story by Michele Toberer Nineteen-year-old BJ Billingsley has been a member of the Arkansas Cowboys Association for four years, competing as a tie-down roper. BJ […]
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Meet the Member: Heather Wilson
story by Lindsay Whelchel
Horses have always been a part of Heather Wilson’s life. Her parents raised Morgan horses for showing in Kansas, but for Heather, rodeo was a life-changing discovery.
“We went to a rodeo in Pecatonica, Illinois, when I was 13. That’s the first rodeo I can ever remember going to, and I watched the barrel racing, and from that moment on I bothered my parents incessantly that that’s what I wanted to do,” Heather recalls.
She got her first barrel horse at the age of 16. Within six months she was competing in pro rodeos close to home, but she slowed down at first when she got married and had her two daughters in her 20s.
Once her daughters, Sydney and Morgan, were around the ages of 3 and 7, Heather couldn’t ignore the barrel racing bug, and she started back going to jackpots.
When Heather and her family moved to Missouri around eight years ago, she joined the Arkansas Cowboys Association and quickly found a new rodeo family.
“We really like the ACA, because it really does become a lot like family. You see the same people week in and week out. Most of the rodeos for us are an hour and a half to two hours [away], so it allows us to be home but yet still go and do it together as a family,” Heather says and adds of her daughters, “The girls have made lots of friends through the association.”
Heather now serves as the barrel racing director for the ACA, and Sydney and Morgan are thriving in the sport just like their mother. Morgan was the Junior Barrel Racing Champion in 2012, and Sydney was the Reserve Champion in Junior Barrels last year.
Outside of rodeo, Heather and her family enjoy snow skiing and going to the lake, as well as traveling when they can. But home life on the farm keeps Heather plenty busy. She cares for 120 head of mother cows and has begun a breeding program for high quality barrel horses.
She credits Dr. Roger Shaw with Eleven Point Equine and Sondra for always taking excellent care of her horses and encouraging her to keep going even when things get tough. Carisa Shearer is a business connection in the barrel racing world, as well as great friend and encourager.
“I have bought a couple of barrel horses from her, and not just has she sold me some really phenomenal horses, but she’s also a motivator and kicks me in the rear when I need it and tells me to quit over analyzing everything and just go,” Heather laughs.
One thing Heather is motivated about is growing and improving the ACA.
“The board has been working hard already planning for the finals. We increased some of the rodeos we’ve had, trying to get out to our producers and encouraging them to have rodeos they haven’t had for awhile, so I do think the finals this year are going to be even better than in the past. We are trying to find ways to make [the ACA] not just bigger but better and different.”