My journey began in Hobbs, NM, where as a little girl I often rode the pastures with my grandfather. One hot summer day as we were checking the peacefully grazing cattle, a swarm of grasshoppers flew under my horse Buttercup. Startled, Buttercup started bucking and suddenly, I was the star attraction at my first rodeo. Let’s just say I didn’t make it to the 8 second whistle. As I stood up and knocked the dust from my jeans, I heard the dreaded words, “Now, get back on Sissy and let’s ride back to the barn.”
I cried, I pleaded – I begged to walk back, but my grandfather’s resolve was unwavering. I’m sure he was struggling to control a smile as I rubbed my eyes dry and climbed back on my horse. I learned a valuable lesson that day about confronting fears and overcoming obstacles. However, I can’t fully say my love of bucking horses and rodeo began until my dad began his 10-year stint as chairman of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo—a job he still holds today.
My sister Kalee and I grew up in a loving, Godly home where hugs, encouraging words and “I love you’s” were freely shared. Our parents, Greg and Kala, supported our every dream from setting up lemonade stands and being our best customers, to sitting on the front row at our sports events and dance recitals, and hauling me to horse shows and rodeos across the state. At rodeos the queens mesmerized me, and by age 13 my dreams of being Miss Rodeo New Mexico and Miss Rodeo America were born.
When I was first crowned Miss Rodeo New Mexico, I had a preconceived notion of what my year would be like: traveling to rodeos and parades, riding in grand entries and making school visits. Yet, I had no idea the deep sense of gratitude and countless blessings I would receive. My travels have taken me from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the beaches of Florida with countless stop on I-10 at about every small town, I have proudly represented my great state at 17 rodeos and met many new friends and rodeo fans along the way. I learned to flip pancakes at the “Daddy of ‘Em All” and stood beside rodeo legends and heroes at the PRCA Hall of Fame inductions against a backdrop of the majestic Rockies in Colorado Springs.
An unexpected pleasure is travelling through airports wearing my sash and crown. I have experienced countless conversations about the sport of rodeo and my role as Miss Rodeo New Mexico and have even had to laugh out loud a few too many times when curious passengers eyed my hat can and asked if there was an animal inside. My most memorable experience as Miss Rodeo New Mexico took place in Florida at the RNCFR. During “free time” the state queens were challenged to complete a ropes course. The first event was a “catwalk” where we had to climb a ladder, followed by some poles and an attempt at the catwalk. I was terrified and didn’t want to do it, but I could hear my Granddaddy’s voice telling me to get back on, and knew I would have regrets if I didn’t try. So with all of the girls’ cheers of encouragement and support as I took each step, I realized the biggest blessing of my year has been the relationships I have built with not only the other state queens, but also the amazing volunteers and families who have graciously opened their homes and hearts and made me welcome.
Throughout my reign, my heart has been deeply invested in “Proverbs and Sashes”—a mentoring and fellowship organization that I started to equip girls in grades 6-12 with the tools and confidence they need to love themselves tenderly and live boldly. Because of my title I have been able to reach far more girls and am forever thankful for the lives being changed through the program. After the first event I overheard a little girl telling her mother it was everything she thought it would be and more. It was in that moment that I was reminded that this year is not about me – rather it’s about the opportunities I have as Miss Rodeo New Mexico to have an impact not only in the rodeo arena, but in so many different arenas of life.
There is much more excitement in the days ahead as I head for the New Mexico State Fair, Turquoise Circuit Finals and ultimately the Miss Rodeo America Pageant and WNFR. But no matter where I go, at the end of the day I’ll always stay true to the little girl raised in the Land of Enchantment because simply, “Mis raices estan aqui”—my roots are buried here.
~Kagan Massey, Miss Rodeo New Mexico