By Lindsay Whelchel For 11-year-old Tucker Kelsey of Henryetta, Okla., competing in the Northeast Junior Rodeo Association is a path he was probably always destined […]
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Meet the Member: Taylor VarnerMeet the Member
Even this summer, when school was out, Taylor Varner was still busy. The 14-year-old cowboy from Mannford, Okla. has spent his time working hard to help his family bale their own hay fields, and he’s even busier inside the arena. Taylor competes for the Northeast Junior Rodeo Association in a host of events that includes goat tying, breakaway and ribbon roping, tie-down roping and both heading and heeling in the team roping.
“We bale our own hay, and we get to rope a lot, but we don’t get to rope as much as we want to,” Taylor explains of his busy schedule. When it comes to his start in rodeo, Taylor says that it was early. “My dad taught me how to rope ever since I could pick up a rope, then we started roping in the junior rodeos.”
This was Taylor’s first year with NJRA, but he competed in other Oklahoma junior rodeos and Texas junior high school rodeos before this year. So far with NJRA, Taylor has seen the majority of his success in team roping, leading both the heading and heeling points.
He credits his heading and heeling horses with helping him succeed, but his favorite horse to ride is his calf roping horse.
When he’s at the rodeos, Taylor enjoys seeing his friends and spending quality time with family, which includes his dad Brian, mom, Brandie and brother,
Beyond rodeo, some of Taylor’s favorites are country music and steak, and when he does get free time, he likes to hang out with friends at Lake Keystone. He is in 8th grade, and plays basketball on the school team and likes the camaraderie of the sport. But on the subject of camaraderie, Taylor is partial to the friendly nature of his fellow rodeo contestants.
“I like that you can enjoy what you’re doing inside and outside the arena,” he says of everyone’s willingness to help each other out and get along.
Once Taylor reaches high school, he plans to compete in high school rodeo but intends to stick to team roping. Heading is his favorite part of the sport.
Brian describes Taylor as being a hard worker who is willing to help anyone in need. But Taylor is also gracious when it comes to recognizing the privilege of being able to compete in rodeo at such a young age.
“I think it’s great for [kids] to be able to go to [rodeos], because some kids don’t even have the money to travel and have fun like that,” he says of his unique opportunity.
And Taylor is going to go after such an opportunity as fast as he can throw