Every day, Nollie Launius makes strides toward his dream of becoming a professional roper. The 10-year-old cowboy from Nashville, Arkansas, is already a dual-event champion […]
5 Star Champion: Kim Thomas
Written by: Lily Landreth< Back to Articles
Kim Thomas has been a horse trainer most of her life. Her business savvy and horsemanship skills have carried her to compete in the Barrel Futurities of America World Championship, the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, serve on the WPRA board, and teach clinics in the United States and abroad.
While she now calls Noble, Oklahoma her home, Kim, 65, grew up in the rural Florida town of Wauchula. “There were a lot of day-working cowboys there that rodeoed. My parents were not horse people, but they got me and my sister a horse and we went to gymkhanas when we were little. Then we high school rodeoed. Nobody college rodeoed back then,” says Kim. “I trained my own horses.”
Kim purchased her WPRA card in 1980 and went to her first Southeastern Circuit Finals that year. She rodeoed hard through the 1980s and ‘90s, qualifying for the Southeastern Circuit Finals a total of 10 times, along with three Prairie Circuit Finals and two trips to what was the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo at the time. “I’m kind of glad I rodeoed back when I did,” says Kim. “Everybody had one horse, and they trained their own horses.”
The training skills Kim developed turned into a career. While rodeoing, Kim also competed in barrel futurities on her horses and sold them. At the BFA World Championships, where many of Kim’s horses won, she met renowned horse breeder Jud Little, who invited Kim to come train his horses at his ranch in Oklahoma.
Not long after joining the WPRA, Kim also began serving on the board of directors and was instrumental in forming the Florida Chapter of the WPRA in the mid-1980s. They produced futurities including the Florida Sunshine Classic, and put on the Wauchula Rodeo in 1987. In all, Kim served around 10 years on the board in many different capacities, most recently as the Prairie Circuit Director.
During her rodeo and futurity days, Kim was also raising her son and daughter, Matt and Marsee Ferguson. Matt preferred playing other sports to rodeo, but Marsee followed in her mom’s bootprints. Despite being born with a heart defect and having her first open heart surgery when she was eight days old, with four more surgeries to follow, Marsee excelled in the arena. “When she was about 10 years old, Marsee won the NBHA state championship in both the youth and the open on two different horses, and she won the Speed Horse derby when she was 11, which is a very professional event,” says Kim. “She’s very competitive and won a lot. She high school rodeoed and went to the national high school finals.” Marsee got married and she and her husband Hunter McCown have a 10-year-old son, Kellen. Unfortunately, she suffered a massive stroke due to birth control several years ago, but she recently started riding her horse again. “It’s brought her a lot of joy to have this horse,” says Kim, who lives just 30 minutes from Marsee and sees her often.
Kim continues to be very involved in the horse world, though in new and unique ways. She went back to training horses on her own in 2003, and that eventually morphed into teaching barrel racing clinics. She’s been all over the Southeast with her two-day clinics and even taught in Brazil and Bolivia. “I teach all ages, and I’m a big foundation and horsemanship person. We usually spend the first half of the day working on getting control of the horse and learning where the rider’s body needs to be, and then we do slow work. The second day I usually work with the riders one on one. I truly enjoy it.”
Kim’s clinics are sponsored by 5 Star Equine, who provide her shirts and hats, which she awards to the most improved horse and most improved rider at each clinic. She teamed up with 5 Star when she began riding horses for owner Terry Moore in the early 2000s, and coached his daughter Rachel Moore-Lowrey, who high school rodeoed at the time. “I bought their pads and helped them market along the way,” says Kim. “I’ve always believed that the best thing for a horse’s back is 100 percent wool, and theirs are, so those have always been my pad of choice.” Kim used all of their products, though the pads and mohair cinches are her favorites. “The horses never get any kind of girth itch or rash with them, they’re easy to clean, and the horses don’t seem to sweat as much in them. All of their products are very high quality, and they are good family people.” 5 Star even sent a new saddle pad to Marsee for her birthday.
Kim is recently engaged to Chip Bennett, a former PRCA steer wrestler. “I’ve known him for 40 years and we’re best friends,” says Kim. Along with teaching 8-10 clinics a year, she travels for her work as a sales rep for SUCCEED equine products. Her work will take her to the upcoming WNFR for 12 days, where they are running the hospitality tent for two days and cheering on their sponsored riders in the Finals.