By Frank J. Buchman
Match that ‘just right’ horse with proven one of the very best college-age cowgirls in the world, and it’s a team to be reckoned wherever the competition arises.
“I’ve had several top horses, and have some good horses, but Pepper is sure one of the best. I’m really getting with her now. It always takes some time to become accustomed to the way a new horse works, and for her to understand that I ride different than somebody else who has ridden her before,” Katelyn Eike evaluated her barrel racing horse.
“Pepper ran a 12.6-seconds pattern to win the Iron Woman barrel racing jackpot recently. She really worked quite well. We’d been doing all right, did well in some fall rodeos, but I’m sure looking forward to the spring college rodeos,” said Eike, a member of the K-State Women’s Rodeo Team.
Ranking 14th in the women’s division barrel racing of the Central Plains Region of Kansas and Oklahoma after four fall rodeos sanctioned by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, Eike said she’s anxious for the spring series, of six rodeos kicking off this weekend on her home court, Weber Arena, Manhattan, with the 59th annual K-State Rodeo, February 20-21-22.
“I’ll be in barrel racing on Pepper, and I’m entered in breakaway roping on another horse, too. So, I’d really like do well in both events here at home, and then go ahead at the remainder of the region rodeos to qualify for the National College Finals Rodeo during June in Casper, Wyoming. I’ll have to end up in the top three of the yearend standings in an event to qualify, so I have a ways to go.
“I would like to have qualified for nationals last year as a freshman, but I just got my new mare a year ago in January, and we weren’t quite together in the barrel races at the spring college rodeos. So, I’m shooting even harder this time around,” said Eike, a sophomore studying animal science in the pre-veterinary medicine curriculum at K-State.
From Chatham, Illinois, Eike came to K-State with scholastic assistance in her prescribed career, but also received a Kansas State Rodeo Club Scholarship for the proven record in her best sport.
“Some of my family’s friends in Illinois had horses and got me riding when I was in kindergarten. Then, we started going to Illinois Junior Rodeos. I won several all-arounds, and qualified for the Wrangler Junior High Rodeo Finals every year I was eligible,” Eike related quite humbly.
Continuing to contest in goat tying, breakaway roping, team roping, pole bending and barrel racing, Eike was the all-around cowgirl in the Illinois High School Rodeo Association four years, being the high point rider in several events during that time.
“I competed every year at the National High School Rodeo Finals, made the short go-round my freshman year in poles, but everything never quite came together to do as well as I knew I could,” Eike said.
Her sorrel gelding called AJ that Eike had competed on at high school rodeos was permanently injured and retired. “I’ve borrowed my brother’s calf roping horse, an 11-year-old sorrel gelding called Chip, and he’s working out well for me now in breakaway roping,” Eike said.
Her brother, Kyle Eike is a freshman competing in the Illinois High School Rodeo Association in steer wrestling, calf roping and team roping. Ranked high in the standings at this time, he hopes to qualify for the National High School Rodeo Finals this year. “Kyle did really well last year, ending up 14th in the nation in steer wrestling,” Eike noted.
Still entering a number of events at amateur rodeos and certain jackpot competitions, Eike said, “I’m just focusing on barrels and breakaway roping at the college rodeos.”
Generally riding geldings in the past, Eike had some early-on issues with her barrel racing mare, but seems to have them worked out now.
“Pepper was having some follicle trouble last summer, but we have her on a prescription which stopped her cycle. She’s doing great,” the cowgirl said.
The 10-year-old, 15-2 hand, gray, Sun Frost mare had collected more than $50,000 in prize money barrel racing before the K-State cowgirl acquired her.
“Pepper is a one event horse, but she seems to be the one who could go all the way, if I can continue to do my part,” Eike said.
Active in the K-State Rodeo Club, Eike has taken leadership roles in planning for this weekend’s K-State Rodeo, and is anxious to assist in not only the club development, but also in helping build both the women’s and men’s rodeo teams.
“We have a good coach in Doug Muller, good practice facilities and stock. All of the cowgirls and cowboys have plenty of ability, and we could sure win some rodeos and qualify several team members for the college finals,” Eike stated.
Studies first, with rodeo close second in priorities; Eike is looking to her own successes in the college arenas, in addition to amateur rodeo and jackpot events, along with the possibility of professional rodeos somewhere down the line.
“I intend to do my best at the college rodeo level four years, get my degree in animal science, and go straight into vet school, graduating in 2022,” Eike said.
As one might expect, her veterinary practice will likely lean toward equine, specifically lameness and soundness. “There is a need for more sports medicine practitioners, and that’s sure what I think I’d like to do,” Eike said.
“Whatever direction my profession takes me, I’ll continue to compete in barrel racing, and maybe even some other rodeo events, too. I really love it all,” Eike verified.
First things, first. There are rodeo performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20-21-22, at K-State. “I have to get my horses ready and ride them right. They’ll do their part, as long as I do mine,” K-State Women’s Rodeo Team member, all-around cowgirl Katelyn Eike concluded.