Kelsey Yates Memorial Barrel Race

By Jim Honeycutt

Kelsey Jordan Wimberly Yates passed away on July 16, 2019 when an automobile accident took her precious life.  She was a remarkable young woman who was quite an achiever. She was a loving wife, a daughter and sister, an animal lover, a horse trainer, barrel racer, EMT, and a medic.

Kelsey was well-known and respected in the barrel racing world. Blue Creek Arena sponsored a memorial barrel race on November 2, 2019 to honor her life and to create a scholarship to fund the academics for a young person seeking an EMT position. Over $9,000 was raised by the barrel race and donated by Blue Creek Arena for the scholarship this year. Plans are for the arena to host an annual memorial barrel race to honor Kelsey. 

Kelsey was born March 5, 1996, the daughter of Jody and Lore Wimberly.  From the time she could walk, she rode a stick horse using chairs in the house for barrels. 

She was given her first barrel pony, Pepper, on her fifth birthday, along with a deep seated saddle. The two won many buckles and awards together.  She rode Pepper everywhere, helping her Dad check fences and moving cows.  She could tell him which cows needed doctoring, which ones had a new calf, and which ones were getting close to calving. 

At age nine she decided to trick ride and began practicing on Pepper in the yard. She was determined to succeed, so her parents engaged a family friend to help her learn.  She was given two horses to practice with – Blue Boy and Rooster. 
Rooster became her go-to mount when she began to entertain for the local rodeos.  She was so accomplished that she was invited to perform at an IPRA show in Springfield, Tenn.  She was quite a success and the crowd loved her ability to hang upside down on Rooster.  She had an ability to entertain and she could wow a crowd with her speed and grace – hanging upside down or standing tall with the American Flag. She performed at shows in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

When she had mastered the skills of trick riding, she decided to try barrel racing again.  When she asked her Dad about barrel racing, he told her there was a pasture full of horses, and he wasn’t buying another one.  She would just have to pick one and go with it! She selected a horse she called Houdini, who had been given to her Dad after his own horse had to be put down due to a leg injury.  Houdini was not the largest of the herd, but had a huge “motor.” He had speed, but Kelsey thought he was a little crazy.  She began working with him in the pasture, and with his curiosity and her attention to him, they soon partnered to become a formidable team. She began traveling to barrel races with a good friend, beginning an incredible journey with a free horse to earn money and prizes doing what she loved.

Kelsey also mastered the ability to throw a rope.  She began helping her Dad catch cattle for people.  Weekends saw her barrel racing and weekdays she and Houdini were a cow catching team. 

She and her Dad once hauled to an old man’s house to catch a cow that he couldn’t catch.  She saddled her horse and got her rope.  The old guy asked her Dad what she was going to do with that.  Her dad told him to “just watch.”  She headed out at a full run, caught, and dallied the cow.  The old guy apologized; he had learned that she wasn’t just a pretty face, but that she was the real deal.  Anytime anyone needed a cow caught, she was ready for the challenge.

Kelsey’s ability to work with horses was amazing, and she soon was asked to break and train horses for other people.  She earned extra money riding and working a part time job – and continuing to barrel race.  After high school, she decided college was not for her, so she continued to barrel race, riding for other people, and taking a job managing a feed store. 

Later, she developed a new dream/goal: she wanted to become an EMT. She achieved her goal and became an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician.  She loved being a First Responder and encouraged others to that profession. Her strength was her ability to remain calm in stressful situations and make her patients feel at ease.

Her next goal was to learn to fly, which she also accomplished, and her love of flying led her to become a flight medic.  She had just been accepted into that school when she had her tragic auto accident. 

The world lost a very special person on July 16, 2019.  But she will be remembered by those who knew her when her memorial barrel race is held each year.

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