“You’ll be scared, but do it anyway,” says Kelsey “Love” Thomas, the 2023 World’s Greatest Horsewoman and Resistol athlete from Rising Star, Texas. “Not doing what makes you shake in your boots is what’s standing between you and your biggest dreams.”
Kelsey followed her own advice, leading her to big success during this year’s Art of the Cowgirl.
It’s the largest event for the handiest of cowgirls. It includes the All Women’s Ranch Rodeo Finals and the World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition, where contestants are judged in four events – reining, steer stopping, cutting, and down the fence.
“It was a dream week,” says Kelsey. Her ranch rodeo team was crowned the 2023 All Women’s Ranch Rodeo Champions, during which she won Top Hand. Atop her sorrel mare, Kit Kat Jerrie, known as Elvira, she broke the highest scoring down the fence record with a 153, earning the 2023 World’s Greatest Horsewoman title.
“I was patient, put her in position and let her have the steer,” says Kelsey on her record breaking down the fence run. “She did that fence turn herself. Then, we circled up. Chris Dawson talks about making sure you stay in your own lane when you’re circling. And that’s what I was trying to do – just stay in my own tracks and control the cow. It’s one of those things that falls into place. Everything just worked out great.”
This is their second time winning the World’s Greatest Horsewoman title. Their first victory was in 2020, the first time the competition was held.
Kelsey and her husband, Buddy, originally bought Elvira as a 4-year-old to be a broodmare.
In October of 2019, however, the husband-and-wife duo were invited to the Inaugural Cowboy Class Invitational at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity. Her husband showed another horse they owned, while Kelsey showed Elvira. It was Kelsey and Elvira’s first show together and the pair won the class.
During this time, the books for the first World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition opened and Kelsey entered.
“I had actually shown her that October in a snaffle, so I basically had three months to work on getting her straight up in a bridle.” A horse must be in a bridle with a spade bit and romals, per stipulation of World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition, a tribute to the history behind this event.
Their hard work paid off and the team won the title with entering their first show only a few months earlier.
“When I won it in 2020, I entered because I wanted to win a spot at World’s Greatest Horseman,” says Kelsey. “In my head, that was the prize. That’s why I did it.” Now, the Kelsey has watched the event triple in size over the four years it has taken place. Alongside the competition, Art of the Cowgirl promotes the western lifestyle through entertainment and artwork presentations. It is a celebration of cowgirls.