Rookie Kolby Krieger Picks Up 8-Time World Champ Rich Skelton for Summer Battle
Kolby Krieger heading a steer for Rich Skelton at Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 2023.
Krieger and Skelton in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Avid Visual Imagery photo.

Resistol Rookie Kolby Krieger has gone from one of the lowest points of his roping career in early 2023 to a new chapter with partner and eight-time World Champion Rich Skelton.

Currently sitting No. 4 in the Resistol Rookie heading standings with $10,204 in earnings, the 21-year-old started 2023 in Stephenville, Texas, shoeing horses and jackpotting every chance he got. Krieger was roping with fellow rookie and Jr. Ironman Champ Bo Yaussi. But Krieger felt like he wasn’t holding up his end of the partnership, so they went separate ways.   

“I didn’t have enough horsepower,” Krieger said. “I had one horse; I wasn’t getting to practice much because I was shoeing horses for every dollar, and Bo was having to go other places to practice. I didn’t feel like I was on the top of my game.”

Krieger said his lowest point came around April. Some missed steers on top of the strain of shoeing horses for a living was beginning to compound.

“I have always been a believer in God, and I was praying hard every night,” Krieger said. “I was going broke in the spring. I was struggling as bad as you could struggle.”

Listen to Kolby Krieger on The Short Score podcast.

Kolby Krieger shifts his fate

Things began to change for Krieger when he was without a partner for Rodeo Corpus Christi in late April. While scanning the list, he saw Skelton was without a partner, too.

“He was my top pick, so I called him,” Krieger said. “I’d roped with Boogie Ray last summer, so Rich asked him a little bit about me. Rich told me if I wanted to rope, he’d go with me.”

Krieger passed Skelton’s pseudo-background check, and the pair roped in Corpus together. From there, Skelton invited Krieger to move to his place in Llano, Texas.

“It was a big choice to move to Llano, because I had a full clientele of horses to shoe in Stephenville,” Krieger said. “For me to go where I didn’t have any horses to shoe, which was how I made my living, it was a hard decision to make. But when I got to Rich’s I thought ‘Wow, maybe this is where it gets better.’”

A whole new world of roping

Skelton went on an eight-year team roping world championship winning streak with header Speed Williams from 1997–2004. He considers himself old-school, and he thinks the kids nowadays throw their ropes too fast instead of focusing on catching every single one.

“I like roping with kids because they’re very energetic,” Skelton said. “It’s pretty interesting to watch Kolby rope and see how much the times have changed. He has an unbelievable amount of ability with a rope. He can head, heel, rope calves, and I’ve taken him to a bunch of clinics with me and he turns every steer. He’s good to be around people, he wants to get along and he wants to get better.”

One of the biggest changes for Krieger when he arrived at Skelton’s was the abrupt end to daily jackpot hauling. Krieger had been skipping meals in Stephenville so he could afford to enter and maybe win a buck—but at Skelton’s place, you didn’t go rodeo until you were prepared to win a nice check.

“Rich is big on being ready at the house—and he knows what to be ready for,” Krieger said. “I just wanted to rope. But to come down here and get prepared, and you’re not [jackpotting] everyday, but then you rope good when you do go, and you’re like ‘huh, maybe there is something to this.’”

Krieger praised Skelton’s mentality too, saying the rodeo veteran is great at breaking down runs and mistakes while also keeping a positive outlook.

“I can be really hard on myself,” Krieger said. “It’s been pretty cool that he always has my back.”

Kolby Krieger’s Horsepower

Krieger’s ProRodeo mount has been “Trixie,” a 6-year-old mare registered as Trixies Zan Parr Bar (Harrys Zan Tari Bar x Blue Eyed Trixie x A Skip For Sure) he originally purchased to season and sell. When he was without another head horse, Trixie became the entire first string.

“The fifth rodeo I ever took her to was the 2022 Denver Qualifier,” Krieger said. “And Bo Yaussi and I were fortunate enough to win both rounds and the average. She still has some spots where she’s green, but she’s really laid back. She’s not in a hurry, and I really have to focus on keeping her freed up.”

Hanging around Skelton has come with some new horsepower too. Skelton works with Gary McKinney of Reliance Ranches, and after watching Krieger rope, McKinney is setting him up with some Reliance Ranch rope horses.

“They’re a completely different animal than I ever set foot on,” Krieger said. “I’ll be using them for longer scores and setups where you use a horse more. I’m very grateful for Mr. McKinney.”

Krieger and Skelton have begun to find their rhythm together in the roping pen. They picked up a check at the Coleman PRCA Rodeo in Texas and finished No. 2 at the Big Spring Cowboy Reunion and Rodeo in Texas, winning $2,463 a man. Over the Fourth of July, the pair are sticking close to Central Texas and amateur rodeoing in CPRA and UPRA rodeos while they get some horses lined out.

Skelton has convinced Krieger to rodeo on the Texas circuit during 2023, setting the two of them up to get into the winter rodeos next year.

Despite the challenges and changes Krieger has experienced in the last six months, he voiced his gratitude for his family, friends and sponsors for their support.

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