Texas Tech University

Mailbag: How and Why We Ranch Horse

Allen Ramsey

April 28, 2023

Ranch Horse Team

In case you were curious, we build champions around here.

Welcome back to the Mailbag. 

Earlier this week we told you all about Texas Tech University's Ranch Horse Team and its impressive set of wins at the National Intercollegiate Ranch and Stock Horse Association (NIRSHA) national championships in Amarillo. 

These fine students won a team national championship and a whole slew of individual titles, adding to the impressive resume of championships in the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources

Like many of our loyal readers, we were proud of our team but also a little curious as to how exactly you ranch horse in a competitive nature.

Lucky for us – and you for that matter – we have a few contacts who are more than willing to answer those questions for us. 

And not only did we find out how you ranch horse, we found out a lot more about why this competition exists in the first place and why bringing home all these honors was extra special this year. 

Our first set of questions went out to Teghan Brooks. 

Kris Wilson Award

Here's what she had to say:

“A ranch horse competition is composed of four different events: reining, cow, pleasure, and trail,” she explained. “The collegiate competition is divided into three different divisions: non pro, limited non pro, and novice. Each school selects two riders from each division to compose their points team – the group competing for the team national title. 

“The reining class is made to evaluate certain maneuvers including stops, spins, circles, lead changes and run downs in a standard pattern. The cow class demonstrates a horse and rider's ability to control the movement of a single cow. The pleasure class shows how well a horse travels within each gait that might be used on a ranch. The trail class is composed of many obstacles a horse may encounter while working on a ranch.”

Naturally, after we understood a little more about how the competition worked – and we realized just how much there was to it – we asked Teghan to explain how our competitors go about getting ready for the competition. 

Kris Wilson Award

“Prior to the show, I ride almost every day for about two hours,” she said. “Each day I try to work on each different event, especially in areas that I might need additional help. 

“At the show, preparation looks a little different. We really have to focus not only on our physical game, but our mental game as well. Before each show day we get up super early and ride our horses in the arenas during our designated practice times (3–5 a.m.). Mental game is crucial at these shows. 

“You can have the best horse out there, but if your mental game is not up to par, it won't go your way. There are many distractions and emotions going on during these shows and it's really important to keep your head in the game. Everyone's mental game is different, but I personally lean very heavily on my teammates and coach. Before walking into the show pen, I ask Justin (Stanton, the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team coach) for any advice he has to give, and I talk through my game plan with my teammates.”

Now, we can't be sure how this struck all of you, but it dawned on us that being in the arena riding at 3 a.m. probably doesn't mean rolling out of bed at 2:59. Hopefully Teghan and her teammates managed to get a little rest along the way. 

It's a testament to the character and dedication of these competitors. And this is no small team. Check out this roster!

  • Ali Norcutt, Fullon, Nevada 
  • Bree Westbrook, Burkburnett 
  • Caroline Phelps, Fort Worth 
  • Carrol Hetzel, Brownwood 
  • Ethan Smith, Floydada 
  • Evan Means, Valentine 
  • Iris Baker, Dripping Springs 
  • Jaci Brown, Stratford 
  • J'cee Petty, Adrian 
  • Jessie Herbst, Lampasas 
  • Jordan Cheek, Hico 
  • Kolton Wink, Post 
  • Maddie Riley, Richards 
  • Madeline St John, Fort Worth 
  • Madi Ross, Imlay City, Michigan 
  • Mary Roccaforte, Conroe 
  • Margaret Smith, Panhandle
  • Sarah Garner, Azle 
  • Teghan Brooks, Wolfforth 
  • Claire Nichols, Henderson 
  • Tylor Todd, Rexford, Kansas 
  • Sophia Patino, Santa Maria, California 
  • Charlie Killingsworth, Manhattan, Kansas 
  • Henry Birdwell, Aledo 
  • Trail Townsend, Earth 
  • Collin Ochsner, Kersey, Colorado 
  • Conner Cowdrey, Millsap 
  • Tori Underwood, Miami 
  • Kacy Maurer, Evant 
  • Lakayla Phillips, Lone Oak 
  • Colby Britten, Amarillo 
  • Kenadie Southard, Mansfield 

That is some team! Good thing we win horse trailers for national titles and (checks the record books) we've got just about enough of them to get our team to these competitions in style.  

You can find more details of how these competitors did in the release from earlier this week. We love highlighting all of them, but there was a reason we reached out to Teghan specifically.   

This year the NIRSHA handed out the Kris Wilson Top Hand Award for the first time. The individual winners across the three divisions are judged and the top performer is chosen for this special award.  

With Texas Tech sweeping the individual honors across the divisions, the inaugural Kris Wilson Top Hand award was coming to Texas Tech one way or another, and as you'll soon see, the inaugural award belongs here. Teghan was judged to be the winner this year, and we hope there will be many more Red Raiders winning this in the future, but for her to be the first was something special. 

You see, Kris Wilson is more than just a name on an award to Teghan. 

“Kris Wilson created the first ever ranch horse team here at Texas Tech in 2005,” she said. “He wanted to give college students an opportunity to show their ranch horses competitively and promote the ranching industry. This concept has now spread nationally, and many other colleges have created ranch horse teams to compete at the NIRSHA Championship Show. 

“To be chosen for this award is the greatest honor I have ever received. Growing up, I knew Kris and I really admired what he promoted. I will always keep this award close to my heart.” 

How, you ask, did Teghan know Kris? 

It's simple, Kris Willson worked with Chance Brooks, Teghan Brooks' father and the current chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, here at Texas Tech.

Now, we could spend many pages talking about Kris Wilson, and we sure plan to at some point. But for now, we're going to let Chance Brooks explain to you why this year's national championships are worth remembering here at Texas Tech. 

“National championships are always special, but this one is extra special,” he said. “Dr. Kris Wilson and I were colleagues when he was a faculty member in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. Kris shared his vision of a collegiate Ranch Horse competition with me many years ago. His goal was to create experiential learning opportunities for college students with ranch and stock horse interests. 

“Kris also loved to compete – to measure himself against the best and look for opportunities to separate himself from others. Kris knew the pressure of competition was a privilege.

“Team competitions give us the freedom to be the best version of ourselves while providing an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than our individual selves. In addition to learning, Kris wanted to create opportunities for students to represent their university and be the best version of themselves. It is an honor to see his vision materialize and for him to be recognized as the founder of intercollegiate Ranch Horse competition. 

“I am proud of Dr. Kris Wilson, the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team, and proud to be a Texas Tech Red Raider!”

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