story by Lillian Landreth Thayne Elshere represented South Dakota and his family’s favorite event of saddle bronc riding at the 2022 NHSFR this summer, where […]
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Meet the Member Karissa Rayhill
story by Lily Weinacht
Karissa Rayhill finished out her senior year as the 2017 SDHSRA Goat Tying Champion, along with winning reserve champion in the barrel racing and all-around. The 18-year-old from Martin, South Dakota, also won the SDHSRA 20X Extreme Showcase the last three years, twice in goat tying, and this year, the barrel racing. “With it being in the middle of wintertime, I’m eager to be there and away from school, and there’s a lot of people there with the pros competing. I like to step up my game and see how well I can do.” At the time of the 20X Extreme Showcase, Karissa was still recovering from surgery on her ACL, which she tore in October, but she was back to her favorite event of goat tying this spring. “You have more physical control over what’s going on, and it takes a lot of dedication,” she explains. “It seems like it’s more rewarding than other events. Even though you work hard in all of them, you have to work a little harder at goat tying.”
Much of Karissa’s inspiration comes from goat tying clinician and rodeo coach, Lynn Smith. “Before I met her, I was pretty decent, but she gave me a kick in the butt to be a little better.” Karissa also competes in breakaway roping, pole bending, and team roping, heeling for her younger sister, Keisha. Rodeo started with their dad and his family, and Karissa also competes in the SDRA and 4-H rodeos, where she won goat tying at state finals in 2012, 2014, and 2015, and her arena record of 6.49 still holds. She qualified for the NJHFR twice and won Reserve National Champion in goat tying her eighth grade year, and competed at the NHSFR for the second time this summer, placing second in the second-go. Prior to that, she competed at the IFYR and finished fourth in the goat tying.
“Rodeo is my way of life since I live on a ranch and we run a lot of cattle. I’m always riding horses and playing with colts, and I’ve raised a bunch of goats that I’m running this year. It’s just become what defines me.” Karissa trained her barrel and pole horse, Vegas, as well as her 5-year-old breakaway and heel horse, Gizmo. “He was kind of a challenge, so it’s pretty rewarding to have him. We traded some hay for my goat horse, Doris, who came from Allen, South Dakota. She’s won me all kinds of state finals and taken me to Nationals.” Karissa also has 30 head of goats, which she’s raised over the last two years. Her family runs cattle and farms, growing crops like wheat, oats, and hay, and she rides colts and trains horses in the summer.
Rodeo is a family-wide affair, including Karissa’s older brother and sister, Kyler and Kaitlyn, their parents, Kory and Angela, and grandparents, who come to many of Karissa’s and Keisha’s rodeos. “Our extended family comes to quite a few rodeos too, and sometimes we have friends tag along, so whoever wants to go we put in the truck!”
Karissa graduated from Bennett County High School in May, and she’s attending Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington on a rodeo scholarship this fall, also pursuing a degree in animal science. “I’ll be doing barrels, breakaway, and goats. From there, I’d like to win the CNFR and do good in all my events,” she finishes. “For my long-term goals, I want to become a vet specializing in horses, and give back to them for all they’ve done for me.”