Not an Easy Cup of Tea

Not an Easy Cup of Tea

The talented teen Rylee Jo Maryman and her cow-bred American Quarter Horse battle adversity to cash in at The American Rodeo. 

Rylee Jo Maryman rode One Cupa Tees Sis to a $10,000 payday at The American Rodeo. PHOTO: Holly Clanahan

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Holly Clanahan for The American Quarter Horse Journal 

Sixteen-year-old Rylee Jo Maryman of St. Francisville, Louisiana, was cool as a cucumber at The American Rodeo, where she was competing against four other tough contenders and the top five barrel racers in the world. Intimidated? Not a bit. 

For someone who has been barrel racing since she was 2, a Little Britches world champion at age 9 and a veteran of two junior high and one high school national finals rodeos, this might be her biggest stage ever, competing at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, but it was still just a barrel race. And she knew what she needed to do to make her cow-bred mare, One Cupa Tees Sis, perform at her best.  

For mom Casey, however, watching her daughter continually upping her game, it was pretty emotional. 

“It’s unreal, it really is,” Casey said, fighting back tears. “She’s only 16, she has done the work herself, so to be at this level is amazing. And this horse, she has overcome a lot. She has had kissing spine surgery and anxiety coming back.”

One Cupa Tees Sis, aka “Ruby” might not be the most obvious candidate to make the final four at The American, which she did by tying 17-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Lisa Lockhart in the long round. The 8-year-old AQHA Ranching Heritage-bred mare came off Dr. Woody Bartlett’s Alabama ranch, and she was born there the same year that Bartlett Ranch won the AQHA Best Remuda Award

Rylee Jo’s grandpa, Joe Pete Maryman, had been looking for a horse for her and had been eyeballing a weanling before deciding he wanted something older. They found Ruby, but “I actually didn’t like her, and I tried to buy another 2-year-old that they had, but instead we bought her. We got her as a 2-year-old,” Rylee Jo said.  

Ruby is by the One Time Pepto son One Cupa Cats, who is out of a High Brow Cat daughter. Ruby’s dam is Im W Tees Sis, a Bartlett-bred mare who goes back numerous times to Three Bars (TB).  

The family sent the filly out to be started under saddle and to another trainer who lightly started her on the barrels. When Rylee Jo got Ruby back, she was trotting the pattern to the right. 

“We took her from there. And we swapped her, now she goes to the left,” Rylee Jo said. The teen finished the mare, enduring a lot of trial and error along the way. 

“She has had to figure out what works and what doesn’t work with her,” Casey said. The red roan mare is “hypersensitive. She doesn’t like things. She’s opinionated. She very quickly won’t work for you if she doesn’t like it. So, no boots, no shoes. It has been trial and error. 

“It’s still not easy, because she’s not easy in the back,” Casey continued. “She’ll buck you off at any moment. She doesn’t like things coming at her, and that’s her mechanism, she’ll buck.” 

But what doesn’t buck you off makes you stronger, right? 

Rylee Jo has developed into a skilled horsewoman, as evidenced by her success coming up through The American’s contender ranks. She won the East Region Contender Finals, and then was fifth in the Contender Regional Finals. She was the one of two barrel-racing contenders to make it into The American’s final round, where she was riding against the eventual winner Brandon Cullins and NFR celebs Lisa Lockhart and Emily Beisel.

Although Rylee Jo and Ruby hit a barrel in the final, they still ended up third and walked away with $10,000. 

Before the rodeo, Rylee Jo had taken a laidback mindset to the high-stakes competition: “Just take it one round at a time, and if it happens, it happens. If not, go on to the next one.” She has a similar take on her future, and if she and Ruby might join the professional ranks: “I would like to turn pro, but if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”

For now, she is relishing her high school rodeo career, which also includes open barrel races and open rodeos, “whatever fits in the schedule.” And she’s thrilled that she got the chance to ride for $1 million at The American.   

“It’s exciting because not many people get to do this, so it is exciting,” she said.