A wish for a pony as a little girl has propelled Kaylea Weber, 14, to a championship win this year at the American Royal in Kansas City.
Weber, of Sedalia, a freshman at Sacred Heart School, began barrel racing five years ago, often traveling 8,000 to 10,000 miles a year to compete. She participated in the American Royal Invitational Youth Rodeo hosted Sept. 22 with Ought to Perk, a quarter horse, where she received the Grand Champion Barrel Racer award coming in at 15.584 seconds. She was awarded a belt buckle and a cash award.
Ought to Perk, or “Perky,” is owned by Sedalia equine trainer Maralee Dinsdale, who owns One More Time Arena.
“To qualify for the American Royal she actually had to be selected,” Tara Weber, her mother, said. “Last year she applied, then she was chosen to run in the slack. So, this year one of her goals was ‘I want to be chosen for the performance.’”
Kaylea, who is becoming a young business entrepreneur, said at the beginning of the year she sits down with her parents and they ask her what her goals are for racing.
“That was my No. 1 goal this year,” she added. “To make the performance, not necessarily to win, but I just wanted to, first of all, be able to compete there and I wanted to compete in the performance — the top 10.”
Applying for the American Royal isn’t easy, Kaylea noted. Applicants need to be well-rounded as a person.
“You have to enter your GPA, you have to answer a bunch of questions about your biggest accomplishments, what you like about rodeo, community service,” she said. “Not just as a barrel racer, but also as a person.”
“All those things lead into their decision whether to make the slack or the performance,” Nick Weber, Kaylea’s father, said. “You don’t make the performance just because you are the fastest barrel racer in the world, you make it because … you are good at school and community involvement.”
After her win, Kaylea said she was excited that people asked for her autograph.
“It was really fun,” Kaylea added.
Bringing her to a win was Perky, a mare that can be cantankerous, giving a rider a little nip now-and-then and sometimes proving stubborn. Although, Kaylea said, once she’s in the saddle Perky is all business. The two, an unlikely couple, work in tandem.
Tara said when Kaylea is at the gate she can feel Perky’s heartbeat.
“When we’re warming up, right when I get on her, she’s excited,” Kaylea noted. “After we warm up and we’re in there for awhile she gets settled down, but once we get into the warm-up pen she knows what she’s got to do. She just stands there and (her heart) gets faster, and faster, and faster. I can feel it in my legs, I can feel it in my hands …”
“I have to tell you that, as a trainer I make lots of matches, for horse and rider, what I think will work,” Dinsdale said. “I would have never matched these two. She’s only ridden five years and this mare is a very hard mare to run. She’s very powerful.”
Kaylea and Perky began their partnership because Dinsdale was injured recently and unable to ride the mare. She asked Kaylea to take over the reins. It worked.
“We put them together and it’s been a magic pair,” Dinsdale added.
The course to becoming a champion barrel racer began with a wish for a pony. Kaylea, at age 8, lived in a Sedalia subdivision with her parents and went on a boat poker run with her grandparents at Lake Ozark. She placed third and received $750. They asked her what she wanted to buy.
“I told everyone I was going to buy a pony,” she said smiling. “I was going to name it Sparkles, and my dad was like ‘no that’s not going to happen.”
Her dad soon changed his viewpoint, sold their home and bought a house in the country. The family’s waitress at Applebee’s, Nicole Silvey, owned horses and she began teaching Kaylea.
“She gave me lessons and then we bought Singer, who was Maralee’s horse,” Kaylea said. “Then Maralee started helping me.”
Kaylea now works with four horses, two of them hers and two Dinsdale’s. Riding for competition was never in her plans.
“I was a cheerleader,” she said. “I had no idea. I never thought I’d have mud on my boots all the time. It’s a different lifestyle.”
Kaylea is also becoming quite a business woman. She is gaining sponsors for her shows and has developed a tier system — third barrel, second barrel and first barrel.
“She’s become a little marketer,” her mother said. “She’s created herself a presentation and she’s gone around to local businesses.”
Many local businesses have sponsored her. She has six third barrel sponsors, nine second and six first barrel sponsors. For third barrel sponsors she posts their name on her Facebook videos, second barrel sponsors’ names are placed on social media and on her shirts, and third barrel sponsors are placed on a banner that hangs on the stall door or on the front of the trailer during shows. Their names are also on Kaylea’s shirt and put on social media.
Her father said there are more shows to travel to this year, one in Carthage and Topeka, Kansas. Next year will be busy too.
“The big plan, that I have, is that we go to Lincoln, Nebraska, to run in the Bonus Race Finals race,” Dinsdale said. “I have to say, she’s been a very professional little girl.”
For more information about Kaylea Weber and her barrel racing competitions, view her posts and videos on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kaylea.weber?fref=ts.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.