Kylie McLean and Megan Gunter hauled $128,500 out of the $750,000 Women’s Rodeo World Championship, which played out in May at the world-famous Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth. The cowgirl besties were thrilled to take the Showdown and Triple Crown of Rodeo Rounds at event’s end with salty 7.02- and 6.65-second runs, respectively. And as is almost always the case, they gave most of the credit to their horses.
McLean’s a 5+ roper who now lives in San Tan Valley, Arizona. She trains rope horses for a living, and rode her 11-year-old bay-roan head horse Red Cloud—who’s registered name is Jackie Lee Valentine—at the WRWC, where she won $63,400 heading for Gunter.
“His name is Red Cloud, because he’s a fierce warrior,” Kylie said. “I saw him on Facebook, and bought him sight unseen. He has Hancock on his papers six times. When I reached out to the girl from Texas who was selling him, she told me he was kind of a renegade. Her granddad had ridden him in the feed yard, and she was selling him because she was pregnant.”
Red Cloud was green as grass when McLean bought him in the fall of 2019.
“He wanted to be a good head horse from day one,” Kylie said. “He would always just pin his ears and run to a cow, and he has so much natural rate. I ride really aggressively, and I love how he scores, runs hard to my spot, then rates. He’s not going to go by.
“Red Cloud worked amazing in Fort Worth. Those boxes at Cowtown are tight, and he walked in there so quiet, then blasted out of there. The best thing I love about Red Cloud is he’s a winner, and never gets in your way of winning—ever.”
McLean is partners with Roger and Sheryl Sorenson in Bar Diamond Quality Performance Horses, and ropes every day. She swears she’ll never take a horse like Red Cloud for granted, especially since an injury sent him to the sidelines a year ago.
“Red Cloud tore the deep digital flexor tendon in his back left leg below the ankle in June 2021,” Kylie said. “I tried to get him ready for the Title Fights in February (2022), but he was a tad off. Before the WRWC in May, I hadn’t roped a steer on him since the NTR Finals the first part of March. I loped him all of April, and Hailey Shaffer swam him for a couple weeks before we left for Fort Worth. I roped four steers on him, and away we went.”
In his time of need, Red Cloud was under the care of Dr. Mike Sorum at Sorum Veterinary Services in Scottsdale.
“Having Red Cloud back is better than Christmas,” Kylie said. “We gave him a lot of time off to get him healed, then his stifles, hocks and SI joints were sore from compensating for the deep flexor injury.
“Red Cloud’s a naughty boy. He’s a spoiled rotten little brat, and he bites. I say he’s like my weiner dog, Millie, only horse size. Red Cloud’s an alligator. He was so mad when he got hurt and saw us pulling out with the trailer to go jackpotting. I finally started hauling him to the ropings even when I couldn’t ride him. He’s got a personality like you can’t believe.”
The cherry on top of their bountiful win was winning it together.
“When you get to win with your best friend, it’s just so much cooler,” Kylie said. “We all live on the East side in San Tan Valley in the wintertime. We practice, hang out, jackpot and eat dinner together all the time.”
Gunter lives in McCammon, Idaho, and snowbirds in San Tan Valley in the wintertime. Including her heeling win with McLean and heading for Kim Grubbs, Megan dragged $65,200 out of the WRWC. She roped both ends on her old faithful bay horse, Crop, who’s 21. His registered name is Hesa Smart Pep.
“Crop’s an old timer, and I was thinking about retiring him when he got a little sore last fall,” said Gunter, who’s an insurance adjuster by trade and a 6 roper. “I turned him out last fall for five months, and every time I’d leave with my good head horse, Kelso, Crop would be doing hot laps around the pasture wanting to go. So I put shoes on him in January, and have been riding him ever since.”
The timing of returning to Crop was not coincidental to Kelso getting hurt in February.
“The first vet’s opinion was that Kelso tore the collateral ligament off of his knee,” Megan said. “I was warming him up at the Buckeye World Series, and after drawing some hard-running steers had him looked at. They found bone spurs in his right knee. But they said they can’t do anything about it, because he has arthritis in that knee and it’ll do more harm than good.
“We’re expecting Kelso to be back. I’ve started exercising him. Meanwhile, Crop’s really been coming through for me. I used to breakaway on Crop, too. I started riding him my sophomore year in high school in 2010, so have ridden him 12 years now. I made the high school and college finals breakaway roping and heading on him. Crop came from my grandpa (Jan Price), so that’s special to me, too.”
How big a deal was the win with McLean in May?
“It was enormous,” Megan said. “In the past, unless you were from Texas there weren’t huge events for women to go to. You’d have to either wear out your truck and trailer or move there. It’s just incredible how the WCRA (World Champions Rodeo Alliance) and PBR (Professional Bull Riders) are looking out for us women. I thank them, and I thank Crop for always giving me his all. He’s nothing flashy to look at, but he’s a warrior and he never makes a mistake.”