CARSON CITY — Dakota Chesebro has forever been “Daddy’s little princess,” as she recalls her father fondly calling her.
It was only fitting that the 17-year-old senior at Carson City-Crystal High School was crowned queen of the upcoming Carson City Frontier Days festival.
Dakota lives by a mantra passed down from her father — to always have a positive attitude and never stop when attempting to achieve a goal, no matter how hard the path to achieve said goal may be.
But, as she has learned throughout her life, the struggle to get to the top is not always so kind.
Dakota’s father, Roger Chesebro, suffered from skin cancer since before Dakota had been born. She lost her father after a long and brave battle in March 2012.
Sadly, he couldn’t be there when his princess finally became a queen.
But now, just more than a year later since his passing, as Dakota awaits to graduate from high school on Sunday, June 2, she will take her father’s spirit with her as she moves into adulthood and continue to strive to make him proud.
“I’ve always been a daddy’s girl and he will always be with me,” Dakota said. “He was really tough and strong. Everybody loved him and his positive attitude. Everything I do now is for him.”
They shared a passion together, that of horse riding, but Roger’s condition prevented him from being exposed to animals.
“He always wanted to ride, he wanted to get into that with me,” Dakota said. “My horse, Gypsy, in particular, he loved her.”
Dakota can recall the rare occasions when Gypsy would place her head against her father’s chest, though just for a moment, offering comfort.
“I close my eyes and remember him,” she said. “I’ve now learned how to deal with things on my own.”
Dakota has expanded on her joy of horse riding, participating in various rodeos and being actively involved in the Montcalm County 4-H program since middle school. She has come a long way in her years of riding.
Being called by some as the “cowgirl queen” seems only appropriate for the teenager who has worked on a diary farm for the past six years.
But the challenge of dealing with her father’s cancer while balancing school, riding and work wasn’t the only family illness that affected Chesebro.
Her mother, RoxAnne Chesebro, has suffered from multiple sclerosis since 2001.
“It never really affected her, but within the past year and a half she’s gotten to the point where she can’t really walk,” said Dakota of her mother.
Again, the bond of horse riding shines through for Dakota and her mother.
“Horseback riding is supposed to be good for dealing with multiple sclerosis,” Dakota said. “She’s been trying to do things to help deal with it, but it’s hard to get her motivated to try. It’s been a challenge.”
Since her father’s passing, Dakota and her mother have come closer and have been there for each other as much as they can.
“My mom has definitely helped me this year, more than ever,” she said.
In both instances, it is Gypsy, Dakota’s horse of five years, that has been her constant companion, something her teacher and equestrian coach, Joan Henning, has noticed.
“I have witnessed (a bond) between Dakota and her horse,” Henning said. “Riding her horse is something that is in her control, it isn’t frightening, it is rewarding.”
Henning said Gypsy has been a great source of comfort when dealing with the frustrating and frightening truths of cancer and multiple sclerosis, and having Dakota on the school’s equestrian team has been mutually beneficial.
“There is a bond between a living 1,000-pound animal and it’s human,” Henning said. “You are born with it, as so it seems. It’s a lifelong passion, and the equestrian team is not a high school sport that is over in 12th grade.”
With everything she has overcome in life, and the bond she shares with Gypsy, Dakota will now approach adulthood with the rest of her classmates. She has been accepted to Michigan State University, however, she says she will take at least one year off before attending a four-year university.
“I might go next year,” she said. “This fall I’m going to do photography and sign language at Montcalm Community College.”
Having spent two years studying animal science, one at the Montcalm Area Career Center and the other at MCC, Dakota said she would like to pursue a career in horse agriculture at some point.
“My final goal would be to do farm photography,” she said. “I think people would like someone like me who has experience with animals.”
Whatever she ends up pursuing, she knows the influences from her father will continue to guide her in her quest.
“He was and will always be my role model,” she said.