Katey Jo Gordon IS the Ultimate Cowboy

Katey Jo Gordon grew up in Jal, New Mexico, and now makes her home in Comanche, Oklahoma, with her husband, Dylan. This 5+ header and 4 heeler—who turned 29 on Nov. 25—is a ranching, barrel racing, breakaway roping, team roping cowgirl supreme.

Q: I understand you come from a long line of cowboys.

A: I’m a fifth-generation rancher. It’s in my blood, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s what we do.

Q: What are your earliest memories of life on the ranch, and what was your childhood like?

A: We didn’t have ranch hands. So when I was a kid, I did school work in the heat of the day and otherwise worked with my dad. My life has a lot of different chapters, and I’m kind of like a jack of all trades. We might go catch a cow, then wean and process yearlings, then I’m off to a barrel race. I have an outside horse right now that’s a mustang, so I might breakaway a jersey after my husband team ropes him. Every day’s a little different.

Q: Your family—you and your parents, Jay and Jamie Anthony—suffered a tragic loss when your big sister, Bailey, died a few years ago. Tell us how that heartbreaking experience has impacted your outlook on life.

A: Bailey, who was 6 years older than me, was born with a congenital heart defect. She had a hole in her heart, and was missing a valve. Bailey had her first open-heart surgery when she was 3 months old, and had her first heart transplant at 15. She rodeoed a little bit, but Bailey couldn’t do a whole lot. So helping her gave me a sense of responsibility, and I tuned her horses up for her. Being Bailey’s sister gave me a lot of compassion. I tend to be overly tender-hearted, and I want to help everybody. It instilled in me just to be a kind human, because everybody was so mean to Bailey. She weighed 75 pounds when she was 15. Bailey never gave up, and she didn’t play the poor-me card. I remember when Bailey was getting ready to go in for her second heart transplant, which she had in December 2012, after being in the hospital for two months. I’d back the truck up down by the chutes, so she could watch me rope, and she’d sit on the back of that truck and pop the latch for me. Bailey died a month after her second heart transplant, in January 2013. She was 26.

Katey Jo and her late, beautiful big sister, Bailey.
Anthony family photo

Q: Tell us about that permanent reminder of Bailey on your right wrist.

A: She asked me, “What happens to an arrow before it hits its target?” I said, “You have to pull your bow back before you can shoot it.” She said, “Exactly, so no matter how many times something knocks you back, you can always go forward.” My bow-and-arrow tattoo is a constant reminder of Bailey.

Q: You earned a kinesiology degree while rodeoing at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, right?

A: Yes, I mainly breakaway roped, team roped and tied goats in college. My college rodeo highlight was winning the all-around and reserve in the breakaway in the Southern Region one year, and finishing fourth in the nation in the breakaway at the College (National) Finals (Rodeo). The breakaway was my favorite event growing up. I didn’t start team roping until I was a freshman in high school.

Q: You won the #13 Shootout at the 2011 USTRC Finals heading for fellow New Mexico native Seth Hall. You were 37.95 on five for $78,700 for the team. What stands out about that day 10 years later?

A: I was a straight 4 when I won that roping, so I wish I headed as good back then as I do now. I’d just come from the college rodeo in Lubbock, and had won the first round of the team roping, but all I had was a check I couldn’t cash. I was broker than a joke. I didn’t have enough money to get home on, and neither did Seth. We came back second high call, I half-headed the steer and Seth heeled him fast. It was God’s gift that day, because neither of us was going to make it very far from Oklahoma City without winning something.

Q: How much do you team rope now?

A: We go to little jackpots around the house, and we go to a lot of World Series ropings. I’ll head for my dad in the #10 in Vegas in December, and hopefully will have some other runs, too. Then we’ll make our annual trip to Wickenburg for two or three weeks.

Q: You beat out 13 other cowboy and cowgirl contestants to win season two of the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown this year. For those who aren’t familiar with the popular reality series that’s hosted by Trace Adkins and airs on INSP Network, what all did that entail?

A: We filmed it in the summer of 2020, the first episode aired in February, 2021, and they announced the winner in April. When he said, “and the ultimate cowboy is Katey Jo”—holy smokes. It was basically a ranch versatility contest, and we gathered and sorted, doctored, roped and tied down a calf, steer roped, did relay races and an obstacle course. They even tested skills like judging what cattle would cost at a sale barn.

Q: How big a thrill was it to win that, and do I understand correctly that first prize was a herd of cows valued at $50,000?

A: It was hot, it was hard and none of it was designed for a woman to win. I slept in a tent for 20 days, and shared a portable shower with 20 strangers. When I won it, they gave me the option of taking the cows we worked on the show or taking the $50,000, so I took the money so I could buy whatever cows I wanted. I also won a portable cattle processing chute. To be able to represent the women in our industry like that was incredible.

Q: What’s your ultimate goal as a cowgirl?

A: To inspire others to be the best cowboy or cowgirl they can be, and to chase their dreams. TRJ

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