For much of the last three years, I’ve been a regular contributor to Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official magazine of of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. I’m very fortunate to have met some outstanding women and tell their stories, and I plan to share some of them on TwisTED Rodeo. If you don’t subscribe to WPRN, you should consider it. You’ll be impressed by the passion involved.
WOMEN’S PRO RODEO NEWS, June 2011
Most 18-year-olds have aspirations about how their lives will turn out. Athletes dream of championships and competition and beating the best in the business.
Kassidy Dennison isn’t your typical 18-year-old cowgirl. Yes, she sees those stars most want to grab, and she’d love to play on the grandest stage in the sport, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. But if it’s possible, her visions are beyond gold buckles.
“I’m interested in showing our young kids to have a dream and to do something big,” said Dennison, a Native American cowgirl who lives on the edge of the Navajo Nation in Tohatchi, N.M. “It’s like Derrick Begay; he gave people out here on our reservation motivation. Derrick’s really talented, and he’s the first Navajo to qualify for the NFR.
“I want to give somebody a dream, then help them follow it.”
She’s well on her way after winning the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo the first weekend of May, collecting $3,945 in the process. She won the first round with a 17.38-second run, six-100ths of a second faster than second-place finisher Susan Kay Smith. Dennison was even faster in her second-round run during the Friday night, May 6, performance, but the 17.27 was second best to Kim Schulze’s 17.20.
“Just before Guymon, I was having a hard time,” Dennison said. “I wasn’t really placing, and my horse wasn’t really working that well, but I just kept at it. I believe God has this plan for me, so I’ll just keep working at it.”
Dennison is a home-schooled high school senior, raised and educated by her parents, Karl and Debra, both of whom have been around rodeo most of their lives. Debra Dennison is half-Scottish, half-Navajo, and Karl is full-blooded Navajo. Each of their three children – Kyle, Devyn and Kassidy – share that lineage and their passion for the sport of rodeo.
Kassidy Dennison is the youngest sibling, and she still competes in the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association. In fact, she had to trade places with another cowgirl in order to make her second-round run in the opening performance in Guymon; Dennison was in a high school rodeo in Gallup, N.M., starting Saturday morning.
That eight-hour drive toward home – Gallup is half an hour south of Tohatchi – was important. Dennison is focused on finishing her high school rodeo career on a high note; she wants to qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo this summer.
“I rode a different horse than I rode in Guymon, and I ended up winning second in barrels,” she said. “I didn’t do so well in breakaway.”
That’s not always the case. In fact, Dennison has earned five Indian National Finals Rodeo championships in her young career, the first of which was five years ago. She has earned four all-around titles and a barrel racing buckle.
Which leads us to 2011. Dennison turned 18, and she became a full-fledged member of the WPRA shortly thereafter. She travels the circuit with her 22-year-old sister, Devyn, who is on her WPRA permit.
“Since I’m going, my sister wants to give it a try,” Dennison said. “She’s been one of my biggest supporters. I know I wouldn’t have gone this far if it wasn’t for her.”
That’s true, but as any true rodeo hand will tell you, it takes a village to raise a champion. Her parents are in that mix, and so is her older brother, Kyle. Of course, none of it would be happening without Sierra Hall of Fame, her 5-year-old gelding out of La Ganadora by PESI Stallion Dash Ta Fame. Eagle is fast, but, as one might imagine, he’s green.
“When he’s on, he’s on,” Dennison said. “I got him last year in February. Dena Kirkpatrick found Eagle for me, and I was at her house all last year. I don’t even know how many months I stayed with her and worked with him. We really improved myself and him to where we are right now.
“Dena got me that opportunity. He was truly a blessing. He came from out of nowhere. I feel truly blessed to have him.”
Dennison realizes the talent she’s hauling, and she understands mistakes will be made. She’s figuring this will be a learning session, for her and her trusty mount.
“I realized we had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said. “This is both of our rookie years, and it’s the first time we’re rodeoing with the best girls. I’m going to look at every rodeo like it’s just another barrel race.
“I’ve really prepared myself to hit the road. I really want to succeed in this, so I’ve worked my way around and I’ve been meeting the right people to help me be successful.”
Success is measured in so many ways. For Dennison, it’s about reaching out to others, motivating them to live up to their potential and chasing their dreams.
“I want to make the NFR,” she said. “If I’m blessed to go that far, I plan on winning the NFR. I do want to go to college next year, and I want to get my degree in marketing. I’ll see where life takes me from there.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to be involved in rodeo. I’m doing it now so that, eventually, someone other than myself will see how interesting rodeo is. Maybe that can help grow rodeo out here on our reservation.”