Riding and life lessons

Kathy Roseland was rounding the first barrel when it happened. Her horse lost its traction on the arena’s unusually hard-packed surface. Both Kathy and her horse pitched violently to the ground.

Usually in that situation, riders try to get away to avoid the horse’s sharp hooves. But Kathy’s situation was different — her lace-up boot got wedged between sections of the saddle.

“My horse, Handy, got up and I was just hanging there,” said Kathy, an executive assistant in the Crop Hail division at Grinnell Mutual. “Her reins got tangled and she and reared up. I was afraid that she was going to take off and I was going to be dragged behind her.”

Luckily, Kathy kept a cool head. She yelled, “Whoa!” and petted the horse’s back leg while hanging upside down from her saddle. People started running toward her.

“A friend of mine in the crowd told the people who ran up to help, to circle the horse slowly,” Kathy said. “It took two guys to get my foot away from the saddle. I was sore, but walked away.”

rodeo roots

Kathy grew up in a South Dakota family that was boots-deep into rodeos and rodeo competitions. Her childhood, however, offered challenges. She had a congenital hip condition and needed bone grafts. Her doctor suggested that riding could improve her condition by strengthening the muscles surrounding her hips.

She started riding when she was 5. When she was 16, her neighbor signed her up for her first rodeo, in the barrel-racing event, where riders circle three barrels as fast as possible. Her Dad didn’t think she was ready.

Turns out he was wrong. She won that rodeo and continued to do well, eventually qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo in 1982.

The hip issues came back to haunt Kathy (and more cropped up) and she eventually retired from barrel racing. Side note: She is now the proud owner of artificial hips and knees. She hadn’t competed in rodeos since 2000, but recently decided to buy a new horse and is testing the waters. If things go well this summer, her plan is to get involved with professional rodeos again with her new four-legged partner, Busta Run Irish, aka Dallas.

A family affair

Kathy’s whole family is heavily involved in rodeos. Her husband, Jason, competed for years as a steer wrestler and all four of their kids went to college on rodeo scholarships.

The Roseland’s son, Talon, is a steer wrestler going to college in Oklahoma and recently won his region, qualifying to compete in nationals. Kathy’s daughter Karsey also barrel races, and daughter McKenzie is getting back into roping. Even her 6-year-old granddaughter, Colbie, has been barrel-racing and participating in youth rodeos since she was 4.

Lessons from the rodeo

Kathy says rodeo has taught her kids responsibility.

“They had to get their stuff ready, be on time, and learn which tack to take and how to prepare it. We gave them advice, but they had to do their chores and take care of their horses themselves. And, they know that their horses are what got them there.”

Another lesson offered by the sport, she says, is that you can trust that other people will stand by you.

“Everyone helps everyone. The kids’ rodeo friends are the ones they stick with. If you need help, those friends will be there and have your back.

“It’s about the people you interact with – they’re honest, they’re good, they work hard.”

Risks and rewards

A final takeaway goes back to that incident in the arena, years ago, when she fell. She acknowledges that it might seem unusual for someone in the insurance industry — a risk-averse business — to participate in something some people would consider dangerous.

But, she says, risk is all around us. People get hurt playing basketball, or snowmobiling, or even just crossing the street. For her, this risk is worth taking. She’s put in her time learning how to be smart about the risks and how to mitigate them as much as possible.

And at least, she says, “if something bad happens in the arena, I’ll be doing something I really care about.”

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