By Hailey Kinsel with Kailey Sullins

As November and December roll around, it always brings holidays and special memories to the forefront. I thought it appropriate to share a few of my favorite holiday traditions and memories. 

Our family is pretty simple. Usually every holiday, we go to a certain person’s house in the family. Thanksgiving is actually the one where the family comes to my parents’ house in Cotulla, Texas. With that comes some out-of-the-ordinary exceptions. My uncle runs our deer hunting operation and he’ll bring hunters to family things. We’re used to hosting Thanksgiving with very random hunters and their sons—it’s not unusual to meet brand new people in our house when we are in the living room without shoes on Thanksgiving. 

Christmas is always one of my grandmothers’ holidays—one of them passed away, but she used to hold it and then my other grandmother, my dad’s mom Dorthy Kinsel, always had it. It’s also her birthday on Christmas Day. This year she turns 90, so we’re planning to have quite the Christmas celebration. 

My other grandmother’s name was Samie Walker and she passed away when I was in high school, but when we would go to her house for Christmas, whether it was Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, the day almost certainly revolved around animals. She always had lots of animals—she was like me and collected animals. She was just a very eclectic type of person. When we visited her, all of us kids would go out and ride and brush the ponies for hours and get eggs from the chickens. Christmas at her house was always my favorite holiday, mainly because she had ponies. It had very little to do with the actual holiday as it did with the fact that everybody got together and played with ponies, which I would have done anyway, but the entire family was all of a sudden enthusiastic about it. 

One of my favorite memories with her was my birthday gift one year. She gave me a miniature Paint pony that I honestly had no business having. My dad was not about to have me bring it home to the ranch, because at the time the only horses we had there were ranching horses—they were using horses. Even our kid horses and our youth rodeo horses were ranch horses first, and we ranched on all of them. There was just no way I was going to have a pet pony at the barn. So she kept it at her house for me, but she gifted it to me. She was very artistic and drew and wrote all over, and she painted on a piece of paper that was a gift certificate for the pony and it was very formal. The pony had two blue eyes and we called her “Barbie,” and she was technically my pony. Now I had nothing to do with taking care of her year-round, other than when I would go visit. It’s one of those gifts I remember so vividly, because it was probably my favorite gift ever and it wasn’t even something I took home—it was just like, this lady gets me. We were very close and that was probably why, because we had the same spirit toward animals. 

My favorite part about the major holidays is that they haven’t really changed. You have so many different things going on in your life, but when Thanksgiving rolls around or when Christmas rolls around we somehow get together as a family. It’s different now. It’s often in different towns; it’s bounced around a bit as all of us grandkids have graduated and are working in different towns, but we still manage to get together. On that day, everything kind of stops. That’s the part that stays constant—everyone is still your family, and all the reasons for holidays are still the same. We’re thankful on Thanksgiving and we’re celebrating Jesus on Christmas and Easter, so I think for that reason I really enjoy holidays, because it’s one of the few times that things truly slow down. On that day, all that matters is family and the fact that we’re getting together for a holiday.

Article by Hailey Kinsel originally published in the November 2019 issue of Barrel Horse News.


Hailey Kinsel is a two-time WPRA World Champion barrel racer with more than $1 million in lifetime reported earnings. Each month she shares her tips, advice and expertise with Barrel Horse News readers in "World Champion Reflections" found each month in the magazine and online. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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