Meet the Member Emma Thompson
story by Lindsay Humphrey “I got a really late start in rodeo, I was 13 or 14 when I started going to jackpots and junior […]
story by Lily Weinacht
Kassidy McKee took home her first state title from the KHSRA finals rodeo in June when she won the girls cutting astride PurdyestLady Pepto. The 18-year-old from Lenapah, Oklahoma, and her mare, whom she calls Lady, led the cutting standings all season, but they were still prepared for a tight race when they arrived in Mulvane. “Throughout the spring rodeos there had been a few bumps and our lead had gotten a little smaller, so I knew I needed a really good finals to win,” says Kassidy. She placed fourth in the first round and split first place in the second round, but won the short go.
While Kassidy is first and foremost a barrel racer, she was encouraged by her parents to pick up a second event when she joined the KHSRA, and she chose cutting. “It’s definitely made me a better rider. Cutting makes you sit better on a horse because of the quick turns and stops, and I feel like it has advanced my horsemanship significantly for running barrels. And because it’s not a speed event, I have time to think about what next step to take, and I’ve been able to carry that over to barrels.” She was sitting fifth in the barrel racing most of the season and hit a barrel in the second round, which took her out of the running for the NHSFR, but Kassidy recently purchased her WPRA permit and is looking forward to barrel racing at pro rodeos this summer.
This is her third qualification to the NHSFR in cutting, though Kassidy decided to forego competing there in 2016 because of prior commitments when she represented her state as Miss Teen Rodeo Oklahoma. “It was a lot of fun to travel around and be a spokesperson for the sport we all love. I loved the modeling aspect and public speaking, and it’s very rewarding when you see the little girls that look up to you. It really builds your character.”
She travels to rodeos with her mom, Jeannie, who is a barrel racer, and dad, Justin, who team roped and is now a professional rodeo announcer. “They spend a lot of time hauling me to rodeos, which I’m really grateful for. Growing up on the pro rodeo road with them, I saw that life and knew I wanted to do it,” explains Kassidy, who also used to compete in the ACRA. “I chose not to junior high rodeo, but my sophomore year when I started high school rodeoing, I felt like I was behind and that was my driving point. I felt like I didn’t have the accomplishments my competitors did, and that was a huge motivation for me because I knew I had the horses to do it.” Her main barrel horse, Pleasures Frenchman, is by Frenchmans Guy, and the McKee family raised and trained “Frenchy,” along with all of their other barrel horses. “I started running him a year and a half ago, and my cutting horse is a daughter of Peptoboonsmal,” says Kassidy. “I got her the night before our second cutting of the year.” Kassidy works with her cutting trainer often and also uses her skills in her family’s pastures, where she helps work cattle.
Since graduating from Oklahoma Union High School in May, Kassidy is preparing for her first semester at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami this fall. She’s attending on a rodeo scholarship and majoring in Ag. communications. Her involvement in FFA throughout high school, particularly public speaking, inspired her to pursue broadcasting and journalism in the Western industry. She was the high individual speaker in her FFA chapter, and was this year’s Tri County Tech Student of the Year.
“After making the short round last year at Nationals, I would love to do that again. I was on a borrowed horse last year, and being on my own horse this year, hopefully that’s an attainable goal. College rodeo is a whole new field, but hopefully if all goes right we can hold our own. I would love to have a good, solid semester of rodeos to put ourselves in a position for the College National Finals.”
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