Behind the Slide – Sarah Kelsey

First-Timer Sarah Kelsey Finds Kindness at the NRHA Futurity

Lifelong rider Sarah Kelsey had never been to the National Reining Horse Association Futurity and Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships, and her husband, equine dentist Roger Kelsey, planned to see clients at the show.

So Sarah and Roger both came to Oklahoma City for the annual celebration of reining horses.

“It’s exciting because a majority of Roger’s clients are here, and I’m getting to meet them,” she said. “So being able to travel with him and see horses of this caliber in real life and then get to come here to the show and watch them put all the pieces together is just cool for both of us.”

Vendors, customers, and staff have been kind, she said, along with people just walking through the aisles.

“We’ve been to a lot of different shows with a lot of different disciplines and a lot of different breeds,” Sarah said. “And the first thing he remarked on here was, ‘What do you notice about the people?’ And I was like, ‘Everybody’s really helpful, and everybody’s really nice.’ And he was like, ‘Isn’t that cool?’ And I said, ‘It really is.’ Because this is my first time here. Everyone has been prepping me on what to expect, but nobody said how pleasant everybody is here.”

Roger’s clients include reining trainer Brett Walters, who gave Sarah her first ride on a reiner. Sarah had grown up riding dressage and saddle seat, and she thought she was ready for a reiner. First she tried spinning, and it made her dizzy. Then Walters asked if she wanted to stop, and she said, “Of course I wanted to stop.

“He’s like, “Send him down there and just sit back and tell him ‘Whoa,’” Sarah remembered. “I send this dude. I mean, we are carrying the mail. I sit back and say, ‘whoa,’ and I think I grabbed his ears. How I didn’t push his headstall off, I’ll never know. And this horse is trying to stay underneath me. God bless him. I can hear Brett laughing, and Roger’s probably laughing, too, but he’d never tell me, because he’s just that sweet.”

Roger’s kindness features a lot in Sarah’s conversation. It’s her second marriage – her forever marriage, she said. She was working as a Mandarin translator for a tool and dye company when she started dating Roger.

“I had a marriage that went south in 2014,” Sarah said. “I pawned my wedding ring from that marriage to pay my (barrel racing) entry fees at the Quarter Horse Congress. My mom had made me this red and black fringe shirt that Dale Evans would be proud of, and I had a pair of earrings in my hotel room. I thought, ‘I’m going to take these earrings, and I’m just gonna church them up a little bit.’”

A few crystals and several dabs of adhesive later, she had a new pair of earrings, and other barrel racers wanted them. She made a few more pairs, then a few more, constantly refining her technique and materials, until Roger suggested Sarah take her work seriously.

She took her last $85 to buy a vendor’s license and a package of wholesale Swarovski crystals. She started a Facebook page and an Instagram account, and she had a business, Rhinestone Lipgloss.

“I checked out on my corporate job,” she said. “That was February of 2015. This past June, we sent earrings to Iceland, which was country No. 22. In 2020, we bought an 18,000-square-foot building with four Airbnbs in downtown Wapakoneta, (Ohio). So, our clients fly in, stay with us, design pageant and wedding jewelry, but my main and most favorite demographic are the horse people.”

Her brand isn’t just her work, it’s her identity.

“Everything is made by hand in our studio in Ohio, including the bases of the earrings,” Sarah said. “My youngest employee is 57. If you ever lose a stone or break an earring, we fix them for free. If you lose one, you can buy just one, because nobody loses both earrings at the same time. It’s not how the universe works.”

Success, she said, comes from listening to customers and believing in yourself.

“To be with somebody who loves what they do and, and for me to love what I do, who I do it with, and who I do it for… Man, I won the life lottery,” she said. “I don’t remember the last time I had an alarm clock. I can’t wait to get to my office. I can’t wait to open my laptop. I can’t wait to get here and open the booth and find out what really cool humans are going to wander in and just start a conversation. The people here have been amazing.”

Sarah’s booth, Rhinestone Lipgloss, is located in Barn 3 of the OKC Fairgrounds.