story by Lindsay Humphrey When Ava Chadd first got started showing horses through 4-H, she had no idea it would eventually lead her to the […]
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Meet the Member Samantha Walsh
story by Michele Toberer
It all started with a Groupon gift certificate for a riding academy, but little did Samantha Walsh’s grandma know, that the gift certificate would open up a world of horses and rodeo that have now become such a huge part of the Derby, Kansas cowgirl’s life. The 13-year-old 8th grader is now in her rookie year with the Kansas Junior High Rodeo Association and loving every minute of the barrel racing and pole bending competition she is a part of.
Samantha’s parents, Julie and Brandon Walsh, make a living in real estate, managing their rental properties. Samantha has a 23-year-old brother, Bryant, and a sister, Rebekah, 15, who haven’t had any interest in rodeo, but although Samantha is the first in her family to step into the rodeo arena, they couldn’t be more supportive of her endeavors and Rebekah is her biggest cheerleader. They’ve given her the opportunity to compete in multiple playdays and other youth rodeo associations and bought horses to help her progress in her skills. “We have been really involved in the Haysville Saddle Club, and I’ve been competing at their fun shows since I was 6 and was a part of the Rockin’ H Drill Team last year.”
A 9-year-old dark bay Quarter Horse mare named Vixen really changed things for Samantha in September 2018. Julie explains, “Samantha was at a point that she was pretty frustrated and thought of quitting rodeo completely. We sent a colt to Jed Ward for training, and Jed saw some potential in Samantha and really took her under his wing and got her going. He started having her ride all sorts of horses, and one day she rode Vixen, who he had in for training, and she instantly fell in love.” They ended up buying Vixen and they have been doing so well together, they decided it was time to step up their competition and start competing at the junior high level. “The KJHSRA is pretty competitive, but I love it. The rodeos are so fun, and Jed’s oldest son, Jackson, rides bulls in the KHSRA so they are there at the rodeos too. Jed has helped me so much, I’ve learned basically all I know about barrel racing from him, he’s taught me everything.”
When she’s not riding, school and basketball take most of her time. She’s in her final year at Derby Middle School, and although she claims her favorite class is gym, she does enjoy her science classes, and hopes to one day become a veterinarian. Samantha has been playing basketball since 3rd grade and is currently playing the post position for the Derby Bulldogs. Samantha loves to hang out with her friends, and her favorite mixed-breed mutt, Mocha; and they often spend time riding four-wheelers at the Arkansas River which runs along the back of her family’s property.
Emily Miller and Hailey Kinsel are two professional barrel racers that inspire Samantha to work hard in the arena. “They are both so fun to watch, and I try to think about how they do things when I’m practicing at home.”
Samantha is grateful to live in an area that there are many opportunities to compete in rodeo and barrel racing jackpots. “All the fellow barrel racers are all so supportive of each other. I really like competing in the KJHSRA and getting to travel to all the different arenas.” There aren’t other rodeo kids that attend Samantha’s school, so she enjoys the opportunity to see kids that have the same interests as her when she sees her rodeo friends. Samantha is hoping to qualify for the national junior high finals this summer, in Des Moines, Iowa, where she’ll have the opportunity to meet young rodeo athletes from across the world. “I especially appreciate all of the family support I receive and their dedication to coming out to watch me run. Sometimes they come hundreds of miles for a few seconds of action!”