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Meet the Member: Chelsie Willhoite
“There’s something about rodeo that I crave,” says Chelsie Willhoite. “It brings joy and new friends, and it’s a great way to travel!” The 26-year-old breakaway and team roper from McClave, Colo., entered her rodeo career at the age of seven, introduced to the sport by her step-dad, Monty. He team roped in the RNCFR, while her mom, Cindy, has barrel raced. “Monty taught me to rope when I was ten, and a few years later, I started doing Little Britches rodeos,” Chelsie recalls. “My senior year, I started high school rodeoing, and that’s when I joined the CPRA.”
She’s been roping with Joe Rodrick since last season, heading off her gelding, Frisco. “My breakaway horse is Gray, and I’ve been roping off him since high school. He’s the first horse I bought and paid for with my own money, and I trained him for roping, so our styles just click,” says Chelsie. “The horse makes a huge difference, but I feel that roping is more of a challenge for me as far as working at it harder and perfecting my skills.” In addition to her family, her friends Wade and Sabrina Kreutzer have greatly influenced her roping and her life. “They invited me to a rodeo Bible camp when I was a junior in high school, and I accepted the Lord with them. Jesus is the most important thing in my life. I lived with the Kreutzers a few summers, and they taught me to rodeo the way I do now. They’re family to me! My dad, Rob Willhoite, doesn’t rodeo, but he’s also very supportive of me, like helping me buy cattle when I was growing up and building credit through high school.”
Following high school, Chelsie went on to college rodeo for two years at Lamar Community College before transferring to Northeast Texas Community College. She qualified for the CNFR her senior year in breakaway roping and graduated with a license in physical therapy. She mainly rodeos in Colorado, making the CPRA finals every year since joining, but also holds cards with the NSRA, KPRA, and WPRA, depending on the season. In 2013, she qualified for the WPRA finals in Waco, Texas, in breakaway roping. Her favorite place for roping, however, is Arizona. “The winters are amazing down there!” she says. “You can be a rodeo bum and hang out and rope. This last winter was the first time I’ve been there, but it’s going to become a new habit.” Chelsie also enjoys travelling without the horse trailer in tow, and visiting all 50 states and their major cities is high on her travel list. “If I have too much spare time, I go on adventures – anywhere and everywhere. I haven’t travelled outside of the U.S., so my next adventure is going to Europe. I want to go to Italy – I’d love to take a few weeks and backpack around Europe – and I’d like to visit Israel.”
During the week, Chelsie works as a physical therapist’s assistant. “My work is really good about letting me go rodeo during the week like on a Thursday or Friday – they know I work so I can rodeo.” She’s rodeoing with her 18-year-old sister, Tacie, who just graduated high school. Their 16-year-old brother, Dakota, currently competes in the NLBRA.
“I haven’t decided yet on what other cards I’ll buy this summer, but every year, it’s my goal to win a year-end title in the CPRA,” says Chelsie, who won the CPRA All-Around Cowgirl title in 2013 and 2015. She’s also a two time CPRA Breakaway Roping Champion, and won the association’s mixed team roping in 2014. “My goal now is to win the all-around, breakaway, and team roping titles all in one year!”