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Down the Alley with the 2013 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

Do you ever just wish you could have coffee with an NFR barrel racer? You know, pick their brain a bit… ask them what it’s REALLY like – the check-in, the parties, the meetings, grand entry practice, barrel practice, waiting in the alley, navigating all the excitement and obligations that come along with being a barrel racing super star!?

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

Maybe you’re more interested in the actual process of making NFR dreams reality. If that’s the case, click here for last week’s article – “What it Takes to Make NFR Dreams Come True.”

If you’re obsessed with horse power, today’s post not only allows you to get up close and personal with rodeo’s leading ladies as they arrive in Las Vegas and prepare for the National Finals Rodeo, but includes links to pedigrees of the horses you’ll see racing down the tunnel each night.

No matter where your specific interests lie, there’s no doubt about it – getting the low down from all 15 of the 2013 NFR barrel racers is not only a great learning opportunity, it’s just plain fascinating!

So I won’t hold you back any longer, in the #1 earnings position heading into the prestigious ten day event is none other than three time world champion and SIXTEEN time NFR qualifier…

SHERRY CERVI

Sherry Cervi
Sherry Cervi

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I will be taking MP Meter My Hay, aka Stingray, an 11 year old and MP A Man With Roses, George a 10 year old; both horses are by PC Frenchman Hayday.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Stingray never stops moving all the way around the barrels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big pen or a little pen she runs the same.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Hopefully winning lots of money!

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
After I get my Starbucks, whatever sponsorship obligations I have, I fulfill them and then get ready for the rodeo! I am not much of a nightlife person so I don’t stay at a casino hotel, I stay at a hotel that is real quiet.

Who comes with you to help?
Cody Hannah is coming with me.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
It’s really, really high pressure and lots of adrenaline. It was my dream as a little girl and that dream never gets old riding down that alley way in the Thomas and Mack! There’s pressure but it’s what little girls dream of.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
No, I just make sure my horse stays in good shape and my horse does better the more runs I make on her so I have been making runs and keeping her and I sharp and enjoying the winter in Arizona.

Do you feel pressure one winning to do it again?
It’s pressure that I have put on myself, to succeed and to be successful, if you do it professionally you want to try and be good at it. Always take advantage of when you have a good horse, you never know when something may happen to it and it may be over. I am very fortunate that Stingray has been good, I am going to enjoy it while she is running good!

Is life different once you are a World Champion?
Not everyday life, but I think a little bit more is expected of you. I think that it’s a good opportunity to be a role model for kids and be a good example. Sometimes, you don’t realize that people are watching you when they are, there is always somebody watching. Always try and be a good person no matter what happens inside the arena, cause really that is not the most important thing to me. It’s how I live my life outside the arena is what is important; I want to try and be a good role model for kids.

Are the demands on your life different now?
It’s only has demanding as you want to let it get!

MARY WALKER

Mary Walker
Mary Walker

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
Perculatin Latte

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Smooth

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Just getting started

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
There are no average days

Who comes with you to help?
Christy Davidson, Clayton Hass, Jason Taylor and Byron

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
Getting mentally focused

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
No

Do you feel pressure one winning to do it again?
Not really

Is life different once you are a World Champion?
Yes, more demands

Are the demands on your life different now?
Yes, I have a lot of fans now.

MICHELE MCLEOD

Michele McLeod
Michele McLeod

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
Slick By Design aka “Slick.” He is a six year old black stallion by Designer Red, he is the horse I rode all summer.
Kellies Chick aka “Skye.” She is a five year old mare by Darkelly. I tried her in July in Colorado and won Steamboat Springs, Jason and Charlie then bought her. I came home the end of August and gave Slick a break and started running her and won Omaha!

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Slick really uses his hind end and slides around the barrels, he prefers the ground to be a little bit harder. He is good on big or small patterns! Skye kind of drops down and turns she is a really big mare but she is good on big and small patterns and she does well in deep ground.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Running barrels!

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
I’m not sure I have never been before.

Who comes with you to help?
Jon Suttle will be helping with the horses and my family will be helping with everything else.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
When I go in the alley I just think about turning each barrel and try to have the best run I can have.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
I haven’t done anything different since qualifying for the NFR.

CHRISTY LOFLIN

Christy Loflin
Christy Loflin

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
Sheza Blazin Move “Movin,” eight year old mare

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Movin is a free runner

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Finally getting to ride Movin there

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
Chaos! You get up at the crack of dawn, go hard all day and get to bed about 2 am.

