Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Greensburg Salem’s Aubrie Loughner

Monday, June 5, 2023 | 11:10 AM

Every year, dozens of high school athletes in Western Pennsylvania continue their careers in sports like football, basketball, soccer or baseball at the college level.

But for one senior in Westmoreland County, her sport of choice is far from traditional.

Greensburg Salem’s Aubrie Loughner spends her time out of school participating in rodeo.

It’s a passion she’s been following for the past eight years, with the Western Pennsylvania Youth Rodeo Association.

She participates in barrel racing, a timed event where she and her horse navigate a cloverleaf pattern around barrels as quickly as possible, and breakaway roping, which involves roping calves.

Loughner explained the process of choosing events for young riders.

“You can basically choose the events that you want to do,” Loughner said. “Everybody’s willing to help you if it’s your first time.”

Possibly the biggest concern surrounding rodeo is safety, and Loughner didn’t deny that there are risks involved with participating.

But she did provide some insight into how one can get to a point where they feel safe on a horse.

“If you learn correctly how to get away from those (risky) situations, that’s one way to avoid (danger),” Loughner said. “When you’re truly passionate about something, you try to convince people that it’s something that you love to do and it’s something that you’re willing to risk for.”

Throughout her eight years with the WPYRA, Loughner has made many new friends and memories, but one that stuck out to her came a little more recently.

“A few years ago, I was voted to be the princess of the association,” Loughner said. “It felt good to know that I was noticed and appreciated through the association.”

The titles didn’t stop at princess as Loughner was voted president for her final season.

Loughner is going to study business agriculture on top of her commitment to compete in rodeo at Clarendon College in Texas.

This week, Loughner took some time for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

How did you get started with rodeo?

When I was little, I grew up on a farm. We had just a few horses. My mom rode horses her whole life. I was kind of born into the farming and the horse world. I got involved in 4-H. I started showing horses through it, and I started to be successful through 4-H. I joined a rodeo association called the Western Pennsylvania Youth Rodeo Association. I started riding for them when I was about 9. I still ride for them to this day. This is actually my last year. I’ve just been kind of riding my entire life, but I really got into rodeo when I was 9.

What kind of training do you have to go through to prepare for rodeo?

I have a trainer, his name is Joey Hall. I’ve been training with him since I was little. I heard about him one day, and I started taking lessons off him. He really gave me great encouragement to be able to be a barrel racer. He was always very successful riding horses, and he taught other kids as well. I still go to him to this day. He was somebody who has taught me everything I know about barrel racing. I bought a horse a few years ago who was barely trained. My mom and him have helped me tremendously to teach this horse and train this horse. It’s kind of a learning game, trial and error, a lot of dedication and trust. It takes a lot to stay determined and motivated to keep going. There’s definitely some struggles. For breakaway roping, I learned from a man named Jack Linneman. I’ve only been roping for a few years. It’s just continuously going and putting yourself into practices and lessons, taking any chance you get to go to a clinic and learning from people who have been successful in that type of world.

What was the recruiting process like?

A few years ago, I traveled to Texas with my grandma. We went and watched a range rodeo while we were there. There were all kinds of college booths and schools set up there, just advertising. I picked up a pamphlet from Clarendon. Leaving, I thought to myself, “I love it here. I want to continue my career in rodeo because I’m passionate about it.” I definitely had some choices to make and gave up a lot of things at home. Throughout the years, I went back to Texas to go look at the school. I looked at two schools actually. Clarendon was the one that fit me. It felt like I belonged there. I was able to meet a lot of the professors there, and I was able to meet the coach of the rodeo team. Just talking to him, he was a very nice guy. I felt very comfortable that I would be safe there and fit onto the team. We’ve stayed in contact after we went down and visited, and that was in October. I’ve had to send him videos of me riding my horses, of me rodeoing. We had to put a collage of videos together for him, and that would determine whether or not I was going to be eligible to be on the team or not. I sent my application in and received my letter about three weeks later.

What’s one thing that people may not know about you?

It’s taken me years to feel absolutely motivated to continue with this career and go to school and convince myself that this is the type of school that I want to go to. Setbacks for me have been hidden a little bit. I try not to let people see me fail. If they do, it is a setback for me. I don’t think people realize that I am very dedicated to this. I’m definitely the type of person to not let this get in the way of my life outside of rodeo. I think people look at me and think, “You ride horses, and you’re a farm girl.” I feel like I try to let my personality take its course, and I try not to let people judge me by that. I would say that my passion and dedication towards this is far more than just my personality. I think some people don’t realize that about me.

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