Meet the Member: Kelly Valdez

by Rodeo News

above: CSHSRA member Kelly Valdez - Jennings

By Lily Weinacht

Kelly Valdez of La Junta, Colo., won 2015 NHSFR Reserve All-Around Cowgirl this summer. The title has been several years in the works, stemming from Kelly’s double dose of determination after she qualified for the NHSFR in 2013 in cutting, only one of the six events she competes in. “That year, I had missed a bunch of rodeos for basketball, and I was really disappointed with how I finished the season,” the 17 year old recalls. “I think about it every single day, and it’s one of those things that motivates me every day – and it makes it easy to give up all those other things so I can rodeo.”
Kelly gave up both basketball and volleyball to compete in her events of barrel racing, pole bending, team roping, breakaway roping, cutting, and reined cow horse, though she is still expected to maintain straight A’s in school. During state finals, she won the cutting, reined cow horse, and all-around. “I like all of my events a lot, but it all comes down to running barrels or roping calves,” says Kelly. “I love the adrenaline of going so fast in barrel racing and my horse turning all of a sudden, and I enjoy the technical part of it. It seems like it should be easy, but you have to do everything right to be good at it! For breakaway, I love how fast it happens – it’s really fun when you’re roping good.”
Raised on horseback, Kelly is the second generation of her family to rodeo, her mom, Betty Lou, showing reined cow horses, and her dad, Robert, competing in team roping. “My parents help me a lot taking me to rodeos, and there have been a lot of other people who have helped me,” says Kelly. “Anybody that gives me advice, I appreciate – I think you can learn from anybody!” She adds, “I just love being outside and riding horses, and I really like the kids that rodeo.”
Kelly and her parents make their home about five miles outside of town with their 12 horses, and numerous calves, steers, and dogs. Kelly also has an older brother and sister, Mathew and Erin Little, who live in Denver. They don’t rodeo, but they do come support Kelly at her events whenever they can. “Pretty much the one thing my parents and I enjoy and think about is rodeo,” says Kelly. Clancy, her barrel horse, took her to the NHSFR short-round this year, as well as the short-round of the 2015 IFYR. Fletch, Kelly’s pole horse and admittedly her favorite, is a former reined cow horse, winning Betty Lou nearly $15,000 before becoming the fastest pole horse Kelly has ever ridden. He also helped Kelly win all three rounds of the Best of the Best Timed Event Rodeo in Gallup, N.M. Mac is Kelly’s mount in the cutting and reined cow horse, and Betty Lou won the NRCHA world title on him in 2012 before Kelly captured the title herself in 2014. Her roping horse, Smarty, was raised and trained by Robert. “She’s the easiest horse to rope on ever!” says Kelly.
Beyond rodeo, Kelly is a junior at Swink High School, one of 22 students in her school. She especially enjoys math, studying pre-calculus under one of her favorite teachers, Judy Jenkins. Her favorite numbers, however, are on the scoreboard at the rodeo. Kelly competed in the USTRC National Finals of Team Roping, as well as the Rising Stars Calf Roping over Thanksgiving. “This last season, my goals were to qualify for Nationals in five events and make the short-round of every rodeo I went to,” says Kelly. “This year, I’d like to win Gillette or Shawnee, and I’d really like to win the all-around again at Nationals!”

© Rodeo Life Media Corporation | All Rights Reserved • Laramie, Wyoming • 307.761.9053

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