Nebraska cowgirls overcome hardships together to win titles in college and high school rodeo | TheFencePost.com

Nebraska cowgirls overcome hardships together to win titles in college and high school rodeo

Heather Fryer
for Tri-State Livestock News

There were times the younger girl couldn't even see the goats' legs but that that didn't stop a pair of Nebraska sisters from endless practicing and eventually earning two major goat-tying championships in one day.

Chadron State College master's student, Shelby Winchell, took the Goat Tying Championship title at last week's College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. On the same day, at the Nebraska High School Rodeo finals, Libby Winchell, a senior at Scottsbluff High School, won the state goat tying title. The road to the winners' circle hasn't always been smooth, but the two champions couldn't be happier for one another, especially considering one of them nearly didn't make it there.

Four years ago, Libby suffered from optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve, causing pain and temporary vision loss. For almost a year and a half, Libby kept tying goats, mostly by feel, as she could see a figure but no details. Although optic neuritis still affects her, Libby's vision has returned and she always takes precaution to wear a helmet to ride.

"Her drive to overcome challenges and her 'nothing will stop me' attitude has been my biggest inspiration," Shelby said of her sister.

Shelby's mount, Hadley, is a 21-year old bulldogging and haze horse, retired from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

"Goat tying is his (Hadley's) retirement job and he loves it," she said of the gelding. Shelby's fastest time was 6.1 seconds. Her aggregate time was 25 seconds on four, with her other three runs consistent at 6.3 seconds.

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Rodeo is a big part of Shelby's life, but by no means the only thing she has going. As soon as the College National Finals Rodeo was finished, she returned home and prepared for the summer school course she's teaching.

Starting this fall, she'll be the new assistant rodeo coach to Marc Gilkerson at Sheridan College. Shelby plans to continue her rodeo career, training horses and teaching English. She will also offer goat tying clinics as she has for the past seven years. Shelby uses real-life examples to teach her students and she wants her pupils to know, "Everyone's potential is limitless. Never give up even when it gets hard."

No less busy than her older sister, Libby spends her time practicing for the National High School Finals Rodeo that will be July 17-23 in Gillette, Wyo. To prepare, she'll compete in upcoming local rodeos.

Blaze, her 17-year old gelding, started out running barrels, but when her goat tying horse was injured last year, she pointed Blaze toward a goat, and the rest is history. She practiced for just a couple of weeks before his foray into goat tying.

The sisters' parents, Mike and Shawna Winchell, have been a big part of their rodeo and life successes.

"Rodeo is a family event," Shawna said. "My parents work throughout the day and are always there to help us practice at night. We're a close-knit family and good friends." ❖