Speak the name Kiser around a reining pen, and the first thing that comes to mind is likely big drags and great dirt.
The Kiser family, of NRHA Corporate Partner Kiser Arena Specialists, have been involved with reining for decades, and are still today. Bob and Linda Kiser were farmers in Illinois for decades, growing mostly corn and soybeans. In the late 1970s, Bob and son Jim became involved with reining, and the family’s business model began to transition.
Linda helped secretary events for the family’s home affiliate and worked at the prestigious NRHA Futurity for years. Now, she’s the hostess of the Cantina at both the NRHA Futurity and 6666 Ranch NRHA Derby presented by Markel. For the Kiser matriarch, it’s a job that allows her to continue connecting with the people she enjoys and watching a sport she loves.
“Bob and I grew up in Illinois. We were high school sweethearts, and we got married and farmed,” she shared. “Bob showed reiners a little, and Jim showed quite a bit. Jim spent four years in Italy training, but came back here and continued showing.”
Linda, who admits she has a hard time sitting still, became the secretary of the Illinois Reining Horse Association. When the NRHA moved the Futurity to Oklahoma City in 1986, she knew she’d have to find something to fill her time. “I can’t sit around for 10 days and do nothing, and so that’s how I got involved,” she explained. “I started in the announcer stand in the time when we would do the scores on slips of paper…”
She laughed and expanded on that statement. “We had little slips of paper, and Kaye Potts, who was the secretary for NRHA at the time, would get the score from the announcer. I could hear it and would write the back number and score on that paper. Let’s say it was a 218, and the next horse in was a 221. I’d throw out that 218. The next might be a 207, and after a few, you would start to get an idea of what might get thrown out,” she said.
Shortly after the Futurity moved to Oklahoma City, Bob became involved with arena maintenance. “One of those first years, I think it was 1987, there was a problem with the ground. It was bad enough they had to postpone it a day. Linda Matthews (former NRHA Executive Director) asked Bob to help with it. It was better, but he was a perfectionist and it wasn’t what he wanted, so he invented the DragMaster and Kiser Arena Specialists was born,” she said. The Kiser family has managed the footing at NRHA’s major events ever since, and Bob was eventually inducted into NRHA’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
The NRHA Futurity continued to grow. Linda, Kaye, and announcer Keith Bradley were the team in the announcer stand for years, but soon Linda knew she needed to make a change. “They started adding all those divisions and it wasn’t quite as easy to do, and they started using the computers to make it simpler. I realized my computer skills weren’t quite what they needed to be, so I backed out of it and stayed home for a year,” she explained.
But staying home wasn’t a fit, and soon Linda was looking for another way to be involved. “The NRHA had a lot of interns at the time working, and they did a good job but didn’t know people. I have been around the reiners so long, that working in the Cantina was a perfect fit,” she said. “For me, I love doing it for the horses, and even more importantly, for the people. It’s about families. I have watched kids grow up and now they are here with families of their own. That’s special.”
It looks like there will be Kisers in the show pen in some form or fashion for years to come. Linda’s grandson, 12-year-old Wade, is already competing. “He’s into reined cow horse, and he’s doing really well. He’s already won a couple belt buckles,” she said proudly.