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Meet the Member Kevin Kessler
story by Terry Rhodes
With almost a $3,000 lead, Kevin Kessler and his partner J.W. Nelson easily claimed the 2014 Mid-States Year End Champion Team Roping titles. Kevin recalls, “J.W. called me up last spring and asked me if I wanted to win an association buckle. I told him that sounded good to me and to put me in. So he did and we won the Year End Titles. This was my first one so I thought it was pretty cool.” The team made it to 42 rodeos to build their lead in the race for the titles.
His primary head horse is Sun Frost bred and has a lot of go. “My buddy Rick had him for about three years and trained him. He’s a really nice horse but he’s a handful. We went to Cheyenne and made the short round on him. He pulled a front suspensory (tendon) so I didn’t get to ride him the whole year. I rode four or five horses the rest of the year.”
Kevin has been in the Mid-States Rodeo Association for 20-plus years and says that the number of rodeos and close proximity make being a member a good deal for him. The rodeos are close to home and fit into his family’s schedule. A former bareback competitor, he now limits competition to the team roping. He’s also in the KPRA, NSRA, and has his pro rodeo card.
He grew up on a ranch and has been around horses and cattle all his life. “It was just a way of life and it was pretty easy to start rodeoing. Nobody else in my family rodeoed; I was the first one to pick it up.” Kevin gives credit to his friend and mentor Rick Gracey as being influential in his development as a rodeo competitor and team roper. “The horse I’m riding now was trained by Rick and he’s helped me a lot. I never started team roping until I was about 32.”
Kevin went to college in Miles City, Montana where he was on the rodeo team there. “I was on a rodeo scholarship so I had everything paid for and that made it affordable. I was taking auto mechanic classes but really didn’t like it that well. I made use of the classes to fix up my car so I could drive to rodeos. I had an old Plymouth Fury and I got a million miles out of that sucker. I overhauled the motor once, put two new motors in, two rear ends, and three transmissions.”
Originally from South Dakota, the 51-year-old cowboy now lives in Calloway, Nebraska with his wife Tina, and daughter, Morgan, 14. Both Tina and Morgan are involved in rodeo. Tina is the secretary for the KPRA and has been taking entries for Mid-States Rodeo Association for 13 years. In addition to running the entry lines, her talents are recognized and she has been named rodeo secretary of the year numerous times by KPRA and Mid-States. Morgan competes in the breakaway roping. “She was named Ladies Rookie of The Year in the KPRA and we just got back from a roping in Oklahoma and she almost made the short round there, so she’s doing well and we’re real proud of her.”
During the week Kevin works in his home safety business. “I work just about seven days a week in the off season so that I can have time during the rodeo season to practice and rodeo.” Long term goals are to eventually transition into doing more horse training at home and less road time going to rodeos.