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 […]
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Trae and Tanner Kupsick
story by Lindsay Whelchel
It’s a happy coincidence that the No. 1 and No. 2 Mutton Busters in the Northeast Junior Rodeo Association are brothers.
Trae, 7, and Tanner, 4, Kupsick have got a tight grip on all things NJRA.
“Trae mutton busted off and on from the age of 4, but two years ago on Christmas he said he would give up everything if he could rodeo, so I looked around for associations, and I found the Northeast Junior Rodeo Association,” Trae’s mom Tosha describes. He began his career with NJRA at 6 years old.
Trae steadily saved all of his earnings from Mutton Busting to buy his very own horse in May of last year and began to compete in multiple events in the chase for the All-Around Cowboy title. “This year he is sitting first for All-Around Cowboy,” Tosha says and adds, “He does everything. He does flags, goats, poles, barrels, mutton busting, and he just started riding calves.”
But Trae lives and breathes roughstock. His dream would be to make it to the PBR one day, and none other than Ryan Dirteater himself was the cowboy who helped Trae get on his first sheep at a rodeo years ago. “After that he fell in love with it,” Tosha says.
Trae agrees, especially when it comes to the NJRA. “It’s awesome, you get to do a lot of stuff,” he says enthusiastically.
Now that Trae is graduating up to calves, his little brother Tanner is taking the sheep by the wool if you will.
“[Tanner] just started this season, because he was 3 whenever he started, and he did mutton busting, and he rides his brother’s horse and does flags and goats,” Tosha says.
Tanner leans more to the horseback events, but that didn’t stop him and Trae from both qualifying for the World Finals in Mutton Busting to be held in August in Texas.
Both boys are busy inside and outside of the arena. Trae just finished first grade where he loves math. He plays soccer, baseball, basketball and is in intermediate tumbling. Tanner just finished Pre-K and is headed into kindergarten. He’s excited to be able to go to his big brother’s school finally. Outside of the classroom, he plays soccer, T-ball and also does intermediate tumbling.
Tosha, and the boys’ dad, Ted, run a small farm in Tahlequah, Okla.
“The boys help us with the cows and in the summer help us with the hay.
We bale square bales, so we do a lot of work,” Tosha laughs.
Though the Kupsick family didn’t consider themselves a rodeo family before the boys plunged into it headfirst, they love the embrace of their new rodeo support system, Tosha explains. “With the junior rodeo, I love it, because everyone is there. They holler for each other’s kids, and it’s good to have that support from other families. There are other parents there that tell them they’re doing a good job and that gives them encouragement, especially when it comes from someone else. And with the boys, having older kids to encourage them and tell them what they need to do right or what can help them out, it really helps.”
You might want to keep a look out for the Kupsick brothers in the arena for a long time to come.