Updated: Sep 23
Nancy Sheppard of Globe, Arizona has preserved the cowboy arts of trick riding, trick roping, and training horses. Her father, Cleve Kelley – a Texas cowboy and rodeo roper – was a signer of the 1936 Boston Rodeo Document and a member of the original Cowboys Turtle Association – a forerunner to the Professional Rodeo Association. Her mother, Margaret Catherine Adams, was the daughter of a prominent Texas horse mule dealer.
Nancy grew up on a cattle ranch where she learned the arts of riding and roping at a young age. At age nine, she performed at the Hayward, California Rodeo as a trick rider and trick roper. The people loved Nancy and she loved what she was doing, so she never looked back. By age 11, she had performed at the Pendleton Roundup (Oregon), and at age 17 she was trick riding in New York’s Madison Square Garden. She is the only woman ever to stand on a running horse while spinning two ropes – and Nancy did it with ease.
Nancy was a girl of multiple talents. She trained her own trick riding horses, designed and made her own riding costumes, and sometimes worked as a Pony Girl at Tucson’s Riallito Race Track.
While performing in California, Nancy turned down a movie contract. Had she accepted, she would have been the leading lady, but because of her dedication to her trick riding and roping contracts, she declined.
Nancy was much sought after as a model for advertising western clothing and boots. She was often sponsored by Tony Lama boots and the Lee Company.
In 1948, Nancy married Lynn Sheppard, a noted Gila County rodeo cowboy and rancher. They had one son, Lex, who was a professional bull rider.
A few of Payson’s old-timers recall Nancy’s 1948 performance at the Payson Rodeo. All of the young women wanted to be just like her. Many of them took spills trying to trick ride on their cow horses.
Nancy’s expertise on a horse, her skill with a rope, and her ability to captivate an audience – during a career that lasted over two decades – earned her a gold card membership in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, as well as inductions into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Her induction into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1991, opened another door. She found herself involved in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City trick roping on a horse-drawn wagon. The engagement led Nancy to Milan, Italy where she trick roped for clothing designer, Giorgio Armani.
Nancy always traveled to her engagements in full western dress. She has always been so proud to be “of the West.” She has trick roped at the Cowgirl Hall of Fames Restaurants in New York City and Sante Fe.
Over the years, Nancy has not only roped and rode her way into the hearts of rodeo fans all over the West, she has also been a worldwide ambassador for her sport and as introduced countless fans to the sport of rodeo.
Nancy is still a beautiful and captivating woman who deserves the honor of being an Arizona Culture Keeper. She has kept a major part of the West alive – a part that few today know.
Article Courtesy - Git A Rope