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Meet the Member Wes McConnel
story by Lindsay King
Some might say Wes McConnel and his wife Kelly are the Lane and Kelly of modern-day rodeo. After growing up as acquaintances in Bloomfield, New Mexico, the couple hauled to a rodeo together as their first date after returning to their hometown. “We had known each other for a long time and my mom used to be a principal here. Kelly started teaching at the school, so my mom told me I needed to give her a call,” Wes said. The rest is history as the pair got married in 2008 and now have a five-year-old son, Reiner, and a three-year-old daughter, Kessey. That was the same year (2013) when the rodeo hiatus began.
At just six years old, Wes was already competing in the event he would later fall head-over-heels for. The son of a bull rider who also rode bareback horses and roped calves, Wes had the pick of the litter when it came to rodeo events. “I rode steers a little bit in junior high, but I realized I didn’t really want to do that.” It was at this point Wes realized he was destined to tie calves. “Calf roping was my only event through high school. It was my sophomore year when I entered an amateur rodeo at the county fair and I won.” In 2000, Wes qualified for high school nationals. He later received a scholarship to rodeo for Eastern New Mexico State University where he competed for the next four years.
“When I came back from school I was breaking colts and getting horses started roping. I was riding professionally and just found out that’s not what I wanted to do.” In 2008, Wes and Kelly started McConnel Trading, a stock contracting business that services both New Mexico and Arizona. “It started out as more of a side gig and then it turned into a full-time job. We never expected it to get this big.” Just because Wes doesn’t train horses professionally anymore doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a few colts on hand at all times. “I haven’t bought a made horse since 2004. The one I am riding now we started from the very beginning to finish.”
Now a full-fledged family man, Wes is beginning to realize how difficult it can be to fit practice time into his days. “Preparation is the hardest part of rodeo. It is a lot harder having kids, because I don’t crave rodeo as much as I used to.” Part of the difficulty could be the high standard of preparation Wes is aiming for. “When I back in there, I want to have no doubt in my mind of what I am going to do, how my rope is going to feel and how my horse is going to work.” Perhaps this is why Wes hasn’t lost his touch as a tie-down roper during his five-year break.
Two years ago, Wes qualified for The American while competing at the Roping Fiesta in San Angelo. In 2008 he won the year-end saddle in the NMRA. He’s been a member on and off since high school. “The association is getting better and better, that is why we came back. We are trying to support the new leadership as they get it going again.” The competitive side of Wes enjoys getting into the arena and making a great run after putting in the hard work. But the social side of him enjoys seeing all the people out at the rodeos. “We haven’t really set any goals for what we want to accomplish, but we are just trying to get in the groove of competing again with these younger bunch of kids that are coming up.”