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Meet the Member Kelsey Phillips
story by Michele Toberer
Arkansas Cowboys Association member, Kelsey Phillips is fully determined to come back to the family ranch, Phillips Quarter Horses, where she was raised by her grandparents before starting in her freshman year at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville this year. Kelsey is studying agriculture communications with a minor in agriculture leadership, and she’s thoroughly enjoying learning new things about agriculture. “Every day is interesting because I learn more about what the agriculture industry has to offer, or issues that need to be fixed that I wasn’t aware of before. I’m not certain what all I will do once I graduate, but I will definitely be coming back to carry on the family horse business.” Kelsey’s Nana, Susan Phillips, and grandpa, Tommy Phillips gave her every opportunity to grow into the horse and rodeo world as she was growing up there in Green Forest, Arkansas. “I came to live with them and started learning to ride when I was about 6 years old. After my riding continued to improve, I started showing western pleasure, and entered a rodeo queen contest when I was 11-years-old, winning first-runner-up. That was my introduction to the rodeo world, and I’ve been chasing rodeo ever since.”
Kelsey graduated from Green Forest High School in 2018, and besides being a starter on the basketball team and heavily involved in the Future Farmers of America program, she spent her high school years immersed in raising and training Quarter Horses with her grandparents and competing as a barrel racer. They are currently raising just a few babies each year that they train and sell or keep if they fit into Kelsey’s riding goals. “I usually decide the direction the horses will go, whether they have the potential to be a rodeo horse, or good ranch horse, and we try to choose what we believe is the best direction the horse should go in its training.” They stay extremely busy with not only the horses, but also with the Black Angus cattle operation they own.
When Kelsey was exposed to the rodeo world, she knew it was what she wanted to do, and the more comfortable she became in the saddle, the more her passion for running barrels took off. She started out competing in 2012 at the Morris Ranch Rodeo, and in 2013, when Kelsey was 13, she won her first champion barrel racing buckle. Kelsey began searching out other associations she could compete in and keep her passion going. She started competing in the ACA shortly after, “When I started competing in the ACA is when I really got on my big-girl pants and started getting competitive in the barrel racing world. I started out riding Blue, a blue roan gelding that is now 12 years old. He’s a cow bred horse that was raised on our ranch and I trained him for barrels. He’s been with me all along and is still my main barrel racing horse, but I do plan to retire him in the next couple years and have a three-year-old chestnut mare that I’ll ride then. We got Annie off the track, so she is bred to run and has a lot of potential for the barrel racing field.” Kelsey was a 2017 and 2018 ACA season finals qualifier, and she and Blue finished in third-place in 2017. One of her main rodeo goals for the future is to qualify for the RFD-TV The American Rodeo. “I’ve tried out for The American four times with Blue and we’ve clocked right in the middle all four times. I have big intentions of training Annie for barrels soon and one day want to qualify for the American with her.”
“My nana is all about the horse life and has always encouraged me to chase after the big titles. She is so knowledgeable about riding and how horses act. Although she was an English rider and didn’t rodeo, she did compete some in western pleasure and she’s always pushed and supported me along my way. My grandparents are both the big reason I have the passion for all I do, and where I am, but my nana is the biggest person behind it all.”