AUBREY (CBSDFW.COM) – Tim Tebow isn’t the only professional athlete with an open profession of faith. One of the top female professional rodeo riders is doing the same thing – only different.

“I want people to know there is a way. You can have hope. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. But
you need to have a relationship with Christ. That comes first,” Kendra Dickson said.

Kendra Dickson is a champion barrel racer, one of the top 10 in the nation. She’s from Aubrey. She’s won dozens of trophies and barrels of money. She’s beautiful, a former rodeo queen.

She’s a barrel racing expert. She earns extra bucks for that expertise. But not always.  Kendra uses barrel racing as a platform for her faith, holding half a dozen FREE barrel riding clinics every year, where she shows kids the way, the truth and the life.

She calls it “Rodeo for a Reason,” and the people who help her with her mission “Team Gold Buckle.”

Depending on the rodeo schedule, Kendra holds six to seven free clinics every year. Hundreds of riders have participated in her free programs.

“It’s not a bible beatin’, you know, holy spirit hoedown. We don’t try to beat them over the head with it. But we try to live as Christ’s example,” Kendra said.

At Kendra’s free barrel racing clinics, a free saddle is awarded not to the fastest or the most improved but to the one voted by their peers as having displayed the best character.

One of the saddles she’s planning to give away sits inside her house. Picking it up she said, “”This is a hand-tooled, custom made Billy Cooke.”

It’s a $1,200 saddle.

“One of many that we may give away in 2012,” she said.

She also holds barrel racing benefits for charities, bringing in food and thousands of dollars to people who’ve never even been near a horse.

Last fall, she helped to raise $3,600 for the Shepherd’s Hand in Denton, a ministry that feeds and prays for the homeless and underemployed. Diana Garrison is their director.

“It’s a ministry God called me to start in October 2008. We opened, fed 400 people that month and I thought ‘Oh, that’s amazing.’ We now feed over 6,000 people a month,” she said.

On this day, with only one person bagging groceries and a line of hungry people and families beginning to form, Kendra leaped into the kitchen and into action, bagging groceries.

“To see the look in their eye and to see the genuine appreciation from them. Those are moments I will never forget,” she said.

Kendra grew up on a horse.

“I’ve been in the saddle on horseback since before I could walk,” she explained.

She also grew up in the church

“I grew up in a very small southern baptist church. We went to church every Sunday. And, I just didn’t get it,” Kendra said.

“My mind was always wandering back to the ranch and back to my horses,” she said.

“In my early ’20’s, I just felt lost,” she said. It was a time when Kendra said nothing seemed to be going her way. So, I was a very depressed young lady. Ironically, my mother led me to the Lord,” Dickson said.

The two hadn’t spoken in four years.

“One day when she called, I didn’t hang up. And, she said I’d like to meet with you. And, when I met with her I saw genuine changes in her life and in her personality and in the way she spoke to me. I thought, ‘If this God can do something for her, maybe He can do something for me to,” she said.

Now, Kendra holds both reigns on a path she believes that’s meant to be, but stops just short of calling it “perfect.”

In November of 2010 Dickson was diagnosed with skin cancer.

“My friends and I would have contests to see who could be the most tan. I won a lot of times. But little did I know I wasn’t winning at all,” she said.

She is cancer free now.

But there are other setbacks. She knocked over not one but two barrels at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, knocking her out of that competition.

“I do have challenges just like everyone,” Kendra said.

But her life is now better than she ever could have imagined.

“It’s truly more than I ever asked for,” she said.

Kendra also sells barrel racing horses through her website,

She says potential buyers always ask where her horses come from, which typically opens another door for her to share her faith.

“I’ll just say, ‘Well, I prayed over this little horse today or I prayed over this little horse last week and here you are!” she said.

“They seem to come to me. The right horses, at the right time for the right reasons. And that’s my key to success,” she said.

Now she wants to bring as many people as she can along for the ride.

Kendra hopes to make it to the National Rodeo Finals held in Las Vegas at the end of the year where she’ll have a chance to compete for the Championship and a chance to give away 10 saddles – one for every competition round to raise money for 10 different charities.

Only the top 15 can go. Kendra is ranked 8th right now.

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