The Rodeo Life – Kelly Peebles

Kelly Peebles, 45, is one of the people who participate in the Gay Rodeo circuit without a horse. He competes in chute dogging, calf roping on foot, wild drag, goat dressing and steer decorating.

“Last year I was the chute-dogging world champion in the world gay rodeo finals,” he said. “Ironically, I’ve still not won a buckle in chute dogging. I just kept placing consistently at the top.”

Peebles grew up in Texas and now lives on a four-acre ranch in Belen, N.M., with his partner, Keith Holtzclaw. They have goats, llamas, two miniature horses and a Texas longhorn. His partner, a disabled veteran, also sometimes competes — and places — in calf roping on foot.

Peebles works in industrial construction and is a past president of NMGRA. He is now the division chair of the IGRA Rocky Mountain chapter and chairman of the animal issues committee.

“One of the things you can see at the rodeo is how we modify some of the events to be more humane for the animals,” he said. “For instance, in calf roping from horseback to break away roping … when the loop goes around the animal and is pulled tight, there is a little string that attaches the rope to the saddle, and that strings pops apart so the animal never jerks back or is hurt like you see in professional rodeos.”

Unlike the mainstream rodeos where cattle are jumped on from horseback in steer wrestling, Peebles said, IGRA has contestants race out of the chute on foot with the animal to avoid injury to the steers. He said they also are diligent about rotating cattle out at least every eight teams so the animals would have a rest. They also changed the steer riding to junior bull riding because they were getting steers that were too small for the contestants.

“Another good example of what we do,” he said, “was at the Colorado rodeo this year and they had calf roping on foot back-to-back with break-away roping, which uses the same calves. It was getting pretty hot, and so the arena director made the decision to switch team roping around with the break-away roping so that the calves would have a little bit of a break in between.”

Peebles, who has participated in the rodeos in many cities, said he loved the Kansas City rodeo. He has competed in a two-person team with Kami Boles, who is Miss IGRA 2012, on camp drag.

“The really, really cool thing about this is two years ago, … I was looking for a cowgirl to do it with me, since it can be a woman, it doesn’t have to be a man in drag,” Peebles said. “Then afterward I heard some guys in the campground putting girls down. They didn’t realize she was my partner. I didn’t say anything to her about that, but I did a little extra coaching with her because I knew it was her first time. And the next year Kami and I won a buckle in Kansas City.”

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