Peyton Kottwitz to ride for Wyoming in national high school rodeo finals
With National High School Rodeo Association Finals check-in starting today in her home state of Wyoming, Peyton Kottwitz gears up for her second consecutive national competition. She has qualified both years in reined cow horse, her favorite event, but also competes throughout the season in breakaway roping and barrel racing.
The top four individuals within each respective event at each state’s high school rodeo finals move onto nationals, and headed into state, Peyton was sitting third, leading over the fourth-place person by only a half a point, a dicey place to be in a field of talented young cow horse kids. Reined cow horse, like many other events, includes an added level of difficulty due to the lack of predictability of another animal.
“The cow in the second round at state was wild, and the judges honked the horn on that one,” the nearly high school senior at Niobrara County High School said. “I knew I had to ride hard and think smart. The competition was tough enough, and I needed to show well to qualify for nationals; I tried not to make any mistakes so I didn’t have any penalties.”
If a cow pushes through the horse or is excessively wild after a reasonable attempt from the student showing to gain control, judges may blow the whistle and call for a new cow. A judge at state finals approached Peyton and told her that she had the best cow working portion of all the runs. She received the highest cow score of the competitors this year, and finished fourth in the first round, second in the second, and second in the short round, as well as second in the average.
The reining portion doesn’t always come as easy for Peyton and her 10-year-old Quarter Horse gelding Peptomatic Chex, fondly known as Pete.
“There are people who can show really well, and people who have a hard time,” she said. “I have to work to show my horse to the best of his ability. I can’t just sit up there; I have to work to get what I ask out of him.”
No matter the outcome while showing, however, Peyton doesn’t let Pete’s, a cow’s, or her own performance drag her down.
“She always has a positive attitude,” her mom Jennifer said. “I have the tendency that if something doesn’t go well for me, I get grouchy, but it doesn’t matter with her. She comes out with a smile on her face no matter how she did.”
Pete joined the Kottwitz’s herd as a three-year-old, purchased from Robin Ross, where he got his humble beginnings as a ranch horse with Peyton’s dad Boe. After losing her young horse Suess two years ago, Pete stepped up to the plate and molded into what Peyton needed him to be: a barrel racing, breakaway, and reined cow horse.
“I had to do everything to get him ready, and now I have knowledge to do those things correctly,” Peyton said. “When things go awry while showing I know what to do to keep my horse looking and doing his best.”
Riding a home-trained horse just makes the win all the sweeter versus showing on a horse purchased specifically for the event. “Everything you’ve put into that horse and everything you’ve worked for, you know it’s working and paid off,” Peyton said.
She is realistic about the caliber of competition at the national level, but that doesn’t keep her from staying positive and setting goals like, “ride my best, show well, and think smart.”
She rides daily and isn’t afraid to travel to learn from the best to perfect her craft, which includes trekking a few hours to work cattle in Wagonhound Land and Livestock’s premier facilities in Douglas, Wyoming, Tuesday of this week. Preston Schwartzkopf, who lives at Wagonhound, also qualified for the same event at nationals.
Peyton often spends weeks at a time during summer and winter breaks with her favorite mentor cow horse trainer Matt Koch.
“When I go and ride with him, he pushes me to do my best,” she said. “I know that he wants me to do my best, and he knows what he’s doing.”
“Peyton is one of the most talented young individuals I’ve ever come across. It doesn’t matter if she is on a seasoned show horse or putting the first rides on a colt, her ability to listen and read a situation is outstanding,” Koch said. “I have gotten to watch her grow over the last few years and have really enjoyed helping her along the way.”
Peyton and her family check in to nationals at Rock Springs, Wyoming, today and prepare for a whirlwind week of constant activity.
“Peyton will get up early in the morning and feed Pete and ride him if the arena is open, or ride him later if it isn’t, then we’ll watch other runs or get ready to show,” Jennifer said. “We hope they just have kick-butt runs. There are tough horses, but as long as she does the best that she and Pete can do together, that’s awesome.”
With just one more chance at state and national finals next year, Peyton already has plans to further her stellar foundation, though where she’s not yet sure.
“I would like to keep competing and showing and training horses,” she said. “I’ll go to college somewhere, maybe participate on the ranch horse team, and get a degree with something in ag.”
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As a routine management matter, the Teddy Roosevelt National Park plans to remove a few horses from its herd.