story by Lily Weinacht Wes Bray clinched his goal for his final season of high school rodeo, finishing in the top 20 in the nation […]
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Meet the Member Karissa Phillips
story by Lily Weinacht
WHSRA athlete Karissa Phillips is taking her skills and lessons learned from high school rodeo to the college level this fall. The 18-year-old from Rock Springs, Wyoming, will be a freshman at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, competing in barrel racing and goat tying. “There’s something about being able to take a lot more responsibility on myself for it, and I’m better at it,” she says of goat tying, her favorite event. “I got my horse, KitKat, my sophomore year. She was a ranch horse and I started training her for rodeo.” One week before the 2018 fall rodeos started, KitKat injured herself, and Karissa reached out to her friends for help. Kent and Stephanie McCann let her ride their mare Raspberry in barrels and poles, and Shaylee Terry offered to let Karissa ride her mare Stormy for goats, even after Kit Kat recovered. “I’m so thankful they let me use her,” says Karissa, who ran poles and barrels on KitKat in high school. She’s also training a 5-year-old buckskin, Cricket, to use for goat tying in college.
The third generation of her family to rodeo, Karissa started riding in 4-H when she was 6 astride her first horse, Spice. The duo gravitated toward the speed events and Karissa started junior high rodeoing in seventh grade on Blue. The gray gelding took his previous owner to the NHSFR before carrying Karissa to the NJHFR in Des Moines, Iowa, her eighth grade year in pole bending and goat tying. “I’ve already committed so much time, and because I have a love for it, I couldn’t bring myself to ever get out of rodeo. I couldn’t imagine my life without horses and rodeo,” says Karissa. “I used to do volleyball, basketball, and gymnastics, but I had to commit to one thing and that was rodeo. It was definitely the right decision.”
She gives her horses a day off after weekend rodeos, then jumps back into the practice pen every day after that. “I definitely look up to my parents, Mike and Robin Phillips. My dad didn’t initially want me getting into it because he knew it was a commitment, but I think he’s glad I’ve done it, and he’s been there every step of the way. My mom has always been there in everything I do and I have support from my Nana and Papa who are keeping my horses. They come to rodeos whenever they can and offer encouragement and take videos. My family members support every part of what I do—it’s incredible.” Karissa’s grandparents, Jim and Jan Carter, also keep her goats, along with several 4-H animals that belong to Karissa’s friends.
A graduate from Rock Springs High School, Karissa took several AP classes starting her sophomore year. “I’ve been prepping pretty hard—I made a decision to rodeo for Eastern Wyoming College. I’ve been looking into Ag. business and equine sciences,” says Karissa. “I’ve had a lot of support from the rodeo coach (Jake Clark)—I rodeo with his daughter (Kadra Clark)—and I have a couple friends going there that I rodeo with.”
Karissa enjoys spending her spare time with friends and family, including her older brother, Garrett, who is a student at University of Wyoming and comes to her rodeos as often as possible. While state finals didn’t go the way she practiced for, she cheered her friends on at the NHSFR, and she’s using the summer to compete in youth rodeos and work on all the horses she’s taking to college. Karissa’s goal is making the CNFR and continuing to rodeo as long as possible. “I want to travel around to rodeos and experience all I can because I just love being with and training my horses.”