Sisters bond and grow through rodeo

Katelynn Westphal (left) and sister Lacey Westphal each have titles in 4-H Rodeo and will be passing on their current roles this summer. Courtesy photo

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect description of 4-H Rodeo Ambassador competitions. The competitions include an interview, speech and horsemanship.

As the 4-H Rodeo season gets busier, two Leola sisters prepare to pass on their titles while they reflect on their time in competition.

Katelynn Westphal, 15, and Lacey Westphal, 13, have each been involved in rodeo since they were two years old, joining 4-H a few years later.

The early interest resulted from exposure to horses at home and attending various rodeos with their parents.

Over the years the girls held numerous titles, particularly as ambassadors — a role open to both males and females requiring them to share information on local rodeo across the state.

Katelynn is the Glacial Lakes 4-H Rodeo Junior Ambassador as well as Junior Miss Aberdeen Rodeo and Lacey is the Hub Area 4-H Rodeo Junior Ambassador.

Both sisters were at one point Yankton Bullarama Princess – Katelynn 2011, Lacey 2012 – and Hub Area 4-H Rodeo Junior Ambassador – Katelynn 2015, Lacey current.

These titles and the competition against one another represent how the events and the sport have connected the two girls.

“Having my little sister in it with me pushes me to be better, I don’t want her to get the title over me,” Katelynn said. “It pushes me to work harder.”

With Lacey a couple years behind her sister, she too has appreciated having someone so close to build her competitive side.

“One of us always thinks we’re better than the other,” Lacey said.

The 4-H competitions each include an interview, speech and horsemanship. The Miss Aberdeen competition also involves a modeling portion to the event.

Although there have been some years in between without titles, their mother, Christi Westphal, said those were years in which the girls benefitted from rodeo in a different way.

“It’s a learning experience,” Christi said. “You never really lose because you’re always learning.”

This is something the girls have noticed as well.

“I’ve seen myself get better, especially as a rider and a competitor, through the years,” Lacey said.

The busy season for 4-H rodeo lasts from April to September, but the girls keep active year round through other activities. Katelynn is involved in cross country and volleyball. Lacey is in cross country, volleyball, basketball and track. Despite keeping such a full schedule, the two realize the opportunities rodeo has offered them that have lasted outside competitions.

“I’ve just enjoyed getting to know people I never would’ve met outside of rodeo,” Katelynn said.

As a mother, Christi has appreciated watching her daughters grow from their experiences.

“When they represent, they have a lot of little kids around, so it’s taught them how to be a good example not only for themselves but for their community as well,” she said.

Not only do the girls feel a special bond with one another and have grown together – they’ve also had their horses alongside them for the ride. They’re father started training their horses when the girls were young, and they’ve been able to help raise and train them over the years.

This is the case with Katelynn’s horse Bess, whom she’s had since she was little. She’s been riding this same horse for years, building a connection to her and even making her the subject of a speech given at one competition – which is the part of competitions she finds most difficult, she said.

Lacey will pass on her role as Hub Area 4-H Rodeo Junior Ambassador on July 8, and Katelynn passes on her title as Glacial Lakes 4-H Rodeo Junior Ambassador on Aug. 5 followed by passing on her title as Junior Miss Aberdeen Rodeo on Aug. 12.

While the sisters are unsure what’s to come in their time with rodeo, they appreciate looking back on what the experience has done for them.

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