So what have you been doing lately? Because Alixis Hassell broke a pair of horses this summer, then showed another at the Fall Fair the same day she dressed up, way up to parade as Miss Northern Saddle Club before she quickly dressed down, way down to ride a steer out of the rodeo chutes—her first time on any kind of cattle.
Need a breather? Go ahead. Take half a minute.
Because that’s all the time Hassell gets to regain her strength after spending everything she’s got in a two-minute round of trying to grab or throw or pin her wrestling opponets. At 16, she has a five-year wrestling career that has already put her fifth in Canada.
In her last big match, Hassell went the full three rounds against a girl who had bested her the year before. Whatever words her coach told her after she lost round two sure stoked her for the third. She won in trademark Smithers wrestling style—on stamina.
“I had the biggest grin—that was one that I really worked for,” she said. “It made my whole season.”
Hassell’s whole season usually includes a couple trips to physio. This past season was her first injury-free year since she was 12.
After seeing the work physiotherapists do—and the bills they charge—Hassell thinks she may do a kineisiology degree, and likely while wrestling on a school team.
One thing she won’t be trying is bull riding.
A bull charged her horse a while ago and when the horse spooked, her saddle broke off. Hasell fell halfway on top of it and popped her hip.
Bull riding isn’t too likely to hurt her wrestling season, but Hassell was glad to sneak in her first-ever steer ride at the Fall Fair.
“I wasn’t nervous at all until I got on and they opened the gate,” she said. Unlike her horse, who has haunches and a neck to hang onto, the steer’s back was a narrow and slippery ride, she said.
Hassell rode the steer one-handed. Juniors like herself are allowed to use two for extra grip, but Hassell figured she’d rather have a free hand to balance.
She got 5 seconds in—not bad for a first ride in a hockey helmet and borrowed gear.
Then again, Hassell did get some kind of practice breaking in horses this summer for Fall Fair rodeo manager Harry Houlden at Bourbon Creek Ranch.
‘Drifter’ was an extra tough one to settle down—a horse who had bumped off every one of his riders except Houlden. Naturally, Houlden thought he would be great fit for Hassell.
“That was my job—to get the buck out of him,” she said.
Drifter is still unsettled, she said, but getting better. Next summer the ranch will have some colts to break, which means riding them right out.
“I’m really excited for that,” said Hassell.
A love of horses is what took Hassell on her strangest bend yet in her competitive career—teen beauty pageants.
Hassell signed up to the B.V. Horsewoman pageant because she likes to ride and show horses. She was surprised to place third, and even more surprised to wind up in the Lower Mainland competing for B.C. Top Teen.
“I’m not a very girly girl,” she said, laughing.
In the first talent competition, most girls sang. Some played flute or piano.
Hassell bucked that trend pretty hard when she brought a wrestler on stage and subjected her to set of show moves—head snaps, double leg grabs and an over-the-shoulder throw.
For the B.C. talent contest, Hassell took an uncharacteristic break. She decided to just sit back and show the judges a video—of her wrestling against New Hazelton’s gold-medal Olympian, Carol Huynh.
Hassel has come a long way since she was a nervous Grade 7 girl being guided by her elementary school coach past a mirrored gym full of Grade 11 wrestler boys in training.
That was the year she skipped ahead to high school-level wrestling.
Hassell can credit a lot of her success on the mat to Smithers super-coach Mike Richey and to his daughter Kate, who was Hassell’s first training partner.
Although Richey recently retired, he told Hassell that if she doesn’t get enough practice between three days a week of wrestling and extended P.E. classes (she is doing Grade 11 and Grade 12 P.E. classes back-to-back this year), he can always come in and help to train her even harder.
What does Hassell think of the offer?
“He’s a really nice guy,” she said.