Kansas native Skyla Peters has been having a record year in 2023. From taking home big checks in professional rodeo associations like the World Champions Rodeo Alliance and the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association to breaking arena records, Peters is making a wave in 2023.
Article by Savanna Escobar
From breaking arena records in Nebraska and Oklahoma to winning a futurity title in Arkansas, Skyla Peters of Sublette, Kansas has been absolutely on fire lately. She claimed first place in two rounds of the Open at the Cowtown Showdown in Fort Worth in September, and followed that up by becoming the 2023 Kansas Professional Rodeo Association Finals Average Champion, and placing second in the year-end standings on her open horse. The hot streak continued on her futurity mount, with Peters winning the Texarkana Showdown Futurity and placing 8th in the average of the prestigious Pink Buckle Futurity.
But rewind to December of 2022, and the cowgirl was selling out of the business — horses, tack, everything. After losing her beloved horse Cash For Bid (PC Frosty Bid x Cashini x Bet The Cash) to a re-injured deep digital flexor tendon, Peters’ heart just wasn’t in it anymore, and she and her husband Billy decided to focus on business instead.
The Peters co-own and operate Liberal Concrete and the Red Barn Truck Wash with Billy’s dad, and the young couple recently launched Midwest Livestock Solutions, a feedlot construction company owned solely by Billy and Skyla. Though she stays plenty busy acting as secretary and handling day-to-day operations for all of their business ventures, it didn’t take long for Peters to feel the pull of the arena once again. By May of 2023 she was on the phone with Hollie Etbauer to inquire if they had anything for sale. As fate would have it, 8-year-old gelding Pistol Whistle (PC Frosty Bid x Whistle N Skip x No Whistle) was available, and Peters purchased him on the weekend of Memorial Day.
After banking $24,000 in just a few short months together, it’s clear that Pistol and Peters are a match made in barrel racer heaven. But for Peters, it’s more than that.
“Win or lose, it’s nice to have the sentimental value that this one has,” she said. “It’s just nice to have a connection with a horse like that again. When I lost Cash, it was pretty hard on me. He was more than just a horse. Pistol has been able to mend those pieces back together, and get those goals and desires back on track.”
Peters was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in a non-horse family. But her mother, Anita Whitters, had horses growing up, and Peters credits her with getting involved in the industry.
“I’m the black sheep of the family,” Peters said. “But mom always supported me and made sure I was where I needed to be.”
When Peters was 5 or 6 years old, they went to a sale barn and picked out her first horse. She began showing in western pleasure classes, followed by hunt seat, hunter under saddle, horsemanship and showmanship. In fact, Peters started showing so much that she eventually got in hot water at school for being absent too often. Though she was a good student, her mother made the decision to not fight the school system for poor attendance and opted to home school.
“My mom worked a full-time job and my parents were divorced, so I just home schooled myself from then on,” Peters shared. “I’m kind of hard-headed and like to learn the hard way, it’s just how my personality is. That’s just what works for me.”
The barrel racing bug didn’t bite until she was around the age of 12, and a friend let her ride her barrel horse. That encounter was enough to convince the young cowgirl that she would rather go fast than slow — and she didn’t mind not having to wear bling and be judged for her performance in the arena.
“Growing up, I was never able to buy a finished horse,” Peters said. “I would just buy a young and cheap one, sell them and move on.”
When she was about 17 years old, Peters moved to Glencoe, Oklahoma. At the 2013 Better Barrel Races World Finals sale, she laid eyes on a yellow gelding that had Sun Frost on his papers. That was enough to convince Peters to purchase the Lanita Peirce-trained colt, and for $5,100, Cash For Bid went home on Peters’ trailer.
“He was the biggest blessing in my life,” she shared.
In addition to setting several arena records, the dynamic duo returned to the BBR World Finals and won the second qualifying go-round in 2017. While living in Glencoe and getting her feet wet on the pro rodeo trail, Peters attended Oklahoma State University.
“I like psychology, learning about the mind and why people do what they do,” she shared.
Peters graduated with a bachelor of arts after majoring in psychology with a minor in philosophy.
These days, Peters is still taking charge of her own destiny, and schedule.
“If it’s slower at the office, I’ll leave about 5. Since I am my own boss I can come and go as I please, but it’s more just about being responsible,” Peters said. “If I have time (when I get home), I will ride and do therapy, but if I can’t ride I will just do acuscope and myopulse.”
The Peters have a walker at home and a lighted in arena in town they can haul to if necessary, but 90% of the time she finds herself riding out in the corn fields surrounding their home. Currently in her barn, Peters has Pistol Whistle that she owns; and her other gelding Streaking Romance is undergoing rehab at Outlaw Equine. At the beginning of August, her friends Art Guttersen and Storme Camarillo sent her VF Rock Em Stinson. She immediately clicked with the big gray’s running style, and in two months’ time won the futurity at the Texarkana Showdown and placed eighth in the average of the Pink Buckle Futurity.
From that same pipeline, Peters will soon be picking up standout gelding Slym Shady (Frenchmans Fabulous x SF Tiny Bit Of Fame x DashTa Fame). Owned by Camarillo and previously jockeyed by Carley Cervi, the plan will be for Peters to ride him and get him fit while Cervi helps her husband recover from surgery. The connection with Guttersen and Camarillo was made by sheer luck about five years ago when Peters parked next to Camarillo at the Colorado Classic.
“They were dumbfounded I was out there by myself at about 20 years old,” Peters said. “They live in Greeley and invited me out to their house. For the rest of the summer I would go to rodeos in Montana or Cody and then back to their house. They are like a second family and have always been really good to me.”
Peters is also quick to give credit to her husband of three years, whom she met at a KPRA rodeo.
“Billy has been a huge supporter; he takes up the slack at home when I go to a barrel race,” she said. “He team ropes, but he is in the process of selling what he has to focus on the business and allow me to focus on my goals and dreams. I really can’t thank him enough for that. My mom, Billy, Storme, and Art are the four main people I have to thank. Each of them has had a different place of importance throughout my career so far.”
Peters has her sights set on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Finals coming up in November, followed by several of the year-end futurities and bigger open races, before heating back up on the rodeo trail. While she appreciates the payout that divisional open races are offering these days, Peters does prefer rodeos.
“I like travel; I like driving,” the small-town native said. “I always look forward to going to races so I can eat out.”