TCU is led on the Western side by Head Western Coach Melissa Dukes. Dukes enters her eighth year leading the Western ranks after beginning her tenure in August 2015.
In what turned out to be a very magical season for the Horned Frogs in 2021-22, coach Dukes was instrumental in seeing TCU win a school record eight straight meets and climb the NCEA rankings from a No. 10-ranked team all the way up to No. 4 in the nation. The Western disciplines registered a total of 23 single-meet discipline victories, registering 4-0 and 4-0 marks in three different meets. Five of TCU’s six All-Americans came on the Western side, with Jessica McAllister being named First Team, Mattie Dukes earning Second Team honors, and Giorgia Medows and Shea Graham both earning Honorable Mention nods. Graham was an Honorable Mention All-American in both Reining and Horsemanship. McAllister earned her second straight Big 12 Conference Rider of the Year honor and was both her and Dukes were All-Big 12 selections for a second straight year.
The 2020-21 squad tallied 13 single-meet victories between Horsemanship and Reining, which helped lead TCU to a 6-6 overall record and an impressive 5-0 mark in home events. The Horned Frogs won both disciplines in all but one home meet on the season.
Three of TCU’s seven All-Americans came from the Western side, with Dukes, Anna Haulter and McAllister each earning Second Team honors. All three riders were named All-Big 12 Team selections, while Dukes (Reining) and McAllister (Horsemanship) were both named the Big 12 Conference Riders of the Year.
The 2019-20 season saw Coach Dukes and the Frogs with a nice mix of seasoned leadership and young talent. Freshman Mattie Dukes jumped on the scene, scoring the top 3 rides in the Western discipline. She, alongside Claire Dittrich and Josie Mootz, contributed two MOPs to their ledger. The Frogs, with a group of six seniors, saw their season cut short when it seemed all but sure that multiple program records were to be broken by the group. The Western group made sure to leave an impact, Laska Anderson was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist and earned the Big 12 Postgraduate Scholarship, while Hauter was an Honorable Mention All-American. Elena Hurd was named to the All-Big 12 team in Reining. Dukes’ ranks earned nine NCEA Academic All-America selections and seven from the Big 12. From the Horsemanship side, Flash earned the nod as an NCEA Top 10 horse for the year.
In 2018-19, TCU advanced to the NCEA Horsemanship National Championship before falling to Georgia in a tiebreaker, 887.5-881. The Western unit continued to shine with five of the top seven wins leaders riding in the discipline. Freshman Natalia DeVencenty burst onto the scene leading the way in MOPs with four in Horsemanship. DeVencenty was also named the NCEA National Championship Most Outstanding Performer. TCU was represented with four riders in the NCEA All-American charts, three of which came from the Reining corps. The Frogs matched that honor in the Big 12 with four being named to the All-Big 12 team, as well. In the classroom, the light shined as Laska Anderson was awarded the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement award. The Frogs had 10 Academic All-Americans, as well as 10 Academic All-Big 12 honorees.
Dukes ensured the condition of her horses too, as Reining horse Snoop Dog earned an NCEA Top 10 Horse nod.
In 2017-18, the Frogs reached the semifinals in the NCEA Championship both in team competition and in the Horsemanship event. The Horsemanship team proved to be top class in the year, earning 12 victories throughout the season, led by sophomore Laska Anderson who posted the record for most wins in a single season with 17. She also received four MOPs and only lost two draws all season. There were four riders total for TCU in Horsemanship with over 10 wins, with Josie Mootz also setting a program record for highest score in a Horsemanship ride after scoring an 81at Baylor on Pierce. Anderson was named the NCEA Horsemanship Rider of the Year and an NCEA Elite Equestrian. The Frogs had three Western All-Americans and three All-Big 12 selections. 10 Western Frogs were named Academic All-Americans by the NCEA and seven Academic All-Big 12 winners.
Dukes built off her first-year success with another solid campaign in 2016-17. The Western side won 6-2 over No. 1 Baylor in the NCEA National Championship Quarterfinals to propel the Frogs to their second-straight semifinal berth. The Horsemanship unit led the way in wins for the Frogs tallying nine as a group during the year, while Brooke Boyle led the team with five MOPs. Megan McMullen was named the Big 12 Horsemanship Rider of the Year and was named to the All-Big 12 Team, while the Western side garnered two Big 12 Rider of the Month honors during the year. In the classroom, the Western ranks had six NCEA Academic All-America selections, while also earning 3 Academic All-Big 12 honors. The Reiners were earned the only NCEA Top 10 Horse of the Year as Reno was awarded the distinction.
In her first season at the helm, Dukes generated instant success. The Frogs had three 10+ win riders and 12 total MOPs in the discipline. The Western side battled in the National Championships, winning 6-1 against Georgia in the semifinals on the back of a Horsemanship sweep. They came back the next night and won the discipline 5-2, but that wasn’t enough to overcome Auburn, who won 8-7. Dukes registered two First Team NCEA All-Americans, Megan McMullen and Chantz Stewart. On the academic side, eight Frogs were placed on the NCEA Academic All-American ranks from the Western side. Stewart was also named the Big 12 Reining Rider of the Year as well as the All-Big 12 team, McMullen also earned a spot on that list. Seven Horned Frogs were named to the Academic All-Big 12 team. Dukes’ success in her first year was superb, but she also excelled with her horses as Shy was named to the NCEA Top 10 Horses list.
Prior to TCU, she had coached or trained over 25 World, Reserve World and Congress Championships. She recently was the co-owner for Dukes Performance Horses in Weatherford, training and competing on a national level, as well as handling all public relation and marketing opportunities.
Dukes, a native of Coleman, Texas is a TCU alumna. She graduated a Frog in the class of ’89 with a degree in Fine Arts. She has grown up in the equine world and has hoisted 18 Congress Championships to go along with five World Show Championship titles in Western and English events in youth, amateur and open classes.
A member of the AQHA Board of Directors, Dukes is a well-respected judge in AQHA, APHA, NRCHA and NSBA, while also being an AQHA Professional Horseman. She serves on the AQHA Youth Committee, Merle Wood Humanitarian Award Task Force and Texas A&M Equine Initiative Program Development Committee, respectively.
Coach Dukes calls Weatherford, Texas home, where she lives with her husband and two kids, one of which, Mattie, rides for the Frogs in Horsemanship and begun her career in 2019.