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portrait of Abby Hayduk in her Miss Rodeo Wyoming crown

Hearing her name called as the next Miss Rodeo Wyoming 2017 was something Abby Hayduk didn’t expect. Hayduk had expected her friend and running mate Bailey McLean to win and when she heard her name called for the title she couldn’t believe it.

“I just thought ‘hey, that’s my name,’” Hayduk said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be heartbroken if I didn’t win; I had plans to continue on with life and school and honestly it didn’t occur to me that I could win this.”

It took about two months for it to really sink in and as her reign neared she prepared herself for her new role as Miss Rodeo Wyoming 2017. Hayduk grew up in Evanston on a commercial black angus cattle ranch, which is still family owned and operated. She didn’t grow up in the pageant world and never considered being a queen until recently when Kimberly Kuhn, Miss Rodeo Wyoming 2012, asked her why she wasn’t pursing the opportunity.

“She convinced me it was a good idea and I thought why not go for being the biggest and the best,” Hayduk said.

A short time after, Hayduk ran for Evanston Cowboy Days Queen and received the title in 2013 and again in 2015. Hayduk always dreamed of winning a saddle and after the coordinator of Evanston Cowboy Days told her that the winnings would include a saddle, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity at the chance to win.

Determining her platform was an easy decision for Hayduk who was involved in a serious accident with her horse, several years ago. Hayduk and her horse, Jamie, were in a tight horse trailer and as she tried to slip past her horse, she spooked and kicked Hayduk, luckily a friend was near and heard the commotion and quickly rushed her to the hospital.

“I was in the hospital for a long while and have injuries that will be with me forever,” Hayduk said. Some of her injuries include pain, nerve damage and scars; it was this life changing moment that pushed her to new heights.

It pushed me to do things that I thought I might never do. I could have let it get the best of me and not push myself but I did. ”

Hayduk focused her platform on Get up, Get out and Get involved and encouraged others to forge ahead through adversity. Hayduk continues to use her horse, Jamie and was her backup horse for the Miss Rodeo Wyoming pageant. Her main horse was a Buttermilk Dun named Annie, a horse she shares with her mother.

Hayduk was one of seven competing for the title at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas. On Aug. 15, Hayduk was crowned Miss Rodeo Wyoming 2017 and became the first woman to win the title from Evanston.

Hayduk’s predecessor, Nicki Seckman was Miss Rodeo Wyoming 2016 and competed at Miss Rodeo America this past month in Las Vegas at the National Finals Rodeo. Hayduk officially becomes Miss Rodeo Wyoming Jan. 1.

Hayduk graduated in December from Central Wyoming College with three degrees in biological science, pre-veterinary science and equine studies. She credits much of her success as Miss Rodeo Wyoming to her experiences at CWC.

“School helped me a lot by being involved and learning from others,” Hayduk said. “Not only did the programs help me study for the title and have the knowledge for it but it also set me up for success; to put away all distractions and focus on my goals.”

During her time at CWC Hayduk learned to ride different breeds of horses and styles of riding. Her professor Jennifer Cole also helped her with horsemanship and preparing to become queen.

“Jennifer Cole has done an amazing job as a role model and mentor,” she said. “We worked hard on horsemanship and she would always ask me random questions; as a queen we get asked a lot of different questions and she helped me be able to answer those on the spot. She helped me not only with equine but with other aspects of life; knowing that life is okay and to be okay with myself even if I don’t win. She went above and beyond for me.”

Hayduk will now take a year off from studies to represent Wyoming and the Western way of life through her job as Miss Rodeo Wyoming. She will travel throughout Wyoming and the surrounding states and even as far as Florida educating people about rodeo and agriculture. There are many jobs rodeo queens do during their tenure such as carry sponsor flags and the American flag, visit schools and speak on radio and television shows.

“We are public servants that do what we can to give back and of course we always sign autographs for our fans,” Hayduk said.

Hayduk’s first duty as queen is to travel to Denver on Jan. 9 for the Citizens of the West Dinner and the Denver National Stock Show shortly after. Throughout her time as Miss Rodeo Wyoming, Hayduk will travel a lot making connections that may possibly lead to future job opportunities.

“We learn a lot about rodeo and how to market for them,” Hayduk said. “The experiences we get and what we get to engage in can really help our future.”

While doing her duties as Miss Rodeo Wyoming she will also prepare herself for the Miss Rodeo America pageant. Not all states require their queens to compete for the title but Wyoming is one of only 38 states that are PRCA sanctioned which requires their Miss Rodeo program queens to compete. Each contestant who runs for Miss Rodeo America will receive a $1,000 scholarship and the winner could receive up to $30,000.

“You have to be nervous for a competition like that but I’m very excited,” Hayduk said. “This will be a big learning experience. The queens not only compete with each other but get to know each other and become friends. I’m already planning and preparing so I’m excited to see what December 2017 has to offer.”

After her tenure Hayduk plans to attend Utah State University in Logan, Utah, a college where many of her family members have also attended. She plans to get a degree in biological science. Hayduk said that CWC was the right price and right place for her to start her college experience.

“I knew I wanted to start at a small school and not a big university,” she said. “CWC had everything I wanted and is an amazing transition school.”

Not only did CWC have the equine programs that she wanted she knew it would prepare her for Utah State.

“I was a lot like Evanston with the same type of people and population that I was used to and it was an easy transition for me,” she said. “It’s an easy school to acclimate to and it’s welcoming.”

Hayduk’s plan after Utah is to settle somewhere in Wyoming and be a chemical engineer in veterinary science to help defeat diseases in the equine world.

“After everything they’ve done for me I’d like to give back to them,” Hayduk said.