Kylee Lukefahr

trains wild mustangs, breaks barriers in football

Kylee Lukefahr, a senior at Perryville High School, started riding horses at the age of 7 years old. Instantly, she fell in love with the gentle creatures she often refers to as “big dogs.”

“[Horses] get me, and I get them. I love how understanding and loving they are … and how they can be so gentle but so big,” Kylee says.

Around the age of 10 years old, Kylee helped train a horse named Shy under the supervision of trainers at Evan’s Equestrians in Perryville, Mo. She began learning the art and patience of horse training before taking on the biggest challenge — training a wild mustang on her own.

In 2021, 15-year-old Kylee entered and was selected for Extreme Mustang Makeover, a national challenge through the Bureau of Land Management that gives participants 100 days to train a wild mustang before showing it.

The mustang she drew for the challenge, Jade, had a broken foot and “had never seen a human before.” Kylee says because horses are “prey” animals, they see humans as threats until proven otherwise. Kylee slowly introduced herself and gained Jade’s trust before beginning the long training process.

“It was a lot of little steps and a lot of patience. … [If] you push their boundary and they don't trust you, [then] you have to get that trust back again and do that in 100 days. Usually, it [takes] a whole year just to get them to trust you and get them to lead and get them to pick up their feet for you.”

By the end of the 100 days, Kylee led Jade in a three-minute freestyle routine inspired by the Coffey Anderson song “Mr. Red, White and Blue.” Kylee and Jade both wore patriotic outfits, and at the end of the routine, Jade bowed to Kylee’s late grandfather John Logsdon’s United States Army veteran burial flag. She dedicated their routine to Logsdon and all veterans.

Kylee signed up to train another wild mustang in 2021 through the Trainer Incentive Program (TIP) Challenge. This mustang’s name is Jack, and Kylee has taught him to sit on hay bales, similar to the way a human sits on a chair.

Kylee surrounds herself with horses as often as she can. This is why she cares for approximately 16 horses and assists with teaching therapeutic riding lessons at Evan’s Equestrians. She says therapeutic riding lessons are adapted to accommodate people with disabilities.

If clients during the lessons can’t ride a horse alone, Kylee rides on the same horse with them to ensure their safety and comfort. She says she’s learned a lot about people from working with horses.

Kylee says she has always been attracted to “difficult” activities, and this doesn’t stop with training wild mustangs. At the beginning of 2022, she saw a flier at her high school seeking new football players, so she called the coach to learn more and he helped her get started with weight training. That fall, Kylee played in the offensive line for her school’s varsity football team.

“It wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but I loved every second of it. I mean, it kind of proved that girls can do it,” Kylee says. “And I was a first-year senior, so … I was going up against boys that have been doing [football] since they were, like, five. It was really tough.”

Before each game, Kylee says she tucked her long, braided hair under her jersey and pads, so the opposing team’s players couldn’t tell she was a girl. Just before the whistle was blown for kickoff, she would flick out her hair and watch the shock on players’ faces.

She says her positions on the offensive line and occasionally on the defensive line were all “high contact” positions.

“I wasn't a runner or anything,” Kylee says. “I was down and dirty with the boys in the trenches.”

Not only was Kylee part of the football team, she was also involved in color guard, an activity she joined her junior year. During almost every football game, the color guard team performed at half-time; this meant Kylee had to juggle two physical activities in one night.

Approximately two minutes before half-time, Kylee says she stripped out of her shoulder pads, took her helmet off and ran to perform the color guard routine. Afterwards, she ran back to the football team, put on her shoulder pads and started warm-ups for the second half of the game. It was exhausting, but Kylee says she “loved every second of it.”

After she graduates in May, Kylee plans to pursue a career as a veterinarian, specializing in equine chiropractic. Her dream job is to travel with a rodeo circuit and care for the working horses. She would also love to have her own ranch and veterinarian clinic someday, preferably in Oklahoma. Another dream of Kylee’s is to coach a football team and “help girls see that there is a place for them” within the sport.

“I have a couple [quotes I live by],” Kylee says. “If someone doesn't believe in you, let them. … You don't have to prove it to anybody. You do it for you, because you want to do it.”

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