Who comes with you to help?
This year my good friend Amy Moser will be in charge of my horses. My daughter Randi and step-daughter Alyssa will be there all week to help me and of course Gene Ovnicek my farrier, friend and personal counselor will be there all week.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
You wait all your life for the chance to run down that alley and this year especially I know I will just be happy to be there and I will be all smiles!

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
I stay on the same path. It worked so far… better not change it.

FALLON TAYLOR

Fallon Taylor
Fallon Taylor

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
Babyflo the Rock Star Flos Heiress

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Wicked fast

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Getting to see all of my fans and meeting them in person!! And lots of Dr. Pepper on ice!!

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
None are average, insanely busy. My favorite part is working with fans and Special Kids Rodeo.

Who comes with you to help?
Dad helps in the alley, Mom helps cheer, Hubby holds the camera, and Boss lady holds the horse.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
What is everyone thinking about my outfit.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
No just another day and excited to showcase my horse’s skills for a larger audience.

SABRINA KETCHEM

Sabrina Ketchem
Sabrina Ketchem

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I’ll start the week on Swivel (Swivel Ta Fame), he’s been my stand out this year. Then I’ll just play it day to day, if he gets tired or sore or just isn’t craving it I’ll get on Uno (Write it Thelma). Both my horses have excelled in the small indoor pens so I have a lot of confidence in either.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Swivel runs strong up into the hole than just drops and turns, Uno really hunts and wraps a barrel. They are very different but each style works for them personally.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Just being able compete there is exciting. I feel like my horses have earned the right to run down the alley that the greatest rodeo horses of the last 28 have run down, I’m looking forward to giving them that opportunity.

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
Never being there before I have no idea.

Who comes with you to help?
My husband Justin and my good friend Jennifer Noble will be with me. I have a lot of friends and family going out, I’m not sure what I need help with but they will be there for whatever it is.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
I hope I can treat it like any alley and not worry about the magnitude of the run just focus on keeping my horse calm and focused.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
Once I had enough money won that I felt like no matter what anyone else did I was in a good position, I went home. As far as future years, one of the great things about rodeo is everyone starts at zero the next year, having qualified this year has no effect on next year.

BRITTANY POZZI

Brittany Pozzi
Brittany Pozzi

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I will be riding Shes Free to Flame (Teddy) and Terrible Tommy Twist (Tommy) owned by Sammi Bessert

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Teddy has a smooth easy to ride style and will be very consistent. I have never ridden Tommy.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Having a good time and winning lots of money. I also enjoy signing autographs and giving back to my sponsors that have given to me all year.

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
Mainly signing autographs and running at the rodeo. There is not much personal or down time. I also wake up early to go to the practices.

Who comes with you to help?
This year I have Carli Weber, Sammi Bessert, and Marty Tanner coming.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
I try to block everything out and tell myself to go have fun.

Do you feel pressure one winning to do it again?
Once you have made it you always feel the pressure to keep doing it.

Is life different once you are a World Champion?
Not mine, it is just a title not a way of life…. Rodeo is too humbling.

KALEY BASS

Kaley Bass
Kaley Bass

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I’ll be riding Wonders Cowboy Dan “Cowboy.” It’s the same horse I rode last year and I will bring his full sister along with me. Both horses are pretty laid back when it comes to doing their job, they know when to be ready.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Cowboy is really consistent, he takes the same steps pretty much every time. He is not a hard runner, but does have a longer stride to him.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
The running part!

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
Waking up, getting your horses fed, getting ready to sign autographs throughout the day and if you have time come back and check your horses and make sure they get out of their stalls and then get ready for the rodeo

Who comes with you to help?
Alicia Stockton, which is also my traveling partner for the last two years.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
It’s very nerve wracking because you are coming down to make that perfect run that you want to make to win the round. Always stay positive and never think negative, don’t worry about anyone else but you and your horse.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
No, once your qualify you start to prepare yourself for the next year (it’s only my 3rd year rodeoing).

TAYLOR JACOB

Taylor Jacob
Taylor Jacob

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I will be taking Honor Thy Frenchman, “Bo” he is it really, I will have Kim Schulze’s back up horse French Dream, “Kickin.” Bo is a Frenchmans Feature out of a Honey of a Jet mare. Bo is weird, is just a typical crazy barrel horse.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
He really runs up into the hole into the turns and then kind of come back over himself, he basically just slides around them.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Just getting to run there, but I think it will hit me the first grand entry.

