K-State equestrian's senior Jesse Johnson and junior Kara Guy spend time with children at the Northwest Kansas Catbackers Kids Fun Zone on May 22, 2014
May 23, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
COLBY, Kan. - They laugh about it now, but on Monday morning, K-State equestrian reining riders Jesse Johnson and Kara Guy didn't quite know what they were getting themselves into.
The two showed up to Bramlage Coliseum bright and early on Monday morning packed and ready for a week-long trip to Western Kansas with K-State Athletics and the K-State Alumni Association. Despite the fact they didn't know anyone, they signed up to travel on K-State's Western Swing - a five-day tour of Catbacker events in cities around Western Kansas.
"We were going out on a whim because we were out on a mission to tell everyone about equestrian, but we didn't even know who our driver was," laughed Johnson. "We didn't know a single thing. Then we got out here and they just let us off the leash to go mingle. It was crazy, but everything has fallen into place. I feel like I've known all these K-State alumni for years already, and that is the very best part about it."
A unique experience, Johnson and Guy have spent the week interacting with some of the nation's most passionate K-State fans and, while the two didn't know anyone on Monday morning, after this jam-packed week of Catbacker events, they'll travel back to Manhattan with many, many new Wildcat friends.
"It was really cool. I hadn't really heard about the tour until our coach approached us about it last week," said Guy. "I think it's really interesting how we go to all the different cities and bring all these people together. It's a really fun event to get to meet so many alumni; it's relaxed, you spend the whole day with them and really get to know them."
From golf tournaments to kid events to evening banquets where Voice of the Wildcats Wyatt Thompson introduces them both on stage, Johnson and Guy have each had the opportunity to represent K-State equestrian to people who, otherwise, may not have known much about the sport.
"When you think about it, we've educated a good several hundred people about what equestrian really is," began Johnson. "A lot of people tuned in and really listened to what we had to say. That's been huge. I'm really happy that we've been able to go out and explain what equestrian is, that's really good for our sport."
The riders said they have had people come up to her whose children show horses and who may be interested in, one day, looking into the K-State equestrian program thanks to them.
"Every day that we've gone out there and spoke to the crowd, there's been at least five or six people come up to me personally afterwards who ask questions about equestrian," continued Guy. "I'm glad it's getting out there because we need to get it to grow."
Along with having the opportunity to spread the word about K-State equestrian, Johnson and Guy have had the opportunity over the past five days to learn a little bit more about their passionate K-State Family.
Johnson, a 2014 K-State graduate in athletic training, transferred to K-State in 2011 after spending two years competing in collegiate rodeo at Western Oklahoma State College. She said her decision to go to K-State happened on a whim when, after hearing about K-State's program, she decided to email Maxwell and ask about her reigning team.
"I believed if I was meant to go to K-State, things would fall into place," explained Johnson, "and they certainly did. I can't believe I wound up at K-State riding."
Fast forward two years and Johnson is now a proud K-State Alumna just like the people she is has spent the week visiting with. She has "Forever a Wildcat" etched into her graduation ring and said meeting fellow graduates of her alma mater has meant a lot to her.
"It's blown my mind," Johnson said. "To think, wow, I'm a part of this whole deal and these people are out here because of us, me as an athlete. They're just so passionate about not just basketball and football but all sports. The fan base here is incredible. I guess I never really did see the big picture until I came out here on the Catbacker tour and saw it all in front of me. I just can't describe how incredible it really is."
A psychology major from Scottsdale, Arizona, Guy is going into her junior year with the K-State equestrian team. She committed to K-State her senior year of high school and never looked back - she knew K-State was the place for her.
And after this past week on the Western Swing, she is even more excited for her upcoming seasons at K-State.
"I knew how passionate everyone and all the alumni were about K-State, but not until coming to this did I really see it because it's huge out here," Guy said with a smile - she and Johnson are the first-ever equestrian competitors to travel on the Western Swing. "And all the people we've met - it just makes me even more excited to be at K-State and to be a part of all this."