Kenzie Huffman competed at many of the top youth rodeos in the country during the 2012 season. Her schedule included stops in Lamar, Colo., Shawnee, Okla., Rock Springs, Wyo., and Pueblo, Colo. — for rodeos such as the Colorado High School Rodeo Association (CSHSRA) State Finals, the International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR), the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR), and the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo (NLBFR).
She saved her best for the last stop on the tour.
According to Kenzie, “Winning the NLBRA Senior Girls Barrel Racing World Champion title was my biggest accomplishment this year.” Running a close second for Huffman was being named the Rookie Cowgirl and All-Around Cowgirl for the CSHSRA. “The barrel racing at the NLBFR went well for me. The other rodeos were horrible,” she sighs.
After suffering some bad luck out-of-state, Huffman returned home to Colorado to compete for the buckles, saddles, scholarships and cash offered at the NLBFR.
While she achieved the most success in the barrel racing, she competed in other events as well during the week-long rodeo in Pueblo, Colo. “In addition to barrels, I qualified for the finals in pole bending, goat tying, and breakaway roping,” she explains. Competition in this many events requires several good horses. In Huffman’s trailer were Bugs, Hallie, Lizzy, and Doc.
Bugs is Kenzie’s barrel racing mount and works well according to Huffman. She explains how the duo came to be. “We picked this horse up from a couple in Colorado Springs,” she says. “Their daughter was going off to college, so they decided to sell. He’s a sorrel horse and kind of a pain. He open gates, unties himself, and gets into everything.”
Ellie, Huffman’s first-string pole horse, was unable to make the trip to the finals due to injury. “She tore her suspensory ligament,” explains Kenzie. She adds, “She got hurt right before the spring high school rodeos started. That was convenient.” The good news is the mare has made a full recovery and is ready for competition once again.
With Ellie recovering at home, Hallie became the go-to horse for the summer and the NLBFR. Huffman mentions this horse comes with a few quirks of her own. Without going into detail, she says, “She’s a good horse, she just picks and chooses when she wants to be bad.”
Lizzy is used by the Colorado cowgirl for the goat tying. The bay is Kenzie’s favorite, and according to Huffman, “I just love her.”
Doc partners with Kenzie for breakaway roping, but actually belongs to Clayton, Huffman’s older brother. Clayton uses the mare for team roping, but according to Kenzie, “He’s nice enough to let me use her too.”
These siblings and their horses, and remainder of the family, live about 10 miles south of Strasburg, Colo. Kenzie’s dad, Roger, and her mom, Megan, moved the clan there from the Texas Panhandle close to six years ago. “My dad works for a feed company and his job brought us here,” says Kenzie.
The 15-year-old is in her sophomore year at Strasburg High School, while Clayton, 17, is a senior there. Huffman once played on the school’s volleyball and basketball teams but now focuses all her energy on one sport - rodeo.
Her favorite subject is Math because it comes easier than some of her other studies. She doesn’t care for English or reading books. She says she just doesn’t have a lot of time for reading.
“I go to school each day, then come straight home to practice,” she says. “I spend a lot of time riding my horses, roping and tying goats.” Any free time she has is spent hanging out with friends and going to football games. “I like football,” she says. When asked if she likes football players, she quips, “Duh, I’m a teenage girl.”
When quizzed about any desire to compete in other rodeo events, Huffman doesn’t ponder the question too long. “Well, I don’t care for the rough stock events and I’m too small to steer wrestle. I already have plans to team rope this fall — so I guess I could take up calf roping.” When asked if she has ever tied a calf down, Huffman offers right back, “No. But I help my bother practice every night and I can untie one really fast. Does that count?”
No. It doesn’t. But running barrels really fast does and that’s what Kenzie did at the NLBFR. With, according to her, one exception. “My first run in Pueblo was 15.8 seconds and not real good. Bugs had trouble seeing the first barrel. We went into the short-go second in the average, then placed second in the round. With this, we were able to just win the average and that allowed us to win the world.”
At the conclusion of the rodeo, Kenzie was pretty sure she’d done well enough to win, but still a little nervous. “Mom and I waited a little while, then went to the office to check to see where I ended up. Heading there, I was confident but not too worked up.” Huffman thought it wise to make sure she’d won before spreading the good news. “I didn’t want to get all excited for nothing,” she shares. She then describes her feelings once she confirmed she was the champ. “I was excited and relieved once I knew I’d won.”
One thing Kenzie’s not afraid to share right away is her gratitude to those that have played a part in her success this year. “My mom and dad are who I owe the most,” she says with sincerity. “They take me everywhere and have helped out a lot.” She also expresses thanks again to her brother for his support and use of his horse.
Kenzie is also quick to mention a friend from the Panhandle, Dionne Vazey, who has played a key role in training her barrel horses. Another key horse connection is Laura Lambert from Fort Morgan, Colo. It was Lambert who helped Kenzie find Bugs when she was looking for a new barrel horse.
Another thank you goes out from Kenzie to Dr. Wade Shoemaker, D.V.M. Every serious cowgirl has a good vet on speed dial and Dr. Shoemaker’s been there for Huffman. “He’s helped out a lot,” she says.
As Kenzie looks toward the future, rodeo continues plays a large part. At this time at least, she’s considering heading back to Texas to continue her education beyond high school — perhaps competing for West Texas A & M. Regardless where she ends up, her involvement in high school and Little Britches Rodeo will allow her to be well prepared. ❖