Kelsey Love Thomas and Kit Kat Jerrie * Photo By Kylie Waters Photography

For the Love of the Horse

The announcer calls her name. She takes a deep breath while patting her horse’s neck and enters the arena like she does every time, calm and collected. She rides through the pattern with a natural and confident air. 

With a minute left on the clock, she takes her rope down and gets set to catch her steer.

Kelsey Love Thomas and Kit Kat Jerrie * Photo By Kylie Waters Photography

She swings twice. The rope cuts through the air. It slips over the steer’s head. She pulls her slack, dallies, and her horse slides to a stop. 

Kelsey Love Thomas won the senior class at a Ranch Horse Association of America (RHAA) sanctioned event in Ranger, Texas. 

Originally from California, she moved to Texas with her family to be in the “Kingdom of Horse Country” said Thomas.  “Horses are the sole reason that brought us here to Texas.”

The two-time World’s Greatest Horsewoman lives in Rising Star, Texas, with her husband, Buddy Love Thomas. 

“My favorite memory with her is the day we got married,” Buddy said with a smile. “That was a good day.” 

The Loves eloped on New Year’s Eve in 2016 while on a ski trip with friends. 

When they returned home, Kelsey received a yearling filly from Buddy as a wedding gift. This filly was the start of a business for the couple. 

Their goal has been to develop a breeding program, raise, train, and sell “fancy” ranch geldings, Kelsey said. 

Inspirational Figures

Throughout Kelsey’s career, she has met many people who have left an impact on her life, she said, and her husband is one of those people. 

“Buddy helps to keep me grounded and on track in and out of the arena,” she said. “Plus, he’s my best friend.” 

Tripp Townsend is another influence for Kelsey. During the 2008 Western Heritage Classic in Abilene, Texas, she was watching Townsend ride in the Ranch Horse Association of America (RHAA) finals. 

“I was watching him ride, and I thought ‘I want to do that,’” Thomas said. “He is a good showman and has a smooth ride. I want to be like that.” 

Hard Work’s Successes

This thought led Kelsey to start competing in ranch horse competitions. Throughout the years, she has been a five-time RHAA world champion, two-time Women’s Ranch Rodeo Association world champion, Ranch Cowgirls Rodeo Association world champion and a two-time National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Limited Open Bridle World Champion. 

Kelsey’s biggest accomplishment was winning World’s Greatest Horsewoman at the Art of the Cowgirl. She earned the title of World’s Greatest Horsewoman not just once in 2020 but for a second time in 2023. 

Photo By Kylie Waters Photography

“World’s Greatest Horsewoman is the ultimate goal,” Kelsey said. “It’s cool to be able to hit that goal for a second time.” 

Kelsey was able to accomplish her ultimate goal on the back of a good mare. Kit Kat Jerrie (Kit Kat Sugar x Jerries Dual Legacy x Smart Little Jerry), better known as Elvira, is the horse of choice for Thomas. 

“I wouldn’t have picked a different horse to win World’s Greatest Horsewoman,” she said. 

In her younger years, Kit Kat Jerrie had made the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Semi-Finals with Parke Greeson aboard.

Kelsey bought Elvira in May 2019 to bred her, but she had more heart than that. She’s proven that fact, with EquiStat earnings of $45,412 as of May 1, 2023.

“We got her to breed, but she turned out to be a good show horse,” Kelsey said. 

Young Gun

For four months, Kelsey trained Elvira in the bridle to prepare for the 2020 Art of the Cowgirl. 

“If you’re not practicing,” she said, “the person you’re trying to beat is.” 

Elvira was the youngest horse to compete at the 2020 World’s Greatest Horsewoman competition at the age of 5 and it was only her second time being shown down the fence. They clinched the championship despite those challenges.

By the 2023 World’s Greatest Horsewoman, Kelsey and Elvira had developed a strong bond with one another. 

“Extra time and connection are the keys to that strong relationship with your horse,” she said. 

Before the World’s Greatest Horsewoman 2023, Kelsey entered the Road to the Horse. In this competition, the competitor must start a colt in front of an audience and five judges. 

“Being in the Road to the Horse helped me break out of my comfort zone and learn to calm my nerves,” Thomas said. “I felt a lot calmer this year in the World’s Greatest Horsewoman.” 

Kelsey Love Thomas and Kit Kat Jerrie * Photo By Kylie Waters Photography

The pair was well prepared for this year’s competition. 

“Usually, when you win something more than once it’s not as exciting,” Kelsey said. “But, winning a second time was still just as rewarding because I accomplished my biggest goal.” 

Achieving this goal for a second time was a huge accomplishment for the pair. For them, it provided a reminder that sticking through the hard times and working every day was worth it. 

“It does get tough because there are days where you start to get burnt out,” Kelsey said. “When those days come, you just have to keep going and keep grinding.” 

With the show season starting back up, Kelsey has already set her goals for the future. Her biggest goal for the season is to return to the Art of the Cowgirl to fight for the World’s Greatest Horsewoman title. 

This season has also included qualifying for the RHAA National Finals with Elvira and on a junior horse, Thunderbird Love. The National Finals take place May 9-12 at the Taylor County Expo center in Abilene, Tx.