A well-run barn is the key to any smooth operation. Whether you have one or 50 horses in your care, it’s crucial that you have an organized space, know where everything is and are able to act in any kind of emergency.
Kellee Clarke has been the barn manager for Slate River for nine years and counting. She makes sure everything has its place, and most importantly gets put back in place. Her feed room, vet room, tack room and stalls are clearly labeled so almost anyone can walk in and know just what to do for any of the horses.
From honoring Buster Welch and the King Ranch’s Little Peppy to supporting the next generation of cutters, the NCHA Foundation has been behind cutters of all ages for 40 years. The NCHA Foundation is the charitable branch of the National Cutting Horse Association.
The Foundation was formed in 1982 to raise money, support educational programs and preserve the history and culture of cutting. But interestingly, it’s played a lesser known but crucial and wide-ranging role than just being an archive, by providing funding when they see a need and supporting animal welfare and research.
More often than not, lopers come and go, but Kellee Clarke has turned loping into a satisfying career thanks to her hard work, willingness to take on new challenges and interestingly, finding an outlet for her creativity.
An Australian native, Clarke moved to the States to work with horses where for the last eight years she has been loping for John Mitchell at the Slate River Ranch. With a passion for learning and a drive for taking on more responsibility, Clarke juggles loping, running the barn and managing the ranch office while starting up her own business.
“I wanted to make leather handbags and do them all by hand,” Clarke said. “When I grew up rodeoing, I made all my own shirts..so I’ve always had this creative thing going on.”
After purchasing all the materials, Clarke found that she never had the time to actually start.
“One week I got so mad at myself because John’s wife, Hope kept asking, ‘have you made a bag yet?’ and it was really frustrating me,” Clarke said. “So one week I got super mad at myself and I said, ‘you have to finish one project by the end of the week.’’”
And since that week, Brumby Goods was born, but not in the way Clarke expected.
“I had kangaroo leather and lace because they were going to be part of my bags and I had some freshwater pearls and I had all this stuff sitting there,” Clarke said. “So I started tinkering around with it and the next thing I made a necklace with it. This long tassel necklace with these pearls on it and I was like, ‘that’s pretty cool.’”
Although Clarke hasn’t made any bags yet, she intends to expand the line later to include them.
“I had my logo and my name and everything for my business, Brumby Goods, that was all in place but the product wasn’t coming about,” Clarke said. “For now it’s evolved into jewelry.”
Clarke officially launched Brumby Goods in February this year and is keeping up with working full time for Slate River Ranch while building her jewelry line, which has quickly gained a following.
Clarke says she gets design ideas while loping.
“It’s a matter of utilizing that time loping around and to just take that time to think about something,” Clarke said. “I’m constantly thinking about Brumby and what’s next.”
Clarke says she wants to stayed tapped into the western world and cutting/rodeo industry from her roots. One of her main materials, kangaroo leather, is used not only for its durability but connects her to her Australian heritage. Her company name, Brumby Goods also was chosen to tell people more about Clarke as a person.
“Brumby was something that came up..here in America,” Clarke said. “It’s a horse, it’s a little wild, free spirited and…it’s pretty catchy.”
Clarke says she enjoys making the jewelry for women like herself.
“A lot of this stuff I had in mind for the working girl and the girl who rides,” Clarke said. “This was my original idea, to find something feminine but easy to wear.”
Clarke likes to make jewelry that is functional, durable, light and comfortable. She now ships across the country and overseas and also takes custom orders. Clarke initially made sales on social media, but now has her own website to properly display her designs, www.brumbygoods.com.
Although her career is focused on loping, she believes that having Brumby gives her something more to look forward to each day.
“Its given me something for myself,” Clarke said. “I’m accountable, it’s all me. It gives me something, it’s making something and being creative and I like to look at it and be like, ‘I made that.”