KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kirbee Spire has two words about the American Royal’s Invitational Youth Rodeo.
“It’s awesome,” said Spire, the reigning breakaway roping champion from Maryville, Mo.
“It’s really fun to go into an atmosphere like that, especially since it’s set up exactly like the NFR,” she said, referring to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the premier championship at the professional level of the sport. “It’s really cool to get invited.”
Spire is one of the few who gets the chance to compete in the same playing field – Hale Arena – that houses the traditional American Royal Rodeo. The Invitational Youth Rodeo is set to take place over four days beginning with the senior division at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25; it will feature high school-age contestants. The junior division, for eighth-graders and younger, will take place at noon Wednesday, Sept. 26-Friday, Sept. 28.
It is all a fabulous precursor to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at Hale Arena in the American Royal complex.
“I want to be at that level, too, so I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Spire, a senior at Maryville High School who also won the Missouri High School Rodeo Association’s breakaway title last season. “I’d like to start by winning the breakaway at the invitational. I want to be a back-to-back state champion, and I want to go out there and win nationals.
“It’ll take a lot of hard work, but I’m ready for that.”
That she is. It comes naturally, but most youth involved in rodeo realize the responsibility it takes to be a winner from a young age. Spire first set the tone by winning the breakaway title at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo a few years ago.
“Rodeo is just something we all enjoy doing,” said Patty Spire, Kirbee’s mother. “Ed and I did it when we were kids, and we wanted to give the kids a chance to do it themselves.
“It’s something we can do together, and it’s something we all enjoy.”
Kirbee is the youngest of Ed and Patty Spire’s three children and joins brother Derk and sister Jodi in the arena. In addition to teaching his children the skills it takes to win, Ed Spire also has spent time as a coach for the Northwest Missouri State University rodeo team.
“My dad pushes me, and I love it,” Kirbee Spire said. “We’re all one big rodeo family, and everybody’s supporting each other. It’s fun to share one thing you can do with your family. Not every parent can play basketball with your kids, but you can rodeo with your kids.”
While her strength is in breakaway roping, Kirbee Spire also competes in goat tying, team roping and barrel racing. She wants to do that next year as she moves to the college ranks but knows she might need a little more horsepower for barrel racing.
“I really enjoy roping,” she said. “That’s my main thing, but I love to run barrels. I just don’t have a horse right now to get me to the ProRodeo events. I can run off my roping horse, and Larry can pull it off. But to compete at that level, you need a really good horse.”
Larry has been a good horse and one Kirbee has leaned on most of her life. In fact, they’re nearly the same age – the palomino gelding is just a few years younger, in fact – and he’s been the driving force behind all her titles.
“He can do everything, but he’s just my breakaway and barrel horse right now,” she said. “Pedro, my brother’s horse, is my heel horse and my goat horse, and he works pretty well.
“You have to have a good horse to compete in rodeo, and you have to be a good horseman. That’s one of the things we work on every day.”
That seems to be a common theme for Spire. But that’s why she owns a lot of titles already; it’s also why she wants to win many more, especially with college rodeo directly in her sights.
“I know a lot of people that have gone on to rodeo in college, and they’ve helped me like my family has helped me,” she said. “You can get a full ride on rodeo if you find the right coach and the right school if they really want you.”
Now comes Kirbee Spire’s time to make her work pay off. A win at the American Royal Invitational Youth Rodeo will go a long way in drawing the right coach’s attention.