Denise Nelson

by Siri Stevens
Denise Nelson

Denise Nelson has been a Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association member for much of her life. The Midland, S.D. cowgirl grew up around horses on her family’s ranch near Wall, S.D. She ran barrels in junior high, high school and 4-H rodeos, but it wasn’t till she married into the Nelson family that she began to rope. After graduation from Wall High School in 1983, she attended Chadron (Neb.) State College and earned a degree in ag business. She graduated from college in 1987 and married Tim Nelson in 1988.

It was at the age of 26 that she picked up a rope. It’s a standing joke with her, that the only reason she learned to rope was so she didn’t have to be chute help. “I always make this joke,” she said. “I got tired of pushing steers for everybody else.” In 1991, she joined the NRCA and spent much of her time breakaway roping. After her children, Kaylee, age 25, and Jade, 21, were born, she added team roping to her resume.

Rodeo was on the back burner as she and Tim attended the kids’ activities, but when Jade got old enough to compete in the NRCA, she was back in the arena. Jade often ropes with his dad, and then with Denise in the mixed team roping. Roping with her son is great, she said. “It’s a wonderful family sport. You can’t beat it. You spend your weekends together. It’s just amazing.”

The four Nelsons are often at the same rodeos, Tim and Jade in the team roping, Denise and Jade in the mixed team roping, and Kaylee in the breakaway roping. The whole family also competes in the South Dakota Rodeo Association; Tim, Jade and Kaylee also compete in the North Dakota Rodeo Association, but Denise does not, as they do not have mixed team roping. Jade is a Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association member and has qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals the last four years.

The Nelsons raise most of their own horses and train them. For a while, they rode outside horses, but the demands of their own horses keeps them busy. “Trying to keep horses for your kids takes a lot of time,” she said. Roping and rodeo is her and Tim’s fun, and their hobby. “We used to go to basketball and football games when the kids were  younger. That was our fun. Now we enjoy the horses, roping and rodeo. That’s what we do on the weekends.”

Denise was NRCA Rookie of the Year in the breakaway roping in 1991. Since then, she’s competed at the NRCA Finals and SDRA Finals about twelve times each. She considers winning the USTRC National Finals Number 8 Shoot-Out with Brian Meredith a highlight in her roping career. Last year’s NRCA Finals were extra-special, as she, Jade and Kaylee all won the year-end saddles in their respective events. The family raises black Angus cattle; calving begins this month.

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

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