story by Mackie Ford I caught up with Haze Kuykendall, an Oklahoma Junior High School Rodeo Association member and son of Justin and Mandie Kuykendall, […]
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Meet the Member Victoria Whitehead
story by Lindsay Humphrey
When Victoria Whitehead finished her schoolwork via zoom this spring, she spent a lot of her free time brushing up her rodeo skills and watching the NLBRA finals on RFD-TV. “I’ve gotten to ride a whole lot more without school and afterschool activities, so my horses have gotten into really good shape,” said the 12-year-old from Jones, Oklahoma. “I’ve missed rodeo a lot because usually we are gone every other weekend during the spring and summer.” Living on a racehorse farm means there’s always something for Victoria and her family to be doing. “We usually spend about half the day doing chores or school and then the rest of the time I will tie a dummy or help out with the horses here.”
Victoria’s dad, Chantz, and his dad grew up around rodeo by way of bull riding. On the flip side, Joey, Victoria’s mom, is the daughter of a racehorse trainer and jockey. Joey’s dad won the very first paramutual race in Oklahoma. It’s safe to say Victoria came by her need for speed honestly. “I’ve always enjoyed the adrenaline rush of trying to go faster at tying goes. I love getting off the horse while they are still moving.” It shouldn’t be surprising that the dismount is Victoria’s favorite part to practice. “Dismounting was actually pretty hard for me to learn. I fell quite a bit. I practiced all the time and I still kept falling.” Quite literally learning how to pick herself up out of the dirt is a lesson from rodeo Victoria carries with her every single day.
All that running practice in the goat tying comes in handy in the ribbon roping since Victoria is the runner for her partner, Jackson Cravins. She also finds time to run barrels and poles. When Victoria was little, her grandparents, along with aunts and uncles led her around the barrels and poles, but it was Dona Kay Rule who helped teach her the finer aspects of true horsemanship. “My family on my dad’s side have known Dona for a long time. I’ve always looked up to her because she’s been competing since she was little and just kept working at her dream until she finally accomplished it,” Victoria said of her rodeo role model.
Last summer Victoria’s dad made his way down to Florida to support disaster relief efforts. This made hauling to rodeos nearly impossible. As a result, Victoria felt like she started her seventh-grade season a little behind the competition. She quickly made up for it though. When the fall season ended, she was sitting in the top fifteen in all her events. “Half of the
OKJHSRA season as canceled because of the quarantine, but I was excited when we got to have one more rodeo before state finals. As soon as we could we headed to a rodeo, we were going crazy.” At state finals Victoria managed to finish eighth in both goats and poles.
Perhaps some of Victoria’s success at state can be chalked up to the extra time off this season. More than likely it’s all that hard work coming to fruition. “I like to see all my practice and hard work pay off. I’m working on running a 20 in the poles.” The stiff competition that makes up the OKJHSRA should help propel Victoria towards her goal. “Barrels is probably the hardest in the OKJHSRA. There are a lot of girls competing and they all have nice horses. I have a nice horse as well and we actually did well at the Lazy E this year. I was excited about that.”