Meet the Member Ryan Bestol
story by Lindsay Humphrey “I’m not much of a planner,” said Ryan Bestol of his storied rodeo career so far. “When I get something in […]
by Lily Weinacht
Mackenzie Walker is a breakaway roper and team roper from Arthur, Nebraska, competing in the NSRA and M-SRA for the last four years. One of the 22-year-old’s favorite events is the mixed team roping, which she competes in with her dad, Don Walker. “He grew up rodeoing and became really well known in the rodeo world, and he passed it on to us kids. Roping has always been my passion, and the joy of doing it keeps me motivated. This past summer, I struggled with rodeoing while working full time and being a full time student, but every time I pull into a rodeo, that all goes away.”
Mackenzie was rodeoing by the time she was six, competing in several events in high school. She tore a knee while goat tying and traded her piggin’ string for barrels, eventually finding another passion in team roping as a senior. “I grew up in a small community with lots of people to give me tips. Robbie Lynn Stearns is a really good breakaway roper, and I owe a lot of my horsemanship to my Uncle Paul. My mom, Lori Walker, was also a big help. She opened the chutes, which is not a fun job, and I want to thank my family for allowing me to be where I am today.”
Though she primarily ropes with her dad, Mackenzie teamed up with her cousin Gunner Walker last summer after Don was in an accident. “He broke his pelvis and was life-flighted to Denver for treatment. We’re really blessed that he can ride again, so hopefully this summer we’ll be roping,” she says. Mackenzie travels to many of her rodeos with her parents, while her brother Tyler joins them on occasion. A bullfighter, he won Bullfighter of the Year in Colorado in 2010 and 2012, while their brother, Jace, is returning to the roping world.
Mackenzie rides her 24-year-old gelding, Fat Boy, in both her events. Her dad found the horse four years ago, and Mackenzie calls him a one-of-a-kind. “He’s one of the coolest horses I’ve ridden. My previous rope horse was good, but I struggled to keep her calm in the box. Fat Boy just sits there, and he’s really helped me focus. He puts his head down when he runs, so the view is a lot different, and I also love his personality. If he can’t untie himself, he’ll untie his friend, so he keeps us on our toes.”
Beyond rodeo, Mackenzie is finishing the first of two years at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, where she’ll finish with a degree as a veterinary technician. “I went to UNK (University of Nebraska at Kearney) for two years to major in pre-vet medicine, but I decided a vet tech would fit my lifestyle better. I’ll focus on large animals, and since I grew up ranching and working cows, that’s all very familiar to me. I worked for Ron Moorhead – a phenomenal horse vet out of Ogallala – last summer, and I’m also looking at internships in Texas at a few equine hospitals.”
In her very spare time, Mackenzie enjoys hunting, fishing, and camping with friends, while she’s also training several colts. “Getting them roping this summer is a big goal, and I want to improve my horsemanship. Another goal is to make time for rodeos so I can qualify for the finals, especially in the mixed team roping.”
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