On the Trail with the Peterson Family

by Lily Landreth

The Peterson family is the embodiment of the motto “One for all, all for one.” From the school auditorium to the sports bleachers and rodeo sidelines, the Petersons stand together and cheer in tandem. The bond of the family was forged largely in rodeo, the sport that Ross and Chrissy both competed in through high school and college, and wished to pass down to their children. “Ross and I feel that kids don’t come with manuals when they’re born,” says Chrissy with a laugh. “We decided the best way to raise our kids was to keep them super busy and keep them with each other. Every weekend, they’re with us! We know their buddies, and we have expectations for them.”

Raised on these expectations, the girls have grown up training horses and selling them to pay their entry fees. Kaitlin and Karlee also competed in several rodeo royalty contests before they were ten, holding titles with local rodeo organizations. “The girls had to learn to speak eloquently in front of adults and crowds, introduce themselves, and learn horsemanship skills,” says Chrissy. “Today, when they have a high school or college presentation and have to speak in front of others, it’s not even an issue.”

Rodeo practice at the Petersons is serious fun. Their arena, referred to as the Peterson Playpen, is almost more of a home to them than their log house, which pins down a portion of the swelling Black Hills. Karlee and Sidney practice together daily, and their parents join them after work. Ross is the shift supervisor at a saw mill in Spearfish, S.D., and Chrissy is the Special Education Director for the Meade School District. “Practice is kind of mass chaos,” says Ross. “Chrissy is the chute helper, I’ll be riding some young horses, and then we’ll have someone lining calves and holding goats, loping horses, and saddling and unsaddling.” Karlee adds, “Grandpa will help us, and some kids come over too, but you won’t get to come and watch. When friends come over to the Peterson house, Mom puts them to work – and they love it!”

Kaitlin, a junior this fall at University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie, Wyo., is competing in breakaway roping and goat tying. An NJHFR, NHSFR, IFYR, and NLBFR qualifier, she finished the college rodeo season sitting high in the breakaway roping for the Central Plains Region, which she competed in for Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) in Goodwell, Okla. She is also majoring in secondary math education, with plans to graduate in the next two years with a 3.5 or higher GPA. Her other passion is riding colts and turning them into barrel or roping horses, and she’s doing just that this summer as she rodeos with her family and does ranch work for the Haugen family. Last winter, she bought two broodmares, one of which foaled in early June. Kaitlin is smitten with her new bay filly.

Karlee graduated from Sturgis Brown High School on May 17. With 12 college credits already under her belt from dual enrollment, her flair for time management has also allowed her to be this year’s student body president for her school, work 20 hours a week at The Buckle, volunteer in the South Dakota Teen Court System, and compete in the SDHSRA, SDRA, NLBRA, and 4-H rodeo. “Time management is something I learned from a young age, and its shown me how much I care about rodeo,” says Karlee. Family is her other secret to success. “It absolutely wouldn’t be possible to rodeo if not for such a team effort. Since I have so many horses to get in shape, Sidney helps me with exercising them every single day.”


Full story available in our July 1, 2015



Karlee on Socks at the IFYR Finals, 2014
Sidney and S’mores, the pony she has been training on to pay for entry fees. - courtesy of the family
Kaitlin with Socks. Socks was first Kaitlin’s main mount and then was handed down to Karlee. Just recently, Sidney took Socks to the NLRB in Colorado. Socks was trained by Ross and Chrissy.

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