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
I think it’s going to be busy, but right now I am signing autographs some place every day and then around 3:00 or 4:00 I’m going to plan to get to my trailer and get cleaned up and ready. Basically from 3:00 or 4:00 on I am wanting to make it about me and my horse.

Who comes with you to help?
My Mom is going to help me with my horse.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
I am sure that I am going to be nervous. I really am going to just try and think of it as another run; going to go in there and do what I have done all year long. And I am going to have FUN!

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
No, I am going to dance with the partner that got me there.

LISA LOCKHART

Lisa Lockhart
Lisa Lockhart

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
First and foremost I will be riding Louie (An Oakie With Cash), I will also bring Chisum (Fast An Gold)
Louie is a ten year old who is playful with a free spirit; Chisum is a 15 year old that is kind of laid back and crabby. They are extreme opposites, but individuals none the less and that’s just the way we like it.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
I like a horse to have a lot of rate, collection and roundness and to be soft and supple. They are a lot of the same in that manner. Chisum is a lot bigger horse, but to me they are both very similar in their styles.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Coming down that alley way the first night and every night. There is so much that goes into Las Vegas, just the atmosphere and electricity in the town from the time that you drive in. Being there for that purpose we’re designed to be there for, waiting for that moment seems to take forever to get to that point on Thursday night at 8:20 pm when we actually run.

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
There is not an average day at the NFR! Average doesn’t even fit in to the equation. It’s complete craziness, busy, but thankfully I have some wonderful sponsors that I would like to repay my time and effort, so signing autographs for sponsors and other commitments that we enjoy going to like the Exceptional Rodeo. Most of my time is spent with the horses; Grady and I are the two that take care of our horses so a lot of time and effort is spent with them. But mostly it’s the commitment to sponsors throughout the day that I love, it’s great.

Who comes with you to help?
It’s just Grady and I. I do also have my sister Angie and her husband Ed out there, which she helps me with my kids to go do things throughout the day, which I don’t have time for. She helps fulfill the kid’s dreams of vacationing in Vegas!

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
For me I have one word to describe it and that’s: intense. Everyone handles it different, I just think about my job, the closer I get to the mouth for that alley and just concentrating on what my job is and what each step is going to be!

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
No I sure don’t, I have just been doing the same thing for the last however many years. I just stick to the same program day in and day out for the most part. I try not to treat it any differently; I do what I’ve done to get me there.

JANE MELBY

Jane Melby
Jane Melby

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
First Down Perk a 12 year old gelding. My back up horse will be JM Alive N Perquix owned by Matt & Bendi Dunn.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
He runs hard with a lot of natural rate. He also has lots of try every time.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Winning another go round buckle and standing on stage at South Point with family.

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
Taking care of my horse, go sign autographs and support my sponsors, get some rest and prepare for the rodeo. Get my game face on.

Who comes with you to help?
My wonderful husband Ryan Melby and Caleb Hodges

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
The alley way at the Thompson Mack Center is very intense and makes your horse feel very explosive. I focus on making a perfect fast run.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
I took a depth breath, I was mentally worn out but there’s not much time to rest when you have to prepare for Las Vegas.

JEAN WINTERS

Jean Winters
Jean Winters

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
Crickets Peppy Zan

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
He is hard running, I don’t have to help him much so I guess he’s pretty free. I just hold on.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Making runs. I don’t like to be around a lot of people so the time in Vegas around people is more of a cause of concern to me than the runs. I’m more comfortable on my horse than talking to people.

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
Ask me this about December 15th. I don’t know what it will be like. I’m sure it will start with coffee and feeding horses and end with a pillow under my head just like all my days.

Who comes with you to help?
Guy, my husband and my youngest boy Brazos. Pecos is staying home, he’s the responsible one, and taking care of the cattle and horses here at home.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
If we are just talking about any run, anywhere… I try to concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing, like riding all the way to my point. I actually try to sing a praise and worship song, anything that comes to mind, to keep me calm. For everyone else’s benefit, I do this only in my mind.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
Not really, I just try to keep Zan fit and keep myself in shape. I would like to make runs but I don’t live where that is possible without a lot of driving so I just work at the house and go to a jackpot when I can.

