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7-1-05 – A group of rodeo queen contestants are taking-in a fellow horse lover: a young girl with a dream to ride. 11-year-old Jessica Hall of Denison has always wanted to ride in the rodeo, but a long battle with cancer has kept her feet firmly planted on the ground.
About a month ago, Jessica spotted members of the Texoma Quarter Horse Association riding at the arena up the road from her home. She walked up, and shyly asked to ride.
“Of course, all these girls are horse-crazy and they know where she’s coming from,” says Susan Bench, of TQHA.
The informal riding lessons this June mark Jessica’s first real chance to horseback ride. She’s six months into a second round of chemotherapy for leukemia, a disease she first developed at age 7. Jessica spent two and a half years fighting the cancer, and went into remission. But a year later, she was hospitalized with a fever. Again came the heartbreaking news: the disease had come back.
During Jessica’s first battle with leukemia, she was a wish child through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But her desire for a horse and trailer couldn’t be met. That’s why she says learning to ride with the rodeo queen contestants is a dream come true.
“I've always loved horses. I get to ride [Ranger] in the rodeo. It’s going to be pretty cool,” Jessica says, sitting atop the horse with an ear-to-ear grin.
On the July 15th, the first day of the Texoma Quarter Horse Association’s annual rodeo, Jessica will be presented in front of 2000 spectators with the other rodeo queens and princesses. It will be the day of her 12th birthday, one she won’t soon forget.
But what the TQHA members say is even more special than this impromptu birthday party, is the gift Jessica’s given them.
“These girls, they get up here and they're worried about the horses, worried about the tack, worried about the clothes, worried about selling tickets. And then Jessica shows up and all she's worried about is just getting to ride a horse. We’re worried about the little things, and she’s not. She’s just enjoying it all," Bench says.
The 49th Annual TQHA Rodeo will be July 15th and 16th, in Denison.
Tickets are available in advance at western wear stores in Sherman and Denison.