story by Teri Edwards Katie Leibold was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she lived for the first 22 of her 26 years. She […]
Roper Review: Kevin Staples
Written by: Teri Edwards< Back to Articles
Kevin Staples grew up in Stephens City, Virginia, where his dad, Billy Staples, trained horses and owned one of the largest sale barns on the east coast. Their monthly horse sale, held the first Saturday of each month averaged 300 to 400 horses, and during the spring months they would sell anywhere from 500 to 700 horses in one day. The sale included every kind of horse imaginable: roping, buggy, jumpers… they sold them all.
“Growing up I was blessed to have access to an indoor arena with 30 stalls,” says Kevin. “We basically lived in that arena.”
Kevin started roping when he was four or five, but his father started him trick roping at an early age. His first trick roping show was booked at just nine years old. Kevin’s trick roping act became an opener for country and western singers like Tammy Wynette. In 1983 he opened for B.J. Thomas on the White House lawn where they performed for President Reagan. He also appeared on the television show, That’s Incredible.
By the age of fifteen, Kevin’s interest in team roping surpassed his desire to be a trick roper.
“Like many kids, my dream was to make it to the NFR,” explains Kevin. “At the time I was breaking a lot of thoroughbreds, getting them ready for the track and then team roping on the weekends.”
Obsessed with the dream of becoming a professional roper, Kevin realized he needed to spend time with people who would help improve his ability. In 1988, while living in Florida, Kevin was diagnosed with a grapefruit size tumor on top of his bronchial tubes.
Kevin credits his doctors at Duke University, and the grace of God, for his complete recovery. Treatment consisted of chemo every other week for six months, followed by daily radiation for another month. Now, at age 50, he’s been cancer free since, or as he likes to joke, “I’ve been clean for thirty years.”
Enduring and surviving a life threatening illness changed Kevin’s perspective on his life and goals. No longer did he feel a pull to be at the NFR, but realized the desire to hone his craft as a horse trainer.
“I always knew my dad was a pretty good trainer,” explains Staples. “But it wasn’t until I matured that I realized just how good he was.”
In addition to his father, Staples also credits a six-month stint he spent with cutting horse trainer, Tracy Bales, for the passion he now has for riding young horses.
Kevin still loves to compete and regularly places at World Series ropings, but admits what really excites him is riding colts and watching their progress.
During his early 30’s and living in Virginia, Kevin entered a horse in the San Antonio Ranch Gelding competition. There he reconnected with family friend, Tom Nelson, owner of the HK Ranch in Victoria, Texas. Having lived in Pennsylvania, Mr. Nelson knew first hand the challenges of riding and training in winter conditions. He offered Kevin a job riding horses in Texas during the winter. Staples would return to Virginia for spring and summer, and head back to south Texas in the fall. It was in the third year Kevin realized that Texas offered the lifestyle he craved and stayed full time, only returning to Virginia to visit family.
Since then, other than a few years training at JB Quarter Horses, Kevin has been with Tom Nelson at the HK Ranch where he’s the General Manager and horse trainer.
The HK Ranch operates a breeding program for foundation Quarter Horses. They are currently standing a Les Glow Colonel stallion and a Red Baron stallion. With a dozen broodmares Staples has his hands full with yearlings, two-year olds, three-year olds, plus a herd of 300 cows.
Staples has trained some very successful jackpot and rodeo horses ridden by cowboys such as Trevor Brazile, Shay Carroll, Logan Medlin, and Charlie Crawford. One of the most famous horses to come from the HK was the well-known heel horse, Switchblade, ridden and owned by NFR heelers Kory Koontz, Allen Bach, and Jade Corkill.
At HK Ranch, Kevin strictly trains team roping horses. Their philosophy is two and three-year olds are used for ranch and cowboy work only. Colts never see the inside of an arena before the age of four. By that time they are broke and mature.
“The policy at the HK is ‘old school’. If we check fences or water troughs, it’s done horseback,” explains Kevin. “Rather than worry about saving time, there’s so much more value for a horse to be ridden and used. The only four-wheeler on the ranch is in the arena and used to pull a dummy.”
The HK Ranch always has a nice variety of colts for sale in various stages of training. For information Kevin can be reach by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much do you practice?
Do you make your own horses?
Who were your roping or rodeo heroes?
H.P. Evetts and Clay O’Brien Cooper.
Who do you respect most in the world?
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
If you had a day off what would you like to do?
Go to New Mexico and hunt mule deer.
What’s the last thing you read?
The Gorilla Mindset.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Genuine, fun-loving, honest.
What makes you happy?
Visiting and drinking a beer with old friends.
What makes you angry?
People that whip horses.
If you were given 1 million dollars, how would you spend it?
Buy land and cattle.
What is your best quality – your worst?
My best quality is honesty. My worst quality is being too easy going at times.