By SALINA SIALEGA
Special to the Courier
Kelly Perkins is a Chino Valley cowgirl, born and raised. Younger cowgirls know her and look up to her because of her horsemanship abilities in barrel racing. And because she’s a winner in the arena.
But Kelly herself gives credit to God, to her husband and family, and to her quarter horse, Hot Shot, whom she says is “the most athletic horse I’ve ever had.”
Kelly barrel races as though there’s no tomorrow, and will compete this Saturday in the Ken McDaniel Memorial Rodeo at Old Home Manor, in conjunction with Chino Valley’s 19th annual First Territorial Capital Days. Rodeo-goers can watch her and Hot Shot go at it, rounding the barrels and racing to beat the clock. This girl is an athlete herself and trains all her own horses to barrel race.
“God has blessed me with the ability to do this and the drive to do this,” she said.
Kelly qualified in the top four in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) in the Turquoise Circuit and competed in Ft. Worth, Texas, in October 2004. She finished in the top 10 among about 35 competitors. She competes in the circuit throughout Arizona and New Mexico in barrel racing in the visional tours, which take place in conjunction with the all-girl rodeo in bronc riding, bull riding and team roping.
Kelly won the 2004 Ken McDaniel Memorial Rodeo barrel racing event here and says it was a well-run rodeo.
“She (producer Terri Beeson) did a really good job,” she said. “I hope she gets the support to continue it. So many people have horses, it seems like it should be a tradition for a town like Chino Valley.”
Kelly grew up riding and, at age 9, learned hunter jumping and dressage riding. She showed in the 4-H Club in Western and English riding. In addition, she had a winning example right at home – her mother, Pat, competed in barrel racing in college and on the pro circuit as a young woman. Her father, Tom, has worked in ranching and construction and Kelly also ropes with her husband Jason, with whom she owns and operates a local excavating business. She and Jason have a 7-year-old son, Bryce. They are all her support system.
“What keeps me going is the support of my family, my husband,” Kelly said. “If I’m going through a bad spell, not winning, they encourage me to keep going and keep trying.”
Kelly trains all her own horses, and seeing the horse’s improvement is satisfying to her.
“I love taking a horse, training him and making a good barrel horse,” Kelly said. “It’s so rewarding, even if you don’t win, to have your horse make progress in it. There’s pride in knowing you’ve trained him and can compete on him.”
To young barrel racers, Kelly says to take one step at a time, but have a goal. She recommends setting “little, achievable goals” and to attend local events for the experience. Then young riders should set major goals for the future, she says, such as competing on the WPRA level when they get older.
“You have to keep it in perspective to why you’re doing it,” she said.
Salina Sialega is managing editor of the Chino Valley Review.