Retired Army Sergeant First Class Extends Lifetime Roping Aspirations Through Devout Rodeo Family

“Strongest faith encompassed in contagious enthusiasm for the cowboy way of life to be heartfelt embedded into his beloved family.”

Albert De La Garza grew up a cowboy, now living his lifelong dream. Only to be surpassed by loving adoration of his wife, three children and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Albert De La Garza and his three children Joseph, Samuel and Katherine are mounted ready for rodeo practice at their country home near Randolph.

Retiring as a Sergeant First Class from a 20-year Army career, De La Garza served mostly overseas. He was honored with the Bronze Star Medal, Commendation Medal with Valor and additional military recognitions.

“Times on the battlefront were tragically sobering, yet humbling so I truly appreciate my Savior’s many blessings,” Albert acknowledged.

“I’m extremely fortunate for my wife, Kristen, and our three children, Katherine, Joseph, and Samuel,” he appreciated. “We are further blessed with many acquaintances in the rodeo world, friends, ranchers, and our home in rural Kansas.”

Growing up in Seven Sisters, Texas, the youngest of five children, Albert was a cowboy. “My dad was a construction worker, but we always had horses and steers for my family to rope,” Albert said. “Team roping has always been a passion of mine, but we also did day work for area ranchers.

“I was more inspired to rope in rodeos when I became acquainted with professional team roper Tee Woolman,” he added.

Graduating from high school at 18-years-old, Albert joined the United States Army within a few weeks. He followed the footsteps of his older brother, also an Army veteran.

“I appreciate the freedom we have in our country and I wanted to serve to keep these privileges,” Albert said.

His tours of duty took him to Korea and Iraq each twice plus Germany, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Africa. “Those experiences made me stronger, a better person to truly appreciate all that we have,” Albert reiterated.

The urge to be on horseback, with a rope in hand, never left his heart. Fulfilling that desire however was not always convenient.

“It was impossible to keep horses where I was stationed, and when I did compete I borrowed mounts,” Albert said. “I often drove 400 miles back to south Texas to get on a horse to be able to rope.”

An all-around cowboy, Albert De La Garza of Randolph heels a steer during a team roping competition.

Already in their 30s, Albert met Kristen, a school teacher in Columbia, Missouri, through online contact. “She grew up with horses, mostly trail riding and such, but hadn’t been in rodeos,” Albert said. “Kristen and I began dating in 2010 and she started barrel racing some then with her horse Oldie. We were married in 2012, so Kristen did not really rodeo much until after Katherine was born.

“All of us participate in rodeo events now,” he added proudly.

With Albert stationed in Oklahoma, plus additional overseas tours, Kristen remained stateside as a teacher and mom. “When my military career was nearing end, I traded for an opportunity to be stationed at Fort Riley,” Albert smiled.

About five years ago, the couple purchased their five-acre home place near Randolph. “It’s a perfect location to raise a family with horses, and become friends with the great Kansas people,” Albert insisted.

Today, Albert works as a Civil Service employee at Fort Riley. Kristen teaches at Manhattan Catholic Schools where two of their children are students.

“The horse population is up to five head now, so everybody has a horse to ride and participate in rodeos,” Albert said. “I help area ranchers and also compete on ranch rodeo teams, plus enter team roping jackpots and other association rodeos.”

Competing in bull riding at one point earlier in life, Albert has specialized in team roping. “I do other events, too, in order to prove to my kids, I’m an all-around cowboy,” he said. “I tie-down calf rope; compete in steer mugging, everything with cattle ranching and in the arena. I like it all.”

Katherine races in speed events, has started goat tying and is learning to rope. “She’s won a number of buckles in Blackjack and Circleville Saddle Club circuits as well as jackpots,” Albert noted. “Katherine has a great love for horses, especially her horse Snicker, and a passion to barrel race.”

Joseph is an energetic rider. “When he gets on his horses, Duke and Dunny, I have to remind him not to run them all the time,” Dad noted. “Joseph doesn’t always run the pattern correctly, but he is learning from his mistakes. He has started mutton busting and calf riding, making the whistle sometimes, too.”

Samuel is even faster paced than his older brother. “He’s always on the go,” Dad credited. “Samuel is into the mutton busting mostly and is beginning to show an interest in riding horses, too. When he does ride, he prefers to ride Daddy’s rope horse, Blondie, or Mommy’s old horse, Bay.”

Momma competes in saddle club and jackpot speed events. “Kristen has helped improve my horsemanship skills and she’s making our kids great riders, too,” Albert recognized.

Serving as president and webmaster for the Black Jack Saddle Club, Albert is emphatic about the club’s purpose.

“This is a family organization for all ages to participate. We want everybody to ride, learn more about horses and become better riders,” he declared. “Children and their parents need to understand it’s not all about winning. We emphasize safety, care of horses and equipment, sportsmanship and helping each other all the time.”

Rodeo is all in the family for Albert and Kristen De La Garza and their children Katherine, Joseph and Samuel.

Straying a bit from his faith at heavy points in life, Albert credits the Lord for all his many blessings. “My family and I are members of St. Thomas More Catholic Church,” he noted. “My mother-in-law moved to Manhattan to be near our family several years ago, which has proven to be a huge blessing.”

Rodeo’s importance not to be overshadowed, Albert prides in other activities for his children. “I help coach baseball and t-ball which my kids all participate in,” he noted.

Looking ahead, Albert indicated, “We plan to compete in rodeos and horse activities at all levels. The kids are going to ride in Christian Youth Rodeo (CYR) events this year. We will be at some rodeo nearly every weekend as soon as the world health shutdown concludes.

“There’s nothing better for a devout Christian family than riding horses with good horse people,” Albert De La Garza affirmed.