail class,” said Ariel who shared about some of her rodeo experiences on her horses. “I have competed with saddle clubs in Decaturville, Hardin, and Milledgeville and won ribbons, and have won Jackpots in Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Indiana.”

One may be surprised that seeing a female compete is quite common in a rodeo arena. Ariel loves the sport so much; she would love to make it a career.

Ariel riding Sail on Corona at the Triple P Arena in Decaturville, Tennessee.

“Many girls, even little ones, and mature ladies the age of my mother and older compete. There are many challenges to this sport, but I have high hopes and goals,” said Ariel, noting some of the skill challenges she knows she will conquer. “Trying to complete the cloverleaf barrel pattern without a Ko barrel or weave back and forth through poles times two not Ko a pole or two. Breaking through the timer with a record time.”

Ariel continued speaking about some of the highlights of rodeo competition from which she has benefited.

“Of course, winning, but meeting new friends and reaching my goals,” said Ariel. “And I am always working on improving my craft.”

Ariel’s “number 1 support team” includes her parents, Steve and Monica, grandmother, Nana Jackie, and uncle, Chad.

Ariel and DM Wilys Dash Two at the Loretta, Lynn’s Extreme Cowgirl Competition river race.

“I really appreciate my family. They are so supportive and encourage me. They cheer me on, never miss a show, and praise me. Plus, when I get discouraged over equipment failures or Ko barrels, poles, or a run that I’m not pleased with, they never let me get discouraged. They tell me things like ‘keep the faith’, ‘this too shall pass’, and ‘next time, you will be stronger than ever’, said Ariel who is an only child.

The support from her family has encouraged Ariel to make accomplishments in other areas in her life, including school. Ariel, a tenth-grade student with HomeLife Academy, has been homeschooled since she was in the first grade. She has disciplined herself to complete her schoolwork on a schedule of four days a week, and five hours of focused attention. Having flexibility in her school schedule allows time for Ariel to participate in various activities that include training, breaking horses, breeding, farrier, caring for her horses, and going to rodeo events any day of the week.

Ariel and Sail on Corona at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in the Extreme Cowgirl Competition bareback barrels.

Ariel’s aspirations for the rodeo competition this season are high, and she has been working diligently to raise funds to support her efforts. Her family has been generous with financing her as much as they can, but Ariel realizes she is going to need to raise more money to achieve her competition goals for this season.

I need to raise a considerable amount of money. Paying for entry fees, transportation and gas, stall rentals, hay and shavings, camping, feed, and supplements and treats for my mares can be expensive. Any bit helps,” said Ariel who is offering sponsorships for people to support her. “I will post a banner on Facebook and all my social media at finals (Oklahoma) with all business and people that grant me permission [to list].”

Ariel and DM Wilys Dash Two.

The Tennessee rodeo is being held at the Triple P Arena in Decaturville, Tennessee, and will run through April 28, 2024. You can see Ariel compete at the arena and support her rodeo efforts.

Ariel’s West Tennessee Favorites

Favorite place to eat: My favorite places to eat in Lexington are the Grecian Family Restaurant and Atzimba Mexican Restaurant, and LongHorn Steakhouse in Jackson.

Favorite place to go: I like to go to Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction in Sevier County.

Favorite thing to do: I love anything that is horse oriented – games, trail riding, competitions, making videos of my horses, and I love anything that is horse oriented, games, trail riding, competitions, making videos of my horses, and entering my canned goods and handmade crafts in the Henderson Country Fair.

Must see in West Tennessee: Before anyone leaves West Tennessee, they should visit the Triple P Arena; Chickasaw State Park – camping and trail riding; Natchez Trace – camping and trail riding; Beech Lake; Pine Lake – boating and fishing; Henderson County Fair; The NED in Jackson; and Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis.

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