LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Every child has a dream about what they want to be when they grow up, be it a doctor, an actress or a rodeo star. For a fifth-generation cowgirl from Perry County, though, the dream was all of the above.
To say Morgan Harrington has her hands full while barrel racing would be an understatement.
“You’re up there, you can pull, you can do, and you ask them,” Morgan explained. “They’re a horse, 1000 pounds with a mind of their own. You’re just along for the ride, really.”
She has been successful in the rodeo arena since she was 4 years old, if not before, her mom Flora Harrington explained.
“When I was pregnant, I was still riding with her, probably went longer than I should have,” Flora said. “When she was 6 or 7 months old, we’d go out riding. I’d have her bundled up. She’d be in her car seat while I would ride, and she would watch.”
Ever since then it’s been go-go-go and go faster. The passion to achieve has always been in Morgan’s heart, and she said being thankful keeps it fun.
“I feel like a lot of kids get burned out because they turn it into this job. It’s just competing, they have to win, all the time,” she explained. “Yes, I want to win and yes I’m a sore loser, but at the end of the day I’m just thankful God has allowed me to do all these things.”
Morgan rode her passion to the University of Arkansas at Monticello, but soon her rodeo schedule got a little crowded. Originally her sights were set on pharmacy school but then she decided to go-go-go in the classroom as well.
“I decided I didn’t want to go to pharmacy school. I wanted to go to medical school with a biochemistry-biology double major,” she said.
Keep in mind, Morgan was not putting her college rodeo career on the back burner even with the new course load.
“I would stay in the library every night until it closed, then I would go to the arena, then take care of my horses,” she recalled.
She made it work and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degrees in both biology and biochemistry and was accepted to medical school.
While all of that may have seemed like a full plate for most, Morgan saw a bit more room to stretch as another career path opened with a shot at a movie role.
This was a completely new kind of challenge for her, though, and against thousands of others, what were her chances?
“I was just like, ‘That’s cool. I got to audition, there’s no way I’m going to get it,’” she remembered thinking. “Then they called me and said I got the part. I was like, ‘Really?’”
MAKE ROOM FOR AN ACTING CAREER
As she went from the classroom to the stage, Morgan said she was looking for the benefits of acting beyond the possibility of stardom.
“I got to meet a lot of people, and that made me really want to try and do that while I was doing all these other things,” she explained.
It turns out her past hard work made her more than right for the part.
“It was a barrel racing part,” she explained. “I said ‘I can do my own stunts. I can bring my own horse.’ That was really neat. They had horse wranglers and horses for the other girls, the other girl had a stunt double. The fact I got to use my own and do all my stuff, and ride my own horse was great.”
While acting was taking center stage for Morgan, her foundation in rodeo is always under her with a rope in hand. She qualified in her favorite event, breakaway roping, in The American, a premier rodeo event where some of the best of the best compete.
Even as ready as she was for a top-level rodeo, real life set her back in her saddle with a tragic loss.
“I stayed in the hospital with my grandmother. I really did not get to prepare,” Morgan said. “There is nowhere else in the world I would have wanted to be. I stayed with her. Then her funeral was the day before the rodeo. I didn’t feel like I was ready, but that opportunity was a huge event, the opportunity was amazing.”
Between rodeos, training horses and keeping an eye on med school, Morgan said the movie roles have kept coming, with three so far. As for which of her many focuses is on her front burner, she is not letting anything cool down.
“Right now, everything is fully lit,” Morgan said. “I’m in a movie now, shooting in Jonesboro. It’s called ‘Privileged.’ So, I guess I’m still going. I don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
While her first forays in front of the camera utilized her rodeo skills, this role has her branching out of her cowgirl roots.
“I play an undercover cop who is dating a serial killer,” she explained. “We get to do a fight scene in a formal dress, I get to arrest somebody, it’s been it’s been fun.”
Despite her hectic schedules, there’s not a single day she says she feels burdened by anything that’s come her way.
“The fact that I get to live this life and get to act, am accepted to med school, and get to rodeo, all those things are just blessings,” Morgan said.
Right now, there’s no competition on what role she really wants. Morgan says she’s going to invest all that time in the library on becoming a doctor, just one with a few hobbies.
“At the end of the full four years, after residency, I’ll pick everything back up, rodeo and acting, and see where it goes,” she said.
Can she really do it all? So far, her outlook on life has made it all work, and she believes that it can work for anyone.
“If you have the mindset going in that ‘I can accomplish anything I set my mind to’ you can, you truly can,” she said. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to look back and regret that you left anything behind.”
And if Morgan Harrington has her way, she’s bringing it all with her. Including whatever may come her way next.