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Meet the Member: Tucker Kelsey
By Lindsay Whelchel
For 11-year-old Tucker Kelsey of Henryetta, Okla., competing in the Northeast Junior Rodeo Association is a path he was probably always destined to take.
Rodeo has been in his family for generations, with his grandfathers competing and his grandmother Lisa South McAfee rodeoing all of her life. “It’s been in our family forever,” Lisa explains, adding that Tucker’s mother Rein Howard has also competed.
And lucky for Tucker, who started around the age of 5, he’s had steady guidance; not just from his grandmother but from his trusty first horse, an old roping horse of his mother’s.
The horse was 24 at the time and still physically fit, but he was a solid ranch horse, not used to timed-events like Tucker would need at the NJRAs. That didn’t daunt the young cowboy. Tucker started him slow, and the pair got really good at all of the NJRA events until the horse retired at 26.
Now Tucker rides two horses, Rosie in the barrels and poles and team penning and Breezy in the goats and breakaway roping.
He loves being a part of the association and is leaning toward tie-down roping as his main event down the road.
“Everyone is nice, and they’re supportive. They do the rules right, and they don’t do anything wrong,” Tucker explains of the NJRA. Lisa echoes this with the statement that they’ve become family with fellow members of the association. Lisa has even served on the board.
Practice makes perfect for Tucker’s rodeo aspirations. It’s something the family really believes in and emphasizes, Lisa explains. Recently, Tucker got hurt playing football and had to stay off his horse for a month. “It nearly drove him crazy,” Lisa laughs.
But Tucker knows that effort makes success when it comes to rodeo.
“Just try your hardest and give everything you’ve got in the rodeos and just practice hard,” he says.
And it’s a motto he’s no doubt applying in all aspects of his life from his involvement in church to his straight A report cards. He loves science and math the most and plays basketball in addition to football.
In addition to his mother Rein and grandmother Lisa, Tucker has the support of his dad Eric Kelsey, and one day he’d like to go on to college to be a veterinarian or go pro with his rodeo career.
For now, he’ll just enjoy being a young cowboy in the town that’s trademarked the Rodeo Cowboy Capital of the World.