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 Katie Clay-Thomas
story by Lindsay Whelchel
Katie Clay-Thomas is steadfastly pursuing her rodeo dreams with determination and many helping hands, increasing her knowledge and experience along the way.
Katie’s love of horses came naturally at a young age, but no one else in her family rode, much less competed in rodeo. Katie would pioneer that initiative.
She began to visit a neighbor and spend time with their horses until she was able to get proper lessons from a family friend, Ross Lunsford, who worked as a farrier. He introduced Katie to the Bevill family in the Arkansas Cowboys Association, and she began to develop her barrel racing skills with their guidance.
“The Bevills, I don’t even know if I would be rodeoing without them,” she credits.
Two rodeo seasons ago, Katie was only exhibitioning in the barrels. Through hard work, she progressed. As she was able to gain knowledge and get more serious, she started competing herself and even earned a spot at the ACA Finals this past year.
Now Katie is turning 16 and is a sophomore in high school. To immerse herself in rodeo and horsemanship, she is now attending Wasatch Academy in Utah and is heavily involved in their equestrian program there.
“I want to college rodeo and stuff, and I just knew where I was at I wasn’t going to get the help that I needed,” she says of leaving home to attend school and adds, “I love the school here. It’s awesome.”
Back home Katie played volleyball but quit because she felt at the time, she couldn’t be the team member she needed to be and still give enough attention to rodeo. Now that she’s progressed in rodeo, she plans to pick the sport back up again in Utah.
In the future Katie intends to attend law school to become a lawyer like her older sister Amy is planning. In addition to Amy, Katie has a younger sister Miley and brother Austin. Her father passed away when she was 2 years old, but she has the support of her mom Renee and step-dad, Nathan behind her in her goals.
When it comes to going after her rodeo goals, Katie doesn’t need any extra motivating.
“With rodeoing, I love it so much I’m just always like ‘I want to go ride or I can’t wait to go to a rodeo,” Katie enthuses.
This summer she will haul her horse back from Utah to home in Arkansas and will continue her rodeo education by competing in the ACA and focusing on each arena success.