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Meet the Member: Karley Keyes
story by Lindsay Welchel
We all know about the hard work and dedication involved in the sport of rodeo. How focus and speed and practice come together with miles of road and long nights, to sometimes result in a win and sometimes not.
Tri State Rodeo Association barrel racer Karley Keyes knows all of this too, but she hasn’t forgotten maybe the most important thing to remember; rodeo is supposed to be fun. “I’ve always loved traveling, so I love to get in the truck and drive five hours down the road, even though I may hit a barrel. I just enjoy being on the road being with my horses and being with my family when they go,” Karley says and adds, “Just like my grandfather tells me after every run, ‘It’s not always about winning.’ It is nice to win a paycheck, but just have fun is the main thing to me. I’ll leave a barrel on the ground, and I’ll still come out with a smile.”
That sense of fun and adventure has been with Karley her entire life with horses. It started out as only the best adventures can, with one giant leap when she was 6 years old, and Karley’s stepmom bought her two horses, a trailer and a saddle all as a package deal, and she set off into the life of a cowgirl.
And every good adventure needs a sidekick. For Karley, that sidekick was a 2-year-old horse she begged her reluctant grandparents to buy for her when she was the ripe old age of 7 herself. The horse was young and untried, but that didn’t matter to Karley. The pair became fast friends and learned everything about rodeo together.
“They didn’t want to buy it for me because he was only 2. I finally talked them into it and I got it for my birthday as a surprise,” Karley laughs. “We taught each other everything, and I still have him. He’s 16 now. He’s my backup if I need to just pull one out of the pasture, all I’ve got to do is go get him.”
Through the years there’ve been ups and downs, like when Karley’s top new barrel horse came down with EPM last summer. But the ups are plentiful. Karley enjoys going to the rodeos and big barrel races with her grandparents when they can make the trip, and her boyfriend of six years when he’s home from college. She gets a lot of support from her dad and stepmom.
The family runs a scrap and dirt business out of Vicksburg, Miss., that Karley works at. She’s able to have the flexibility to pursue her rodeo dreams along with helping the company be successful.
Rodeo has also taught Karley to be independent and set out on the road, but she’s quick to thank her traveling partner and fellow cowgirl, Rachel Dee. “She’s my life support. She goes with me everywhere. She’s there for me whenever I need her, all I have to do is hit the call button.”
Karley also credits her parents and grandparents for all of their support along with her sponsor Equine Total Gold. “I use their supplement, and it’s helped my horses a lot being on the road as much as we are.”