Reynolds-Flynn rides her passion to a BKW first

— Photo from Kayleigh Reynolds-Flynn

Kayleigh Reynolds-Flynn loves her horse, Tango and husky puppy, Gimli. They live in Soldotna, Alaska.

 

 

Kayleigh Reynolds-Flynn has been riding horses since she was born.

Her mother grew up riding horses, too.

“My favorite picture I have is of me when I was probably about three or four months old with my mom sitting on our old horse, Bandy,” Reynolds-Flynn says in this week’s Enterprise podcast.

Her mother would take her on trail rides as a baby and she would fall asleep in her mother’s arms on the back of a horse.

Now an adult, Reynolds-Flynn’s passion for horses has not faded. She lives in Alaska with her financé, Travis Perkovich; her horse, Tango; and their husky puppy, Gimli.

She has bred a mare named Girlfriend and is expecting a foal in June. The gestation period, she explained, is 340 days or roughly 11 months.

This fall, Reynolds-Flynn became Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s first graduate to earn an American FFA Degree, the top honor earned by fewer than 2 percent of the more than 730,000 Future Farmers of America members.

Her family ran a business in Knox, providing carriage rides for weddings and special occasions like holiday sojourns around Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland. She described a “white Cinderella carriage” pulled by Belgian horses

Behind the fairytale was a lot of work, feeding the horses every day and gradually desensitizing them to the hurly-burly of modern traffic.

A young horse would be paired with an old horse who was “basically bombproof,” said Reynolds-Flynn as they traveled a two-mile circular route along two busy roads to get back home.

Reynolds-Flynn took classes in agriculture at BKW from Micaela Kehrer and joined the FFA.

At 16, she won the People in Agriculture competition at the New York State FFA convention after making a presentation on State Police canine handlers — her dream job at the time.

After graduating from BKW in 2019, she went to the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill. Reynolds-Flynn started in the canine program and said she had a lot of fun working with dogs.

But she came to the realization that her true passion was working with horses and she majored in equine husbandry.

She moved to Alaska to be with her fiancé. They live in Soldotna, population 4,000, on the Kenai Peninsula at the edge of a two-million-acre wildlife preserve.

“It’s almost like the Hilltowns,” said Reynolds-Flynn of the small-town atmosphere.

She works in a shop that melts down lead, putting it into molds to make weights for fishermen’s nets.

“It’s crazy busy all the time,” she said. Currently, she’s working on end-of-the-year orders as people stock up for the next fishing season in a few months.

Reynolds-Flynn tried salmon fishing herself this past summer, donning waders and standing hip-deep in the Kenai River. “It’s almost like fly fishing,” she said.

She caught five or six salmon; her fiancé knows how to cook them.

Her major focus outside of work is on her horse, Tango. Because she competes in barrel racing — she started at the Altamont Fair — she is training Tango on endurance and bending into turns.

If he doesn’t bend his body but makes a sharp turn instead, he gets unbalanced, she explained.

“My mom has been my teacher for everything,” Reynolds-Flynn said — from driving horses for carriages to barrel racing.

She explained how three barrels are set in the shape of a triangle and competitors run a cloverleaf around them as fast as they can.

Reynolds-Flynn once fell off while making a practice run and the horse slipped onto her. But she was unfazed.

She likes challenges and has stepped into traditionally male roles, like being a volunteer firefighter in Knox.

“It’s kind of a rush,” she said of the adrenaline high she gets when barrel racing. “I love doing it.”

Her biggest thrill though was receiving her American FFA Degree on Oct. 30 at the national convention in Indianapolis. Up to 60,000 members from across the country assemble for the annual convention.

“They call it a sea of blue because everybody’s wearing their blue corduroy jackets,” said Reynolds-Flynn.

Earning her degree involved more than just an academic record or FFA membership for three years. She also had to demonstrate outstanding leadership, complete at least 50 hours of community service, earn $10,000 and invest $7,500, and work in excess of 2,250 hours in agriculture.

Reynolds-Flynn has this advice for others who might want to follow in her footsteps: When it seems like it’s getting tough, just keep on pushing through it and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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More Hilltowns News

  • The Albany Water Board, steward of the Basic Creek dam in Westerlo, has received $100,000 from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to come up with a design for a rehabilitation project for the high-hazard dam, which is in substandard condition.

  • A digital equity map, put together by a coalition of organizations including the New York State Education Department and the New York State Library, shows that approximately 15 percent of Hilltown households don’t have internet access, whether because they don’t have an internet subscription or because they don’t have internet-capable devices.

  • The Berne Town Board held a public hearing on a new animal-control law this week and received mostly minor suggestions for alteration from a public that seemed largely pleased with the proposed regulations. 

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