story by Lindsay Humphrey Quinter Weatherred can remember the first buckle he won just two years ago at a Little Britches rodeo in Hugo, Colorado. […]
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Meet the Member Taylor Gustafson
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Qualifying for nationals is an accomplishment in itself but doing it on a self-made horse is a feat in a category of its own. For Taylor Gustafson, that’s the case for 12-year-old, Joe, who was a cutting horse before learning the clover-leaf pattern. “That’s one of my biggest accomplishments so far,” said the 14-year-old. “He’s not the fastest, but he’s pretty little so he can turn.” The snappy sorrel helped Taylor place second in the barrels at state finals last year, for a ticket to a national finals rodeo that would never be. Of course, Taylor said she couldn’t have done so well without the help of barrel horse trainer Jennie Anderson. “I’m blessed to have her help me fix and trouble shoot any issues I have with my horses.” Now an eighth grader, the pressure is on as Taylor and her fellow KJHSRA competitors have high hopes for competing at nationals in 2021.
This accomplished KJHSRA goat tier also competes in breakaway roping, ribbons, and poles in the Christian Youth Rodeo Association and the Heartland Youth Rodeo Association. “When I first started tying goats, barrels was my favorite event. But ever since I got a new horse, we’ve been working well together on my dismount. Goats is now my favorite. It’s not something that everyone can do.” Hailing from Junction City, Kansas, Taylor is less than 30-minutes away from Manhattan and the Kansas State Rodeo Team. Trips to Wildcat country have helped Taylor step up her goat tying game with her new mount.
“My goat horse likes to do everything very fast. As a result, it took a long time to get my dismount on him down. If you’re going too fast while dismounting, you’re going to flip over and do a scorpion.” Taylor has made many face-in-the-dirt scorpion dismounts in her time. Luckily, she’s always had a superb support system in her corner: her parents, Cory Vercher and Jason Gustafson, and two brothers, Blake, 19, and Jake, 18. “I’ve always grown up around horses because my mom rodeoed in college and my grandpa trained horses for a living. I’ve been riding my whole life.” Now 70 years old, Taylor’s grandpa is no longer the primary colt starter. He’s handing those reins over to Taylor, literally and figuratively. She’s both nervous and excited for this new challenge, but she knows her grandpa will be there ringside to help her.
After a rough start to the fall 2020 season, Taylor’s getting into the groove and narrowing her focus on making nationals in the goats. Her toughest competition, Madison Scott, not only shares her birthday, but also many of the same interests. Perhaps that’s why the two are best friends. “I like that in rodeo we all still cheer everybody on even though we might beat each other. As hard as we all work at it, we don’t mind if our friends beat us in rodeo.” Madison has always been a driving force behind Taylor’s work ethic when it comes to bettering herself as an athlete. The two are always neck and neck in the standings for all of their events.
A natural-born leader, Taylor just completed her first semester as the secretary and breakaway roping director for the KJHSRA. She was also selected to be part of the CINCH team. “I really like the competition in junior high, it’s tough. I’ve formed a lot of close bonds with the other girls and they’re my toughest competition.” Just as coal transforms under pressure, so does Taylor. She’s vice president of her local 4-H club, plays basketball and runs track for Chapman Middle School where she’s an eighth grader. This straight-A student has figured out how to balance rodeo, sports, schoolwork, and life on the family’s 300-head Hereford ranch. To put it simply, she’s a hand both inside and out of the arena.