Running full-speed in role as Miss Rodeo Wisconsin
BONDUEL - Katelin Bradley proved her adeptness in wearing multiple hats during Farm Technology Days in Algoma last week.
When not at the AgSource booth talking to people about soil sampling or products, she could be found in the equine arena helping with demonstrations, participating in the mounted shooting demonstrations put on by Mounted Justice or sharing a Mounted Justice horse with renowned horse trainer Dan Steers.
As 2017 Miss Rodeo Wisconsin, Bradley was pleased that she was able to draw more people to the AgSource booth, even if it was to talk about rodeos and her title.
Bradley, 22, a UW-Stevens Point graduate majoring in soil and land management, works as a Nutrient Management Plan Writer and Global Positioning Soil Sampling Technician for AgSource in Bonduel. After interning at AgSource for two summers, Bradley accepted a full-time position in January.
"So far my favorite part of the job is the variety. I get to do a multitude of things in a week and I am never bored," said Bradley. "The job keeps me really busy, but a good kind of busy."
Her days at AgSource might involve collecting soil and plant tissue samples for laboratory analysis, developing nutrient management plans based on test results and data collected on farms.
Her job at AgSource may keep her busy, but in January she also started her role as Miss Rodeo Wisconsin. So, add on traveling across the state to speak at 4-H meetings, or reading to children at a library, and performing in rodeos to her busy schedule.
Bradley said her reign as Miss Rodeo Wisconsin has been a little overwhelming at times, but in a good way.
"I feel like you can never have 'too many rodeos,' 'too many interviews,' or 'too many appearances.' I'm just trying to squeeze everything I possibly can into this year, because I'll never be able to do it again," said Bradley.
Bradley has had horses her entire life, riding before she could walk and competing at open horse shows by the age of 5, according to the Miss Rodeo Wisconsin website.
She has ridden many disciplines such as dressage and western pleasure, but it's barrel racing she loves the most because it's much harder than it looks.
"While the audience just sees a horse running around three cans, the riders have far more to think about. They have to have total control of their horse's body - the position of its head and neck, shoulders, rib cage, and hindquarters all affect how efficiently the horse will turn. It takes months and years of training for an equine athlete to master the art of staying totally soft and supple while running full-speed," Bradley explained. "Although it takes incredible precision and horsemanship to correctly train a top notch barrel horse, in the end your only judge is the clock. The clock never lies and it is always fair. It is an addictive sport."
Since she was young, Bradley has loved thoroughbreds and thoroughbred racing. She points to Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness and Belmont in 2005, who made her fall in love with the sport.
"He had so much heart and you could tell he really enjoyed running and wanted to win," Bradley recalled.
Each year in the United State, there are 20,000 thoroughbreds born, however, not all of them are successful at the track and may be unwanted after their racing days are over. Even though there are programs in place that encourage proper aftercare for these horses, many are shipped out and slaughtered, Bradley pointed out.
"I understand that horse slaughter is necessary, especially when some breeders are irresponsible and breed more than the market demands, but I hate to see thoroughbreds, horses that we've bred for centuries to be athletic, willing, and fast, shipped out on slaughter trucks," said Bradley. "How can we slaughter an animal that has worked so diligently for us for so long? It's like throwing away a piece of history."
Bradley wants to use her role as Miss Rodeo Wisconsin to promote the use of thoroughbreds in western events, to save these horses. And the best way to do that is to make people want them.
While many of the tall, sporty thoroughbreds may find second careers in English events, there is not a high demand for short, stocky, off-track-thoroughbreds (OTTBs). Their build is perfect for western events, but many riders have negative impressions of OTTBs, thinking they have bad habits, are high strung or not athletic enough.
However, after owning two such horses and competing successfully in western events, including barrel racing and cattle sorting, Bradley knew the stereotypes were wrong.
Turning to social media, Bradley created a Facebook page, The Western Thoroughbred.
"I have met westerns riders from across the country and the world that compete successfully on OTTBs," Bradley said. "The main goal of the page is to promote the versatility of OTTBs, so that the demand for horses coming off the track will be higher and less will be shipped to slaughter."
The page started slow, but now has almost 4,000 followers and has been featured twice in The BloodHorse, an international publication covering thoroughbred racing results and news.
"I hope to be able to dedicate more time to the page and promoting western OTTBs next year when I am not so busy," Bradley added.
Her busy schedule doesn't stop her from using her role as Miss Rodeo Wisconsin to support charities.
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeos often have performances with different themes. At rodeo performances dedicated to Tough Enough to Wear Pink, a nationwide campaign started by breast cancer survivor Terry Wheatley and PRCA commissioner Karl Stressman, a portion of the ticket sales for those performances are donated to breast cancer charities.
Cowboys, cowgirls and audience members wear pink to show their support for those affected by breast cancer. So far, the campaign has raised more than $12 million since it started in 2004.
Bradley recently participated in a performance where competitors wore purple to raise awareness for domestic violence.
"I really enjoy being a part of those performances," said Bradley. "The PRCA does a great job supporting local charities and raising awareness for good causes. Rodeo is truly a family-oriented sport that can bring communities together and I am proud to be a part of it."
Whether racing around barrels, collecting soil samples, supporting charities or helping with demos at Farm Technology Days, Bradley is running full speed, squeezing everything she can into her year as Miss Rodeo Wisconsin.