SHADA BRAZILE

Shada Brazile
Shada Brazile

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I’ll start the week and hope to ride “Dial It Fast” all ten days, he is a seven year gelding by Dashin is easy and out of Dial It in. My back up horse is (No Pressure On Me) “Rooster”, he is a seven year old stallion by Leo Nick Bar out of SX Frenchmans Vanilla.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Dial It’s strong point is his speed, he’s not a tight turner he doesn’t use much of his back end. Another strong point is his ability to handle bad ground. Rooster is opposite of Dial, he is a taller horse, real turny, he drops and turns, they are kind on opposite ends of the spectrum. Rooster is a lot easier to ride.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
The grand entry! Riding behind Trevor carrying the Texas flag; and having my brothers and cousins riding with us, just having the experience together.

Who are you most thankful to and/or grateful for supporting your career and journey to the NFR?
Most thankful for having a relationship with God, the rodeo road is hard, there are ups and downs. Trevor has been supportive when it’s not easy to be supportive. He has helped with anything from entering to Vets., he is always there to help me. My Mom says whatever you dream about doing, go do it. She is real encouraging, and she has been that person that says don’t back down keep working on it.

Who comes with you to help?
Bambi Robb will be taking care of my horses. She was with me all summer; she knows when a hair is out of place on my horses.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
In the alley I’m real focused on my horse.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
Make sure I’m in shape and make sure my horses are in shape. We just got the arena set up last night I probably won’t run full blast but I will definitely do some slow work.

SYDNI BLANCHARD

Sydni Blanchard
Sydni Blanchard

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I will be taking 2 horses, Clancy (NF French Tigger) and Victory (Pure Victory Dash). Clancy loves to drink Starbucks coffee.

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
They are pretty different horses; Clancy’s has a style to where he is real responsive and Victory is more free running.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
The feeling of being in the alley is quite the reward in itself because we work all year long for it. Your family and team put everything they have into it as well; we all give up so much. That’s what is so exciting about it!

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
There is no average day in Las Vegas at the NFR!

Who comes with you to help?
I have a team of friends that have helped me throughout the year that will be there (Stacey Amentia, Nicole Kline & Lacey Tripplet), as well as Barry Bader that works with and trains on my horse Victory. Also one of my sponsors Tracy Sharp, she does a lot of chiropractor work on my horses. Also, my boyfriend Luke Butterfield.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
I just get so excited and grateful to be there. When you are lined up and you watch the truck drive in with the 3 barrels you just think, “Wow, this is it. I am just so blessed to be able to be here in the top 15 and to run in the Thomas and Mack.” It’s the coolest thing and you work so hard for it and give up so much to get there, it’s crazy but it’s what we do. It’s really a relief and it’s such an exciting and joyful feeling be in that alley.

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
I just breathe and start revaluating my goals of now what is laid in front of me. For me being on the bubble this year, I pretty much knew I had made it after Amarillo, TX which was a huge relief and I could start breathing and not worrying so much about it. But the girls that were with me encouraged me to not get too relaxed yet.

TRULA CHURCHILL

Trula Churchill
Trula Churchill

Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I will be riding my eight year old gelding A Streak of Rita, “Worm”

How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
He turns hard and really drags his butt in his turns.

What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Getting to run down the alley ten nights in a row in front of the greatest rodeo fans in the world.

What is an average day for you at the NFR?
Caring for my horse consumes most of my day.

Who comes with you to help?
My husband Linn.

What is it like in the alley, what is going through your mind?
It can be pretty intense in the alley. I try to block everything else out and concentrate on making my run

Once you have qualified for the NFR do you start to do anything differently?
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!


In the comments below, let me know what YOUR favorite part of watching NFR barrel racing is? If given the opportunity, what would you ask the top 15 NFR barrel racers!?


Read the Comments or Add Yours

  1. Jessie says:

    Heather, thank you so much for this article. It was refreshing and humbling to hear from these wonderful cowgirls about their horses and how they have gotten to the NFR. It makes me so excited, to know that anyone even my horse and I could be running down that alley if we work hard enough :)

  2. carmen says:

    Awesome article!!!! Good luck ladies my adrenaline started pumpin for ya just reading this:)

  3. Lena says:

    Good luck to all the riders !! Am excited to watch ur runs makes me work harder on my barrel racing to get there one day too just to read this

  4. Thank you for posting – nice to keep up with the ladies and horses

  5. Jessica says:

    Awesome article. I am so excited!

  6. Loree says:

    I have been there to watch the NFR twice and wish I was there again this year. It was great to read all their stories, I wish all of them great rides, and appreciate you Heather for taking the time to talk to them and share this with us. I walk, ride, eat and sleep barrel racing.

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