LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On a colder than normal April afternoon, Morgan Askins is unloading her two quarter horses at the Shelby County Fairgrounds as she prepares to be the flag bearer for the weekend’s Kentuckiana Ranch Horse Association (KRHA) event. She gets her horses settled and prepares for the next day’s activities; a routine she is getting used to as the reigning Miss Rodeo Kentucky.
As part of her duties as the ambassador who will promote the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the agricultural industry, and the western way of life during the next year, Askins attends many similar shows and rodeos across the state and throughout the nation since winning the prestigious competition last November during the annual pageant held in conjunction with the North American International Livestock Expo (NAILE) and Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“It’s a three-day pageant, and during the duration of it we do a variety of things including horsemanship, where we demonstrate our skills on a horse that is drawn randomly,” she said. “We do a horsemanship interview, which can be any related to equine or rodeo knowledge, along with a written exam. There is also a personality interview and a fashion show.”
As part of the pageant, entrants submit photos that are judged for photogenicity. Contestants are also judged on their speaking ability and how well they interact with the other competitors. There are actually three age groups that make up the entire event: Miss Rodeo, Miss Teen Rodeo, and Junior Miss Rodeo.
Admittedly, pageants have not been something in which she has participated before the Miss Rodeo Kentucky event, but her love of horses and the industry they support has been an integral part of her life.
The 24-year-old resident of Rockfield, Kentucky, completed her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a concentration in Animal Science (minor in Entrepreneurship) at Western Kentucky University. Morgan then obtained her Master’s in Equine Nutrition at Tarleton State University and is looking forward to a research assistantship at the University of Kentucky in August as she studies to get her Ph.D.
In December of this year, she will compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) for the title of Miss Rodeo America 2023.
While Askins is very excited about being in her current position, she credits many of the activities of her past that have helped to pave the way to her current title and her future prospects.
“I grew up in 4-H and FFA programs, so that’s largely where a lot of my background came from in the equine industry and agriculture, aside from of course my mother riding horses and having a pony growing up,” she said. “A lot of my background and interest in agriculture and advocating for the industry came from those youth programs.”
Askins is also a Kentucky Farm Bureau Institute for Future Agriculture Leaders (IFAL) alumnus and participated in the Warren County Farm Bureau Outstanding Youth program. She said it was these and all of the youth programs that have helped to prepare her for her role as Miss Rodeo Kentucky, and for her future, which includes the equine world.
Kimberly Bellah, who is board president of Miss Rodeo Kentucky, Inc. said Askins is the epitome of a rodeo queen with a servant’s heart.
“Many of our monthly board of director conversations center on how our programming will help young women to walk away from rodeo queen pageantry with a better understanding of what it means to be a servant leader and not an entitled person seeking to be served by others,” she said. “Morgan is approaching her title with the attitude that it is a job, and as all desired workers with a tremendous work ethic have, she seeks out opportunities on her own to represent her title, her platform, and her state with grace, professionalism, and a passion for all things agriculture and rodeo. She is an outstanding Miss Rodeo Kentucky!”
Bellah added that, regardless of who leaves with the crown on their head, participants who invest themselves fully in the rodeo queen pageantry process will inevitably grow in their confidence, their speaking skills, their horsemanship, and in every other way as these young women become empowered to develop as strong, independent, assertive leaders in their personal and professional circles of influence.
Askins is using the skills she has obtained to not only benefit herself but an industry she is passionate about.
“I do see myself as an advocate for our industry. In going back to my time in FFA and 4-H, as well as when I went to IFAL and other similar programs, we talked about advocating for agriculture,” she said. “So, coming into the rodeo queen world, that’s something that we also do as we explain and promote animal welfare. We want people to understand the sport of rodeo and how passionate we are about it, and how well we treat our animals. So, being able to take that advocacy for agriculture from that level and use that to build upon now, is so beneficial.”
Askins seems to have a clear vision of where she is headed in the equine world drawing on this and other experiences she has had throughout her life.
“I remember in college, I was finishing up my bachelor’s at Western, and was doing an internship at a pet nutrition company in their lab. And I remember when I went in to give my two-week notice and tell the folks there I planned to pursue my Master’s in Equine Nutrition, they responded by asking if horses were my passion or something that I saw as a full-time job,” she said. “That made me think and realize that it’s not only my passion but also what I want my career to be based around.”
As Askins looks forward to the national competition in Las Vegas, she emphasized how exciting that will be.
“We do a lot of interaction with the Miss Rodeo America and the opportunity to go out and compete and to interact with the rodeo contestants at that level, and just to be out there and even have the opportunity to compete, is absolutely amazing,” she said.
— Kentucky Farm Bureau