Stevi Hillman was born and raised in Ordway, Colorado on her grandparent’s farm. She describes Ordway as a “little tiny town that not many people know about.” Her parents were never involved in rodeo, so rodeo came later in her life. She just enjoyed riding the horses all over the ranch; she lived and breathed them. A little later in her life Stevi ended up moving to Oklahoma with her mom and stepdad. Her stepdad trained and showed HOHA horses, and that’s where she laid the foundation for her rodeo career. She spent all the hours she could with him in the round-pen. Back then she loved to train the baby horses. She says that’s where her passion began.
Stevi grew up with two brothers, two sisters, and several cousins that lived nearby. She lived right across the street from her grandparents, aunts, and uncles. All of her cousins lived within the same acreage. She remembers, “Growing up we did a lot of lake stuff. I grew up as a water bug. My dad was very much a lake guy and we would go out there almost every weekend.” Because they always had horses and cattle for the farm they were often able to ride for fun. None of her siblings were quite as involved with the horses as Stevi was. She says, “My mom loved the horses and always made sure we tried to keep them important in our lives.” Nobody else in the family ever got into rodeo like Stevi did. Her ‘’farm side’’ definitely came from the influence of her grandparents. When they moved to Oklahoma, she was even more involved. She started to realize her dream was to end up in Texas because that’s where all the horses, big rodeos, and attractive cowboys were!
Stevi’s stepdad started training and showcasing horses at his facility in Colorado, but when they moved to Oklahoma it was something he did mostly on his own whenever he had spare time. Training horses requires a routine, including pedaling the horses and putting them on the walker. A lot of the round-pen work is with the babies. During that time, Stevi also began to be involved in a little bit of team roping. She knew that it was going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful in rodeo. The fact that she never got to finish training a barrel horse, but always had to train a new one, made things difficult. Looking back she says, “It’s made me who I am today. I truly believe that’s what has made me the trainer I am today. Getting on the horses and having to figure it out for myself.”
In junior high Stevi was living in Oklahoma and barrel racing a lot in the NBHA. Throughout junior high she competed in the NBHA World Championships several times. She also competed in Rodeo Pageants, and won Miss Teen Oklahoma in 2001-2002, which led to a lot of traveling. She soon realized it wasn’t really for her, but she was still glad she had won. It was a great experience and she learned to be able to talk in front of people, which helped her gain more confidence. From there she knew she wanted to stick to focusing on her barrel racing career.
In high school, she did not compete in high school rodeo. She played volleyball, ran cross country, and played a little basketball. Aside from those sports, she found herself roping more in her free time than even barrel racing. She still loves volleyball to this day. It was her favorite sport and is where she learned how competitive she is. She also learned how to be a team player and to handle winning and losing. “I think it’s a great thing for younger kids to be involved and learn these things because it also betters you as a person, not just an athlete.”
Since high school Stevi has made another journey, from Oklahoma to Texas. She graduated a year early knowing she wanted to get to Texas. She had some friends there to contact about finding a job, and ended up working for some polo players in Weatherford, Texas named Charles and Marsha Smith. This job enabled her to ride a much larger variety of horses. She is very grateful for the opportunity to experience so many horses, and now feels like she truly knows horses.
While in Texas, Stevi attempted to compete in college rodeo on a 4 year old horse. It was such a challenge but she kept trying to make it work. She was able to see that it wasn’t going anywhere and eventually gave it up. Stevi tells how she never did like school, she appreciated growing and gaining knowledge, but didn’t like school itself. That eventually changed when she got into the Radiology Program. She became very involved and knew it was what she wanted to commit to. This meant that she was going to take some time off from barrel racing to work on her degree. After earning her degree, she got a job as a Radiology Technician which was flexible enough for to go back to doing what she loved.
Stevi’s husband Ty, who she met and married in Texas, is from Colorado as well. Their first date included roping a donkey. They both worked, but he would rope quite a bit while she was finishing up school. Recently the tables have turned and he has been working more while she has gotten back into consistently training.
If Stevi could give advice to young athletes, she would say, “Hard work and dedication pays off. It’s something that we don’t see much anymore. Work hard and you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Persevere and stick with it. You have a goal that God’s given you, you push hard and keep going.”