Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Miss Rodeo Florida 2020: An Interview with McKenna Andris

Miss Rodeo Florida 2020: An Interview with McKenna Andris
by Gina McKnight
Archived from the May 2020 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.

McKenna Andris knows horses. Besides holding the title of Miss Rodeo Florida 2020, McKenna is an award-winning horsewoman. Whether she is having a Zoom meeting with her fellow State rodeo queens, supporting one another during the COVID-19 quarantine, or riding her AQHA gelding Pork Chop, McKenna inspires cowgirls around the world.

Welcome, McKenna!

GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?
MA: When I was 5 years old I had a cowgirl themed birthday party at a ranch and from that day on, I was in love with horses. At that ranch, they had group lessons scheduled for every Saturday morning, which my parents started taking me to. They figured it was just a phase and that I’d grow out of it, but I never did.

GM: Congratulations on your success! You have many accolades, including, MRF Horsemanship Award, Speech Award, Photogenic Award, Appearance Award, Personality Award, and Test Award! How did you prepare for Miss Florida Rodeo competition?
MA: Thank you! I spent A LOT of time studying the PRCA rule book, media guide, and the ProRodeo Sports News magazines. I also had an amazing group of past Miss Rodeo Florida’s to help me study. Sheila Shirah Kitaif MRF 2015, was the written test winner at the Miss Rodeo America pageant the year she competed. She was my go-to when it came to rodeo knowledge. She would send me about 5 questions a day leading up to the pageant. Kelly Steinruck MRF 2016, helped me articulate my thoughts accurately for when I would public speak. She also acted as my stylist when it came to getting my wardrobe ready for the pageant. When it came to speech, I knew I wanted to think outside of the box and incorporate my dream of being a prosecutor. Once I had written my speech, I made a recording of me reading it and I would play it until I had it memorized.   

When it came to horsemanship, I rode with Matt Goodman from Goodman Performance Horses. He is a reiner based out of South Florida, who I have been riding with since I was 12 years old. The summer before pageant he put me on anything with four legs. I rode green broke two-year-olds to high performance reining horses. I had a goal of getting on as many different horses as possible to make me the best rider I can be. I am still riding with him and learning new things every day!

GM: As a rodeo rider, you've competed in a lot of events. What is your favorite rodeo event?  
MA: Growing up I’ve competed in barrel racing, goat tying, pole bending, and breakaway roping. Even though I was best at goat tying, my favorite event is barrel racing. There is no better feeling than going through the alley knowing your horse is about to give his heart and soul to you.

GM: Take us through a day in your life...
MA: (Before quarantine) I would start my day by waking up at 8am to let my dog Shiloh outside and then to feed him. After eating breakfast myself, I would get dressed and ready to go to the gym. After my workout, I would typically grab a smoothie from Smoothie King and then go out to the barn to see my horse. I would do my chores and either ride or just groom him. I would then go home and shower. After I am all clean, I would sit down and do my school work. The past 3 semesters for school, I have done online classes so I could have a more flexible schedule. Once my school work is completed I would watch some Netflix and scroll through the PRCA’s app on my phone to stay updated with what is happening in the rodeo world. I would probably watch two episodes before I would start making dinner. I then would eat, feed Shiloh, and hangout with my roommates until I would go to bed.  

GM: For those of us who are armchair beauty queens/horse lovers, what advice do you have for health and happiness?
MA: I would tell them to never stop doing what makes them happy, and always stay humble. A few years ago, when I first went away to college, I lost sight of why I love horses so much. The pressure of competing got in the way and I just did not enjoy it anymore. I took a step back and thought about how disappointed 7-year-old me would be. I am blessed enough to have my own horse and the opportunity to love on him whenever I want. The few months following that, I would go out to the barn to just hang out with him, go on a trail ride, or read a book. For me, it is key to remember why you started and to continue to remind yourself how blessed you are. 

GM: What horse(s) do you currently stable?  
MA: I currently only own one horse at the moment. His name is Docs Six Pac (barn name Pork Chop) and he is registered as an Appendix through AQHA. He was trained as a barrel horse where I competed at NBHAs, jackpots, and ProRodeos. He is a 16h sorrel, with a blaze.

GM: In your opinion, what qualities make the best rodeo horse?
MA: I find that it is really important to have a good mind and heart in a horse. Some people believe that papers are what make a horse, but even grade horses could be amazing athletes. If you have a good mind and heart, then they will never stop trying to please you. They will love the sport as much as you do and will do as much as possible to get their job done.

GM: Will you advance to Miss Rodeo America? What is the process and when is the contest?
MA: Yes, I will get to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America. The pageant is a week-long competition made up of horsemanship, multiple interviews, on-stage questions, modeling, a speech, and a written test. It is November 29th - December 6th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

GM: We will certainly be cheering for you! Best wishes as you continue your journey! One last question I ask all the great people I interview. What does horsemanship mean to you?
MA: I feel as if horsemanship is one of the most important parts of being a Rodeo Queen. As Miss Rodeo Florida, I will never use my own horse at a rodeo, parade, or any event. Rodeo Queens are expected to hop on anything and be able to ride it. While competing for Miss Teen Rodeo Florida and Miss Rodeo Florida, other than wanting those titles, I was determined to win the Horsemanship Award. I won the Speech Award and Horsemanship Award along with the main titles at both of those pageants.

Honestly, receiving the Horsemanship Award meant so much more. I believe that it meant more because horseback riding is what got me into being a Rodeo Queen. Everything I do comes back to my passion for horseback riding. It is hard to explain, but my life has been revolved around horses since I was five years old. I have worked with different trainers, asked for advice, and more to continue bettering myself as a horsewoman. To have those awards, shows me to be proud of myself and that all my hard work has paid off.

Connect with McKenna…

McKenna Andris, Miss Rodeo Florida 2020
Photo by David Rosenfield

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