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 […]
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Meet the Member Jessica Leach
story by Lindsay Humphrey
The daughter of a WPRA barrel racer and a PRCA steer wrestler, Jessica Leach was destined to be successful on the back of horse. This Rockville, Nebraska, cowgirl proved there were several ways to fulfill that destiny. Growing up in rural North Dakota on the family ranch was the perfect setting for Jessica to find her place in rodeo alongside her family, including her brother who grew up to be a PRCA bareback rider. “I’m old enough that I filled my WPRA permit and got my card when I was only 12. That was back in the good ol’ days when if you had a good horse you could just do it.” That monumental first trip to a circuit finals solidified a lifetime in rodeo for Jessica, but it wasn’t always just about barrel racing. Jessica took up breakaway roping and trick riding.
“I can remember being out moving cattle and I was always trying to do crazy stuff like the trick riders I saw at rodeos. My parents sent me to take lessons with a family friend before I could hurt myself out in the pasture.” Jessica performed just two weeks after starting those formal lessons and worked her way around both the amateur and professional circuits. She even performed at Cheyenne Frontier Days twice. This all took place while Jessica was a multiple-event athlete in both rodeo and high school sports. She was recruited to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln track and field team as a high jumper. She traded in her trick riding sparkles for a pair of cleats. The exchange was well worth it.
Jessica finished fourth in the nation for NCAA indoor track and also qualified for the Olympic trials. As a result, she high jumped in Cuba at the Pan-American Games. Once Jessica completed her degree in diversified agriculture, she found her way back to rodeo. It was inevitable really. “I met my husband, Marty, when I got out of college. He’s from Nebraska and so that’s where we stayed.” Marty grew up around horses and was a top Quarter Horse jockey before retiring and becoming a farrier. “He also trains rope and barrel horses along with me. We’ve just made that our whole life.”
Holding her NSRA card on and off for the last 20 years, Jessica is primarily a barrel racer these days. “I can’t keep up with these girls in the breakaway today. These girls are vicious, I was never super-fast, but I was consistent. I liked to get the average.” Sticking to the clover leaf pattern has worked out well for Jessica so far. “I love that feeling of having a great horse that you just know is really good. My husband made the last horse that I had a lot of success on.” That horse–Rich Money– helped Jessica win the Rapid City Rodeo and place fifth in the first round of the American semifinals all in the same week. Jessica is currently riding a mare owned by Jill Lane Quarter Horses.
“My biggest goal this year was to get this mare seasoned. I ran her last year, but we had a lot of mud and it just wasn’t the best time to try and season a horse.” In a year where committees made a lot of tough calls last minute, Jessica is extra thankful for the rodeos that charged ahead. “I’m so thankful for all the rodeos that did happen and the committees that took that chance to allow all of us to compete. That meant so much to all of us as contestants.” The flexibility and tenacity of rodeo committees in both the NSRA and M-SRA gave Jessica the opportunity to qualify for both finals this year and give her a shot at the year-end awards.