Story by Ruth Nicolaus The Mid States East Rodeo Association member lived in Texas for five years before moving back to her parents’ farm in […]
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Meet the Member Kelly Rogers-Knapp
story by Lindsay King
The competitive nature of Linden, Michigan, barrel racer, Kelly Rogers-Knapp was the driving force behind her switch from western pleasure horses to the rodeo circuit. Kelly grew up showing on the Quarter Horse circuit while also attending some gymkhana events. She started running barrels more in high school but did not become truly serious about rodeo until her mid 20s. “It [western pleasure] was just kind of boring honestly. I wanted something that was more competitive and that gave credit to the horse and rider instead of a trainer. It’s the thrill of it too, it’s such an adrenaline rush.” Kelly is known for riding her bald-faced sorrel Paint mare, Little Girl, who stands only 14.1 hands. She originally was a heel horse when Kelly bought her as a four-year-old. Now 22, she still runs strong. Everyone told Kelly the mare was too small and would not amount to much as a barrel horse. “She is an awesome mare, she filled my PRCA card in 2004 and has taken me to the Mid Stats finals.” Kelly also runs Katz, a 16-year-old Quarter Horse gelding who Amos, her husband of nine years, ropes calves off of.
Kelly and Amos are a great team both inside and out of the arena, when one does well in their event the other usually seems to follow suit. “I seriously do not know what I would do without him, not only at the rodeos but with life in general.” They always talk about their runs, good or bad, on the drive home and try to work out any kinks together. “He is not only my husband but also my best friend.” Harold, Kelly’s dad, has played a big role in her equestrian career, from her days in 4-H and on the quarter circuit to running at rodeos today. Harold trained horses when he was younger and is credited for teaching Kelly everything she knows. He passed away in 2015. “I felt like I couldn’t ride anymore, I felt lost and frustrated.” Family and friends helped Kelly realize her dad would want her to continue riding. She now finds herself working with a seven-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Bulldogger, she bought a few years ago. Standing at 15.2 hands, the barrel game has changed quite a bit just because his stride is so much different from Kelly’s other two horses.
Kelly jokingly says she has three full-time jobs, one of them being rodeo. When she isn’t running a clover-leaf pattern, she can be found working at Peacock Park Design, a wholesale distributor of European-chic home décor. She also owns her own business, Cosmo Cowgirl, restoring old antiques and making jewelry. Rodeo is a family-oriented sport, something Kelly loves about the MSRA-East, specifically. “Everyone helps everybody in the organization, if there is something going on people try to get involved to make things better.” Contractors for the MSRA have been known to thank contestants for coming to their rodeo. “I think the contractors are learning more about what contestants need.” Kelly and Amos are fortunate to have horses that can run in almost all ground conditions, but others are not always so lucky. Kelly greatly appreciates the contractors who look out for the barrel racers when getting the ground ready. “It is great to have contractors that are trying to help us out and help us be the best that we can be.” Sometimes Kelly’s mare can be a handful to get into the arena. Other contestants just standing by have been known to help her into the arena when Amos is not around. “Everybody looks out for each other, and if something happens they are there to help you. It can be hard going up and down the road, but if you have people that support and love you and your passion, then it makes it all worth while.”