HORSE SCIENCE: High school rodeo athlete to pursue majors in animal science, neurology

McCook, Neb. (May 27, 2022) – Tucker Gillespie has a full plate, and he’s fine with that.

The McCook cowboy, a member of the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association, competes in the reined cow horse competition, and in high school, was involved in FFA, speech, Mock Trial, Interact, Thespian, and Youth Change Reaction, and held offices in nearly each of those clubs and organizations.

He is a 2022 graduate of McCook High School, being one of six students from the class with a 4.0 GPA.

This fall, he will attend Texas A&M University in College Station, the alma mater of his parents, Joe and Julie Gillespie, to double major in animal science and neuroscience.

It’s a heavy workload, and maybe an odd combination, but for Gillespie, it works.

Horses are a strong interest of his. He was part of 4-H equine teams that won third at the national competition in hippology and another third-place title in “Horse Bowl,” similar to quiz bowl, with horse trivia.

And he’s been around veterinarians, with his dad Joe having a practice in McCook.

But being a veterinarian requires knowledge about a broad spectrum of animals: horses, cattle, dogs, cats, and more, and Gillespie thinks he’d like to narrow his studies.

Tucker Gillespie, a member of the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association, will attend Texas A&M University this fall to double major in animal science and neuroscience. The McCook native competes in the reined cowhorse. Jamie Smith
Courtesy photo

So neuroscience is his other major, and the one he’d like to pursue for a career. With 4-H equine contests, he liked learning everything about one particular species, he said. But in the veterinary world, “it’s very difficult to establish yourself as a single species specialty, so that’s when I realized that human medicine might be something I enjoyed more because I’d get to focus on one species like I did for the horse.”

The animal science studies will keep Gillespie around the activities that he enjoys. At Texas A&M, he hopes to be on the ranch horse team competition and possibly the horse judging team. He’ll enter A&M with forty college credits from dual high school classes.

Gillespie has been involved with horses on the national level as well. He was on the youth board for the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) for a year as secretary and reporter, then three years as president. He wrote articles for the NRCHA’s official publication and, as president, managed the youth programs, started a clinic reimbursement program for free youth clinics, and started a stallion auction at the Snaffle Bit Futurity, to raise funds for youth scholarships.

Not only was Gillespie involved in rodeo and horse activities, but he was part of the Youth Change Reaction (YCR) group, an organization specific to the McCook Community Foundation Fund that involves youth supporting youth in the community. The YCR decided to work towards a drive-in movie theater in McCook, and Gillespie spearheaded the work to find contractors and a design. As a YCR member, he also volunteers in community events, including tours for sixth grade classes at historic locations in McCook.

To get so many activities and schoolwork done, he’s careful with his time. “I always tell people my super power is time management,” he said. “I can aggressively manage my time.” He was up at 5 am, to get things done before school started at 8 am, and is usually in bed by 11 pm. “I’m not much of a sleeper.

“Really, I’ve learned over the years to sit down and grind it all out.”

He realizes his college might take ten or twelve years to complete, but he’ll have a medical PHD when he’s done, with the doctorate most likely in the neurological field. “I’d like to have the option to do research,” he said. “I might get into a lab and decide I don’t like research, but I’d like to give it a try.”

Gillespie, in his involvement with the YCR, has worked with Denise Garey, the Affiliated Fund Development Coordinator with the Nebraska Community Foundation. She has high praise for him.

“He’s always been a person who has gone the extra mile, to make sure whatever he does is done well. He’s brilliant smart, but he also believes in relationships. Whatever he is going to do, he’ll do lots of good with it.”

Gillespie will spend the summer riding for NRCHA trainer and judge Marilyn Peters, in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Gillespie qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals, landing in third place in Reined Cow Horse.

For more information, visit or, or call 402.462.3247.

–Adams County Ag Society


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