ISU student claims Miss Rodeo Iowa title

Hannah Hilsabeck, senior in animal science, recently was crowned Miss Rodeo 2015 for the state of Iowa. “I’m so excited because this pageant has pushed me into greater things and made me feel so much better about myself and the people around me.”

Kenzi Mongar

Graduation isn’t the only ceremony that will be celebrated in the months ahead for ISU senior Hannah Hilsabeck.

Hilsabeck will be graduating in December, but her title as a college graduate will swiftly transition to the title of Miss Rodeo Iowa 2015.

The pageant queen will get the chance to travel more than 30,000 miles across the state and country to promote the sport of rodeo and Iowa’s western heritage. Along the journey, she will speak at many schools and hospitals in addition to attending several media interviews.

Most importantly, Hilsabeck will participate in numerous rodeos, which will give her a chance to showcase her love and passion for horses. 

“Horses are kind of like people with their different personalities; you can get along with some really well,” Hilsabeck said. “I grew up being infatuated with horses and agriculture but I didn’t actually realize it was agriculture at the time.”

That was changed for Hilsabeck once she entered Winterset High School and met her agriculture teacher, Mr. Peiffer, who took her to the National Future Farmers of America Convention in Indianapolis. That trade show is where she met Miss Rodeo America 2006.

“That’s what sparked my queening career, and it’s been a big snowball rolling down a hill ever since,” Hilsabeck said.

Following her new dream, Hilsabeck began competing in pageants in 2009, which earned her a couple of titles including Miss Teen Rodeo, the younger title of Miss Rodeo Iowa. 

“Since 2006, when I was a freshman in high school, I’ve had that goal and dream of being Miss Rodeo America,” Hilsabeck said.

Hilsabeck stayed committed to her young aspiration. She worked with queen coaches Debra Fox and Judy Rogers to improve her speaking abilities and define her individual personalty.

The three main categories in which contestants are judged are appearance, horsemanship and personality. A great amount of horse-riding knowledge and good interviewing skills is needed to do well in a pageant. 

“I’ve had a lot of help, first is definitely my family because they are so incredibly supportive of me, and next would be Mr. Peiffer,” Hilsabeck said. “He’s part of the reason why I wanted to be an agriculture teacher, but I credit my public speaking and a lot of self confidence I gained those four very influential years of high school to him, and so many others have supported me throughout the years.”

The annual competition took place in Fort Madison, Iowa, in collaboration with the Tri-State Rodeo.

Unfortunately, Hilsabeck was faced with a big challenge on just the second day of the four-day competition. Her horse, Romeo, went lame — had difficulty walking due to injury or illness — in horsemanship, the first riding event.

“I was so emotional and had to keep it together, but at the same time I had to go on and compete and I had to let my mom take care of my horse,” Hilsabeck said. 

The pain her horse had was from a problem with his shoe, which had fallen off. Hilsabeck needed another horse to finish the competition. Luckily, a friend offered his for the weekend while her mother tended to Romeo.

“It was a stressful situation,” Hilsabeck said. “My mom is not a horse woman at all and she stepped up and took care of Romeo with a smile on her face; she has been my rock my entire life and helps me get through a lot of stressful situations.”

Now that the big pageant is over Hilsabeck is considered “A Lady in Waiting.” The crowning coronation will take place Jan. 1 where Suzy Fife, the current title holder, will officially hand off the crown to Hilsabeck.

In the meantime, Fife will be preparing to compete in Las Vegas for the title of Miss Rodeo America. Fife said she’s excited for Hilsabeck to be the next Miss Rodeo Iowa because it’s a life-changing experience.

“I know Hannah is a great horse woman,” Fife said. “She has the knowledge and speaking skills to relate the goals to everyone we’re trying to get across.”

For now, Hilsabeck will be finishing her student teaching at Pleasantville High School where she will teach freshman and senior students introduction to agriculture and agriculture business classes.

Aside from pageants, Hilsabeck’s future plan is to teach agriculture and later get her master’s degree in some type of animal science. 

“Just being involved in what makes Iowa so great for the rest of my life, so if I’m involved in any aspect of agriculture, I’ll be happy,” Hilsabeck said.

The Miss Rodeo Iowa Pageant offers junior and teen pageant titles as well as a scholarship. Its main focus is to promote awareness of Iowa’s rich western heritage.

“Hannah has a lot of qualities needed to be Miss Rodeo Iowa and the characteristics to become Miss Rodeo America,” said Doug Dall, the president of Miss Rodeo Iowa. “I think she’ll do wonderful and will represent this organization the best she can, I know she will.”