Horses, rodeo and riding have always been a part of Kaylee Billyboy’s life.
The 24-year-old former Williams Lake Stampede Queen in 2017 and Miss BC High School Rodeo Princess in 2014 has been riding horses since she was five, transitioning into gymkhanas, high school rodeo and BCRA competitions as she grew up.
“I was kind of born into it,” Billyboy said of riding horses and competing in rodeos. “My dad, Evans Billyboy, grew up riding bulls — and him and his brothers were also born into it — they rode rough stock, and my grandpa rodeoed, too. When we moved to Williams Lake when I was four we pretty much got a horse right away, and I’ve had a horse ever since.”
Earlier this month, Billyboy roped her ticket to the Canadian Finals Breakaway this fall.
Doing so, she put together back-to-back, solid outings during the Quesnel Rodeo Aug. 14-15 placing second on Saturday and first on Sunday to win the overall average buckle.
Billyboy also won the side pot, which earned her berth to the Canadian Finals Breakaway on Oct. 23-24 in Claresholm, Alta.
“I was hoping to do well, but rodeo is a very luck-of-the-draw kind of sport, so you never know,” Billyboy said. “This was the first rodeo I’d entered this year with COVID and everything, so I’ve just been mostly practicing at home.”
For Billyboy and her horse, Cinnabar, this will be their first Canadian Finals. To prepare, Billyboy said she’s been training and practicing as much as possible for the time being as she will be heading back to school this September to complete her final year of a Bachelor of Education program at Thompson Rivers University.
Asked what she enjoys about breakaway roping, Billyboy said it’s several aspects of the event.
“I think I really like the skill level it takes, and the discipline you have to teach yourself to be able to do it,” she said. “And it’s not teamwork with another person. It’s just you and a horse.”
Reflecting on her experience as Stampede Queen, Billyboy said she got to travel to a lot of cool places to promote the city and the Stampede.
“I got to attend the Canadian Finals Rodeo, go to Omak, Wash. (for their Stampede) and the Calgary Stampede was another highlight,” she said. “It was almost touristy in a way, but being royalty you get to experience it in so many ways other than just watching the rodeo.”
She also said she thinks having the opportunity to be Williams Lake Stampede Queen helped her become more well-rounded, and make many connections in the community.
This year, Billyboy worked at the Potato House as a summer student.
Delving into her own Indigenous history through various trips to Barkerville and the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, Billyboy said she was able to incorporate some of that information into walking tours hosted by the Potato House this summer.
“Learning more Indigenous history about the first three villages in the Williams Lake area, I added some of that information to the tour,” she said.
Once she completes her degree, Billyboy said she hopes to return to Williams Lake.
“There’s just so much to do, and a lot of outdoors stuff,” she said. “Williams Lake is kind of built around a rodeo arena, so I think that’s pretty cool, and there are no shortage of rodeos and so many great rodeo people in the community that I’ve met along the way.
“My whole family is here, and it’s just the perfect size: small enough, but also big enough to offer everything you need.”