story by Lily Landreth Jaytyn Hash took home his first NLBRA world title at the 2019 NLBFR last summer in the team roping, a victory […]
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Meet the Member Kayley Kennemer
story by Siri Stevens
Kayley Kennemer left the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo at the Lazy E Arena as the Senior Girls Finals All Around Champion as well as the Reserve World All Around Champion and the Senior Girls Breakaway Champion. She was the only girl to place in top seven in the team roping in the first round of the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo. The 17 year old from Anderson, Alabama also placed in the top 15 in the pole bending. This is her rookie year in the NLBRA and she came to the finals in six events – everything but the trail course.
“This is my first finals,” she said. “I’ve never won anything bigger.” She and her heeling partner, Laine Moore, have been roping together for about a year. “Our families are very close and he asked if I would be interested in heading for him at the Little Britches in Alabama.” It was her first trip to the Lazy E Arena as well. “I think it’s a great place to have a Nationals,” she said. “I love the indoors and how they have set up the different arenas.” Kayley got her start early. “I’ve been riding since I was so little I couldn’t hold on myself.” Roping runs in the family, starting with her daddy, Johnny. He started roping in 1981 and made the ACA finals in 1983.
“I had two uncles that roped and it looked like a lot of fun,” Johnny said. His father bought him a 2-year-old to train and help with his horsemanship. “I’d been roping a couple years before I got this horse…. he bought him because he liked his color. I hauled him rodeoing for a living for 18 years. I made every association finals there was on that horse except the NFR. I named my first kid after him – her middle name is Bay. I heeled for Hebert Theriot at the Timed Event Challenge and he won second and third.” He doesn’t go as hard anymore. “It’s all about the kids.” Johnny taught them how to read the barrier. “I take them to the box, and say it’s two foot under, head around the end the end of the gate. If it’s four foot under, right behind him, follow him out.”
Her older sister, Kelsey, 23, is the only girl ever to make the short round heeling in team roping at the CNFR in 2014. “I know this because we were out there and my parents bought me some spurs to celebrate that,” said Kelsey. “After the first few rounds, everyone came up and asked me if I was that girl that heels. We(header Seth Driggers) ended up fifth in the nation.” She graduated with a degree in biology and minor in chemistry. Kelsey came up through the ranks of the National Junior High and High School rodeo. From her 6th grade year until her senior year, she won the All Around in Tennessee. “I practiced all the time – I don’t remember a time when we weren’t all in arena all the time.” She married Zach Mabry last April and the tradition continues. “I love my family – we get to do something we love all together. It’s about all of us – we try to help each other out as much as we can.” She instilled in her sisters to have a purpose every time they go to the practice pen, no matter what it is. “I try to help my sisters – I’m very competitive and I want my sisters to even go farther than I’ve ever went. I want to help teach them from my mistakes.” She continues to compete in the pro and amateur rodeos in the southeast.
Her mom, Shelley, runs barrels and like Johnny has all but given it up for her daughters. “Now I ride and get horses ready for them,” she said. “My family rode – both my mother and father rodeoed – they met rodeoing. I grew up with it.” She made it to at least 15 amateur rodeo finals. She was the Alabama High School All Around champion in 1985 and then she switched to barrel racing. “Breakaway didn’t come to the amateur rodeos and when it did (1994), I won the breakaway in the PCA.” Mainly now we try to help our daughters reach their goals. She is a high school math teacher and her dad works for the county, so the whole family leaves every morning except Kayley, who stays home and does her school work. “When I’m done with school, I clean stalls and take care of all the horses. When my family gets home, I have everything ready to practice.” Math is her best subject and she just finished pre-calculus with honors. She plans to go to college in the Ozark region. “I’ll stay home and rodeo from there – East Mississippi Community College. I want to be an architect. I’m good with numbers. I spend a lot time with my dad – working on the truck and trailer and building stuff.”
Her younger sister, Kamey (12) (Dunn) is also named after a horse … although they don’t have a dunn horses, her sisters picked her middle name. She competed at the NLBFR in the breakaway and pole bending. She has only been roping for six months and qualified, ending up second in Alabama in the breakaway. Kamei shares her sister’s love of math. “I’d like to be a doctor or a PA when I grow up,” said the seventh grader, who attends the same K-12 school that her mom teaches in. She plays softball and is the third base position. “I have fast reflexes and sometimes it’s scary, and when you’re hitting, you have to keep your eye on the ball.” When she’s not at school or a rodeo she’ is practicing with her sister. “We are not competitive at all.” Kamey rides two horses. She just got her calf horse and she’s training him to be a breakaway horses. Her favorite part of rodeo is winning. “I like to win – I’m really competitive, just not with my sister.”
Even grandma is involved, sewing all the rodeo shirts the girls wear. “We brought 38 shirts that she made. We buy the material and design the shirts.” Kayley started home schooling last year and will be a senior this coming year. “I’m doing Ingenuity. It’s a program in our school that is meant for kids that miss a lot of school because of a special event. It was a better program for me – I could get it all done and go practice.”
Kayley learned to win from her older sister. “She was 20 and I was 15, I got in the truck with her, I learned how to win off her at the amateur – having to learn to focus and take care of business and learn the start and read the barrier.” Her favorite events are breakaway and team roping.” Mostly I focus on team roping, breakaway and barrel racing, but our pole horse is very nice and it’s easy to pull her off the trailer and go – I practice goats when I can. Ribbon roping is my weakest, if calves hit me, I’m done for. Once I get the ribbon, I’m good. I try to stay in the best shape I can by exercising and doing work around the house keeps me in shape – we’re very active outside.
The family came to the Lazy E with their good friend, Stephanie Bryant, who used to rodeo with Shelly. She is considered a member of the family. “We have gotten to be so close, we’re like family,” she said. “Johnny and Shelly have kids that are a reflection of the type of people they are. They are a good example of how to parent – make sure your child knows how much you love them no matter what. You have to follow through with what you say you’re going to do. I’m here to help the girls do the best they can do no matter what. I’m the behind the scenes person. I try to make it as easy for them so they can do the best they can do.”
Without family and good friends this dream wouldn’t be a reality for Kayley. “God has always sent great people to help us as a family to do what we want to do. The Good Lord always provides a way and His answer isn’t always yes.”