COOS BAY — She’s had the dream since before kindergarten: to ride a horse in college. Thirteen years later, Kaylee Banks has accomplished just that.
Last week, the Coos Bay native signed a letter of intent to ride for Fresno State’s equestrian team.
“I can finally say that I can ride with the big kids,” she said. “I can go to sleep at night knowing I accomplished my goal.”
Riding is in her blood. Her mom, Heidi Banks, was Oregon State University’s first rodeo queen.
“It was a means to end,” Heidi said, laughing. “I got to go to all the rodeos for free.”
She is relieved that her daughter is being rewarded for her hard work in the classroom and the arena. Kaylee attended Marshfield High School through her junior year. For her senior year, she and her mother moved to Wilsonville to be closer to her trainer, Shannon McCulloch, and to spend more time in the barn, where she worked to help defray the cost of training.
“She thought long and hard about it,” her mother said. “She had to leave her friends and make all new ones. She was living at the barn all the time.”
Kaylee’s dedication has shown up in a bevy of awards over the years, including multiple championships with the Oregon Quarter Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association Novice West World competition. She has high rankings in the American Quarter Horse Congress, the American Quarter Horse Association Youth World and the National Snaffle Bit Association Youth World.
Equestrian competition is emerging as a women’s college sport. It’s still a club sport on many campuses, but Fresno State offers it as sanctioned Division 1 team.
“I think that 99.5 percent of people have no idea that kids can get a D-1 scholarship in equestrian,” Heidi said. “They get the same benefits as the football team.”
Just like the football team, Kaylee will have access to top-notch sporting facilities and trainers.
“I had a few choices,” Kaylee said. “When I visited Fresno this past fall, the program was exactly what I was looking for and the pieces just fell in place. I’m really looking forward to working with the coaches there.”
Editor's Note: Anne Niblett is the newsletter editor for the Coquille Indian Tribe.