This week we are bringing it back home to the Show-Me State to talk to another Missouri titleholder! Please help us welcome Kaela (Hotlmeyer) Ryan, Miss Rodeo Missouri 2006 as our special guest this week!! Kaela talks about her year as Miss Rodeo Missouri, how the industry has changed since her reign, and how being a rodeo queen prepared her for life after the crown!
How did you get involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I became involved with the pageant because of my youngest brother Jack. Jack was born with Down Syndrome. We fought as a family to make sure that my brother would receive the same outlook on life as we did. With Jack dealing with Down Syndrome, he lagged in achieving the milestones other children surpassed. The doctors told us he would not be able to walk or talk as a normal child. As a family we began researching and located therapeutic riding. I have was heavily involved in the APHA and 4H, throughout my years in school and still currently showed in the APHA Association. It was crazy to think what we had been heavily involved in my whole life was also going to be Jack's secret to success. Living in a small area the closest one was over 45 mins away. With much due diligence we opened the Jackson Academy. We had many children in our area that could and did benefit from the riding program, but not many had an opportunity to utilize due to the costs of the lessons. At which point we decided to make it as free as possible. It is amazing being from a small community how much you pull together. We hosted a benefit rodeo each year to cover the cost of supplies and feed for the horses in the program, which ultimately made the costs for the rider nothing. This program brought me great joy to see the children overcome the trials and tribulations that they had been dealt with in life. Although, we wanted to involve the community more, so we added a rodeo pageant and planned to send the girls to state to represent our small community. With a mission in mind to not only support the greatest sport of all time I wanted to promote the awareness of disabilities and the benefits horses have to offer. So I ran for the title of Miss Rodeo Rhineland. During this time I took my knowledge of my background and invested it in my community to further flourish the dreams of younger girls and riders.
Why did you decide to compete for Miss Rodeo Missouri?
After conquering my first sought achievement, I didn't want to just stop the awareness and passion of the sport in just my community. I wanted to strive for more. There were so many out there that did not know the benefits horses could have in one person's life. I hit the books to continue to grow my knowledge of the PRCA to prepare me for the next hill I had to climb.
What was your favorite experience of being Miss Rodeo Missouri?
During my reign of Miss Rodeo Missouri, I had so many memorable experiences. It's not just about sitting in a saddle at a rodeo and waiving, it is much more. During the rodeo I was able to help assist with rounding cattle, running flags, and being part of skits, but most of all I had the opportunity to post our flag proudly. With this came the opportunity to travel throughout our great Show-Me State and meet many amazing, wonderful individuals. I had the opportunity to represent the sport of Rodeo during the Derby Days at the therapeutic center just outside of Kansas City with the KC Wolf, and attend the horse show at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Center in Columbia. My reign also allowed me to attend functions at Fort Leonardwood where I had the opportunity to meet Keith Urban and many outstanding Soldiers that risk their life every day for our freedom. I went to the Capitol and meet many of our Senators and was introduced onto the house floor as a guest during FFA week. But my duty and role did not just remain in Missouri. I had the amazing opportunity to meet the other state queens with traveling from San Antonio, Texas to Logandale, Nevada gaining friendships that will last a lifetime. With stops in between at Cheyenne, Wyoming for Grand Daddy of them all, partaking in interviews with ESPN and RFD-TV, these are just a few of the activities I experienced. I would love to write about each one. Every stop there was a new gained memory that I will forever cherish.
How did being Miss Rodeo Missouri and competing for Miss Rodeo America prepare you for life after the crown?
My reign as Miss Rodeo Missouri prepared me in many ways which words cannot express. I gained friendships that last a lifetime and memories that will never be forgotten. But most of all, it has given me the true meaning of the self-confidence that you can do anything for which you set in your mind and heart. Opportunities can truly be limitless. I believe without my reign, I would not be who I am today. It has made me strive for self-achievement so I will never settle.
What is one piece of advice your director, Sherrie Norris, gave you during your reign that you still remember to this day?
Sherrie and I went through a lot; she opened her home to me and I felt like family, she became my second mother and the glue that held it all together. She did an amazing job of making sure I was where I needed to be, when I needed to be there. Many times I traveled most of the week. For instance, one week we went from Cabool to Odessa and then shortly after I grabbed a plane for a rodeo out-of-state. There is no way I would have been able to do any of it without her. As we approached the Miss Rodeo America Pageant travel, preparation went into many sleepless nights. The biggest piece of advice she had given to me is: don't stop and continue to believe in yourself because you can achieve anything you want to set your mind and heart to achieve. People are not who define you, you are what defines you.
How do you feel the rodeo industry has changed since you were Miss Rodeo Missouri in 2006?
Since my reign as Miss Rodeo Missouri the biggest change is watching all of the new and amazing talent that has taken to this wonderful sport. Which I think is great. Since 2006, this sport continues to grow and so does the knowledge of those outside the sport.
What was the hardest part of preparing for the Miss Rodeo America Pageant?
The hardest part for me in preparing was the uncertainty of what they would ask. Without having a strong background in pageantry I utilized the information from my director and other queens. Also leading up to the pageant I knew that we would draw 2 horses, they would not be the same horse and that one pattern would be drawn and the other I would have to draw. We did not have the opportunity to work with this horse beforehand, so I tried to never take my own horse to a rodeo in order to make a point to use whatever the contractor would let me borrow. This broadened my ability to jump-on and learn in the flash. With the questions, I made sure that I studied and studied some more. The questions were not just pertaining to the rodeo association but also current events that were ongoing during this time. I made it my mission to do the best to represent our State well.
What was your goal going into the Miss Rodeo America Pageant?
My main goal as Miss Rodeo Missouri was to promote the sport of rodeo, promote therapeutic riding and enjoy the amazing opportunity I had been given.
If you could give just one tip or trick to someone who is just starting out in the rodeo queen world, what would it be?
You do not have to have a rodeo background to be able to compete. You just need to share the love of animals, agriculture and western tradition. Another tip I would give is do not let the world define you be YOURSELF, allow your fire and passion to shine brightly. So many times during my reign I had heard "I am from a small town, I will never win" or "I don't think I will learn enough to be able to do it." Girls, I am from a small town and had the same thoughts, but I set out to make my mark on the map, I strongly encourage you to do the same. Do not feel your role is just to sit and look the part, be the part. It is a once in a life-time opportunity and don't let it slip through your fingers. Never have doubt that you can't achieve it, because you can. I can't stress enough - I highly encourage all young women to compete in the rodeo pageantry. I wish I would have started sooner. The other piece, I would say, you will learn these items become your best friend; can of starch, make-up, hairspray, and carrying an on-the-road bag, plus investing in a good under eye cream because sleep is one thing you can do when your reign is over. Best of luck to all of you, you all are amazing in your own way.
Have you ever thought you couldn't be a rodeo queen because you didn't have a rodeo background? Well you can! Just because you don't come from that background doesn't mean you can't do it and Kaela is the perfect example of that. She had a drive and desire to be Miss Rodeo Missouri and that's exactly what she did. Kaela was a very successful Miss Rodeo Missouri and spent her year promoting the sport of rodeo and the PRCA to the best of her abilities and she came from a small town with no rodeo background. You can do it too!
Thank you Kaela for doing this interview with us! I of course loved getting to catch up with you some and even hear about your year again.
Until next week,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Photos Courtesy of Kaela Ryan