Kalyn Rouse with her horse, Cletus.

As a small child Kalyn Rouse, of Skyline, wanted a horse. She had been around family members who rode, and she wanted desperately to ride as well. For a long time her dad told her she couldn’t have one, but when she turned nine he came around and Rouse got a mare.

“She was a buddy horse and wanted to follow everyone else and she didn’t do what you told her,” Rouse said.

The mare wasn’t what Rouse had hoped for in a horse, and the two didn’t bond. But in September of that year she traded her in for Cletus. Cletus, who came from Ohio, was 10-years-old – the same age as Rouse.

“I’ve had him ever since,” she said.

Cletus and Rouse are now both 16. The pair has been through a lot. Some of it good, and some of it bad.

Luckily they got the bad out of the way early on. Just a month after getting him, as Rouse was still learning to ride properly, her foot came out of the stirrup as she was practicing in a round pen. Cletus felt her lean and he leaned to get under her, causing her to fall.

“I broke my right femur, several ribs, lacerated my spleen and punctured a lung,” she said.  “I was in ICU for three days and a regular room for two, and when I got out I was in a wheelchair.”

The injuries did not frighten Rouse away. She still wanted to ride, and in February, she got back on the horse.

“I hit the ground and it hurt,” she said. “But now if I hit the ground, it’s not going to hurt that bad again most likely.”

Rouse said the accident wasn’t the horse’s fault.

“I couldn’t blame him, because he did what he was supposed to do by trying to get back under me,” she said. “It’s just one of those freak accidents that happen.”

Rouse said she even thinks Cletus understands what happened that day, because now if her foot comes out of the stirrup he stops completely.

“I think he knows,” she said.

Since that time, Rouse and Cletus have learned a lot together. They started out doing trail rides and then moved on to horse shows. But neither of those gave Rouse the adrenaline rush she was looking for, so they moved on to rodeos where they compete in pole bending and barrel racing.

Rouse jokes that they have improved a lot over the years.

“The first time I ever ran poles my time was 52 seconds. My fastest time now is 23. I think my first barrel run was 26 and my fastest now is 16.9,” she said. “It’s definitely an improvement.”

Rouse now competes with 4 Him Cowboy Church Youth Rodeo.

“I really like that one,” she said. “It’s small, but it still has the rodeo feel, and there is a lot of competition.”

A junior in high school, Rouse said she had been thinking of hanging up her spurs after this year. But then she and Cletus won first in poles and second in barrels. Winning that buckle made her want to keep going a little longer.

“I have to do it another year and get first in barrels,” she joked. “I’ll definitely do it again next year. I can’t let it go right now.”

Now that it’s the off season, she and Cletus are resting from their typical rigorous practice schedule. Cletus is getting older. Rouse said she notices that he has a few gray hairs.

“He still has quite a few years left though,” she said.

She doesn’t like to think about the time down the road when he will have to retire from competition.

“I love him,” she said. “I’ve looked at other horses before, but I know it won’t be the same. You always compare everything else to that first horse and you’re not going to be able to have the same relationship. He will always be my favorite no matter what happens.”

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