Meet the Member: Kali Carpenter
Story by Ruth Nicolaus The Mid States East Rodeo Association member lived in Texas for five years before moving back to her parents’ farm in […]
story by Michele Toberer
Racing has always been in her blood. Nikki Walcutt’s dad, Harris Diehl, constantly challenged her to foot races as she grew up, but it’s racing on horses that has consumed most of her life. “My dad would always say, ‘you want to race?’ and I believe you have to have that mentality, to push yourself and run if you can, I still challenge my kids to sprint to the mailbox; if you don’t do it, you lose it.”
Nikki was horse-obsessed from a young age, and although she was the youngest of three siblings, Marsha, Jolene, and Roger, on her parents’ dairy farm in Michigan, where horses were looked at only as hay-burners, she couldn’t imagine her life without a horse, “I cried my eyes out, begging and crying every night to have a horse until I finally got one when I was 8-years-old. At such a young age, and with a family completely green to horses, Nikki was blessed with a grade dark chocolate mare named Hope to be the best teacher she could ask for. “Hope never balked at anything, she was 15.3, so I would pull her up to the truck tailgate to get on her and then I would just ride. We had trails and dirt roads, and I was on her every chance I got. I got help from local 4-H leaders and watched others ride, and once I got a little instruction, it really helped me along.” Nikki fondly remembers those days when her late-mother, Maxine, hauled her and Hope around, “My mom was a clean-freak, she never liked to get dirty, but she would hook her minivan up to our two-horse trailer and haul me everywhere; it fills my heart with joy to look back on it now, because she did it all with love.” After competing in 4-H open shows and playdays for several years before graduating from high school, both her life and her riding changed completely when she met her husband, Dan Walcutt at the county fair. Dan was a race-horse jockey, “He was cute, funny, adorable and loved horses too, so he stole my heart. I mean not only did he seem perfect, but we were at the county fair, how else do people fall in love?”
The couple married in 1993 and went on to train race horses at tracks all over Michigan and Ohio for 5 years. After achieving much success as a woman trainer in an industry dominated by male trainers, and with a barn full of 20 horses in training, they decided to change careers as Nikki was pregnant with their first son Brett. Brett, now 19, is a sophomore at Cleary University in Michigan and is a pitcher for the school team. Their 10-year-old son Blake plays baseball, shows steers in 4-H, and is a talented singer. Dan owns and operates Nielson Construction, where he does commercial construction work and Nikki is a truancy officer for the Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District.
Besides life being filled with the duties of a working mom, Nikki’s passion for racing still burned, and she has been barrel racing since 2001 and joined the MSRA in 2002. “They put on good quality rodeos with a fun rodeo atmosphere, filled with really good people.” In 2004 Nikki was the MSRA-E Champion Barrel Racer on Tuff Robin Reed, a sorrel, 9-year-old paint gelding, “He is the horse that has done the most for me, he was really honest, wouldn’t hit a barrel and had lots of speed on the way home. I could always count on him, he just made me smile.” The past 4 years, Nikki has been riding Dash for Firewater, a 10-year-old sorrel mare she calls Dakota. “She has a lot of heart, but like everyone we have our struggles; there are streaks where I feel like ‘I got this,’ and then times where I think ‘I don’t know what I’ll do if I hit another barrel.’ There are always hills and valleys, but I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to ride.”
Nikki appreciates and is inspired by the support of a good group of barrel racing girlfriends that help each other through the good and bad of going down the road. “And of course, I thank my husband and family, they are 100% supportive all the time and I’m very thankful for that.”
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