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Kaye­len Hel­ton

Kaye­len Hel­ton be­gan turn­ing heads in the arena more than a decade ago when she won back-to-back Texas High School Rodeo As­so­ci­a­tion break­away cham­pi­onships. She’s since set her­self apart as one of the top fe­male head­ers in the jack­pot ranks. Hel­ton, who at­tended Stephenville, Texas-based Tar­leton State Univer­sity for her un­der­grad­u­ate and mas­ter’s de­grees, is now a li­censed pro­fes­sional coun­selor who works with chil­dren at Hood County Coun­sel­ing Cen­ter in Gran­bury, Texas. as told to Chelsea Shaf­fer

Q: When did you de­cide you wanted to be a coun­selor?

A: I went to col­lege as a busi­ness ma­jor, and it was re­ally bor­ing to me. Busi­ness was so repet­i­tive. I’d al­ways been the per­son my friends went to when they had a prob­lem. I love to peo­ple watch, and I love to an­a­lyze peo­ple. I never

thought I would work with kids, but now I love kids.

Q: Why do you like work­ing with kids?

A: Kids don’t tell you what you want to hear. They say the hon­est truth, good or bad. I like the hon­est truth. Some­times I’m the only hug they get all day. They can’t help their sit­u­a­tions, so I can be here for them.

Q: Are there any men­tal strate­gies you bor­row from your rop­ing ca­reer to use in your prac­tice?

A: I try to have short-term mem­ory.

If I make a bad run, I have to let it go. Some­times, when I have a re­ally hard case, we’re told to never take it home. I strug­gle with that be­cause I worry about the kids. I try to go home and be home for me. I try to have short-term mem­ory to not bring my work home. There are nights I go home and cry. I’ve had some re­ally rough cases this year. Rop­ing is my es­cape from work, and work is my es­cape from rop­ing.

Q: How did you get into team rop­ing in the first place? My dad rodeoed, but he wasn’t rodeo­ing when I was lit­tle. I al­ways told him I wanted a horse. He fi­nally got me a horse, and I did play days and stuff like that—all the events, bar­rel rac­ing, even. I de­cided I wanted to rope one day, so he started teach­ing me when I was about 10 years old. I started break­away rop­ing. Then Jayme Mar­cum helped me a whole bunch, and I taught my­self to rope steers a few years later. I just de­cided I wanted to do it one day. Q: Do you ride horses you train your­self? A: I make most of my own horses. I like it be­cause I can fin­ish them the way I want to. They know me and I know the moves they’ll make be­cause I put them there. Grow­ing up I al­ways had fin­ished, solid horses, but the last three I’ve had, I’ve made. It’s a lot of work. My fam­ily and Sean Var­gas taught me a lot about horse train­ing. My dad re­ally taught me on the calf horses, and Shawn on the head horses. I like one with a big mo­tor, one that gets ex­cited when they see a cow, one you don’t have to ask to run. I like them broke, but not re­ally su­per-broke, be­cause some­times I don’t ride as well as I should.

Q: You live in Stephenville, con­sid­ered by many as the Team Rop­ing Cap­i­tal of the World. <RX

A: I’ve been there 11 years. I have nine acres, an arena and two barns and a brick house. I moved to my place as a fresh­man in col­lege and I stayed. I love it here. It’s a good lit­tle place.

Q: <RX You just sold a horse to a PRCA cow­boy, didn't you?

A: Yes, I did, to Chase Wi­ley. That was the hard­est thing I’ve ever done. Her name is Sugar (reg­is­tered with the AQHA as Va Va Via), and she’s 13 this year. When I got her, they were heel­ing on her, and she wasn’t very good to heel on. I played with her and thought she’d make a nice head horse. She did a lot of things I re­ally liked, she just needed to know what she was sup­posed to do. A good friend of mine had her, and he said if I wanted her I could have her. I worked with her for three weeks and took her to two rop­ings and won sec­ond at one and third at the other one. She was still su­per green, but she worked great. She had quirks—she’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. She was re­ally scared of a lot of things, but we learned to trust each other.

Q: Do you heel of­ten?

A: I used to heel a lot, and then I de­cided I wanted to be one of the top fe­male head­ers. I’m a big goal per­son. I set goals for clients and set goals for my­self. And I don’t like not achiev­ing them.

Q: How im­por­tant is it for you to set an ex­am­ple for yound girls who want to team rope?

A: I just think—there’s not a lot of us. All those younger girls need peo­ple to look up to. They want to see us rope with the guys. Maybe 6s are as high as we get, but that’s like a 9 for a woman in team rop­ing. I want to work hard and let girls see they can too. I give a lot of break­away and head­ing lessons to young girls, and I try to set a good ex­am­ple and give them some­thing to work to­ward.

Q: What's been the big­gest ad­ver­sity you've had to over­come in team rop­ing?

A: My shoul­der surgery last year has re­ally caused a lot of prob­lems. In Novem­ber 2015, I did some­thing to it rop­ing. I tried to go to Ve­gas and didn’t have enough strength in it. I had bad bur­si­tis, ten­donitis and I was bone on bone. I had a tear in the labrum and a tear in the ro­ta­tor cuff, and my bi­cep wasn’t in good shape. We did two in­jec­tions and 16 weeks of phys­i­cal ther­apy. I would be swing­ing and lose all feel­ing in my arm and wouldn’t be able to move it. Af­ter five or six months of bad pain, I de­cided to have surgery in June 2016. So they left the tears—they didn’t fix those. They wanted to start with one thing so they shaved the bone off in my shoul­der so noth­ing touches. They did re­con­struc­tive cleanup of the bur­si­tis and ten­donitis. I won the first rop­ing back I en­tered, but I came back too soon. It’s cre­ated bad habits with my rop­ing be­cause I’m try­ing to off­set the pain. A year later, I’m still fight­ing things with it. It’s bet­ter than it was. That’s some­thing I’ve re­ally had to deal with lately. I don’t have the range I used to have and the power I used to have, and es­pe­cially to be able to pick my first swing up. I haven’t taken it very well.

Q: Who are your he­roes?

A: My two best friends—JJ Hamp­ton and Jayme Mar­cum. I’ve al­ways looked up to them. n


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