Moving Forward with the 2013 TOP 15 NFR Barrel Racers

Moving Forward with the 2013 TOP 15 NFR Barrel Racers

When asking the top 15 NFR barrel racers what it takes to keep their equine athletes going strong, you’d expect 15 different answers. However, if there’s one thing nearly all of rodeo’s leading ladies would agree on – it’s that the secret is not necessarily an expensive gadget, a supplement, or a certain type of body therapy – it’s in simply KNOWING your horse.

While physically supporting our horses IS often done through a combination of the means mentioned above, nothing can compete with a high level of awareness on our part. Paying attention to the tiniest details and changes in our horse’s attitude, behavior, movement and performance can help us detect small problems before they become much larger, and sometimes even irreversible.

On the other hand, while we don’t want to become hypochondriacs, or worry incessantly, when we educate ourselves on what to look for, and understand which problems are worthy of concern, AND know our horse’s like the back of our hand, not only do we set ourselves up to save time and expense (as well as our horse’s discomfort), but we also set ourselves up to potentially prevent physical problems from sidetracking us completely.

In today’s post, the top 15 not only share their advice for keeping an equine champion healthy on the road, but also tips for developing one to begin with – valuable information we can ALL take with us, as we step forward into a new year and use their shining example as fuel for our own barrel racing fire!
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Out the Gate with the 2013 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

Out the Gate with the 2013 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

In my book, and in the official record books, the 2013 National Finals Rodeo barrel racing proved to be a year like no other.

Not only did Taylor Jacob shatter the arena record by nearly a tenth, but Sherry Cervi captured some records of her own with earnings totaling $303,317 for the year, the fastest combined time (138.15 seconds) over ten rounds, as well as an average win, and ultimately, a fourth world title.

I’m know I’m not the only one who especially enjoys the NFR opening ceremonies and grand entry.

However, thanks in large part to modern technology, hardworking people behind the scenes, and the top 15 themselves, we were ALL given an up close and personal look into the lives and times of the rodeo’s leading ladies – which was a BIG PART of what made the barrel racing so exciting and inspirational.

In today’s post, we take a look back at 2013 as the top 15 share their most memorable learning experiences and achievements. This insider’s view provides an opportunity to not only learn, but also be even more inspired by the human and equine athletes alike.

Here at, we extend a HUGE heartfelt “THANK YOU” to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, and to the ladies listed below not only for making professional barrel racing possible, and even more fun and exciting to watch, but for planting seeds of desire in us all to take our own barrel racing to new heights in 2014, and beyond.
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LIVE from the NFR – Q&A Interview with Michele McLeod

Sometimes, you just KNOW a champion when you see one. That’s how I felt when I first met Michele McLeod at the 2013 NFR.

Michele has an enthusiastic groundedness about her. She exuded genuine positivity and humble confidence – no doubt a huge part of what makes her a force to reckon with in the arena.

It just so happens that Charlie Cole of High Point Performance Horses has a very good eye for talent. Not only did he see it in Michele, but in special young black stallion that first turned his head at the 2012 AQHA World Show.

Heather Smith and NFR Barrel Racer, Michele McLeod
Heather Smith and NFR Barrel Racer, Michele McLeod

According to this article in Rodeo News, Charlie stated, “I texted my business partner and said I saw an amazing horse just run. The next day I watched the finals and the way he worked I just knew he was a special horse. He used himself well and had explosive power away from the barrels and accelerated his way to the next one. He kept his feet moving around the barrel.”

Long story short, this incredible horse, rider and owner trio joined forces and resulted in a fairy tale year for everyone – ultimately resulting in a #3 qualification spot for the National Finals Rodeo with $109,591 in earnings.

Although a hardworking and successful barrel horse trainer and jockey for many years, until recently, Michele McLeod wasn’t exactly a household name. Until 2013, she had chosen to stick fairly close to home. However, when an incredible partnership (and an incredible horse) presented itself – it only made sense to jump (run) at the opportunity, and hit the road!
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Train Like an Athlete – WIN Like a Champion! Fitness Tips from the Top 15

Train Like an Athlete - WIN Like a Champion!  Fitness Tips from the Top 15

In today’s video (filmed live at the NFR!), I’ve shared a summary of tips the top 15 barrel racers offered when asked “How do you stay physically and mentally fit with all the difficulties of rodeo life?

There were definitely some common threads in their answers, however I felt as though Shada and Sydni’s every word on this topic were also worth sharing in print…

SHADA BRAZILE: “Physically, I have pretty much been adapted to the rodeo lifestyle. I run every chance I get, I run bleachers. We spend a lot of emphasis on horses physical condition and it’s equally important for us to be in shape, and have a strong core to ride them the way we need to.

As far as mentally I thought I understood the mental pressure of competing watching Trevor, there are so many ups and downs I really didn’t understand how to compete when you had to win. I really don’t think you can understand it until you have been there. What really helps me is to go to the arena before I run and envision my run.”

SYDNI BLANCHARD: “I stay gluten free, which allows me to cut out wheat, barley and rye and allows me to eat more meat, vegetables and fruit. Physically, I work out every day; we have a gym at the home and I try and keep the same schedule on the road which gets hard.

I make sure I do cardio every day, so I will either run stairs or run the bleachers at rodeos or I have a jump rope that I keep in my tack compartment, so every time I open my tack I will jump rope real quick.

Just things like that you have to do, it’s hard, you are an athlete and you have to treat your body like you are one. You just have to ask yourself, how bad do you want it?”

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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

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. Read more

What it Takes to Make NFR Barrel Racing Dreams Come True

What it Takes to Make NFR Barrel Racing Dreams Come True

It’s what every little barrel racing girl dreams of – blasting down the alley of the Thomas & Mack, laying down record-setting runs with thousands of fans screaming, then standing on the stage and taking home the gold.

However, what competing at the NFR might look like from the stands, and what’s really necessary to make that dream reality, are two very different things. If you’ve ever been to the NFR to watch in person, it may have even fanned the flames of your burning desire to be competing there one day even more. It’s no wonder – a prestigious event like the National Finals Rodeo adds even more glamour and excitement to a sport so many of us are already smitten with.

If you haven’t already embarked down the pro rodeo trail, then what you don’t see or experience are the hardships and challenges – the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows, the many miles, the sleep deprivation, the horse, parking, weather, and vehicle problems, etc., etc. It all makes the actual barrel racing part look easy, BUT you already know that part is indeed NOT easy either.

I can’t say that I’ve made my own NFR dreams come true (yet), but I’ve had the opportunity again this year to share special input from 15 women who have. Rodeo’s leading ladies were asked “What quality do you feel barrel racers need most in order to make the dream of qualifying for the NFR a reality?”

Below I’ve included their answers, as well as a deeper look at what I personally feel is necessary to make a trip down the alley at the Thomas & Mack. Again, not that I can speak from actual experience, although I’ve been fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time competing with, riding with and learning from numerous World Champions and NFR qualifiers, and one can’t help but connect a few dots and draw some conclusions in the process.

So let’s get started diving into “What it takes to make NFR Barrel Racing Dreams Come True.”
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Fit Rider Interview with Barrel Racer and Author, Heather Smith

Fit Rider Interview with Barrel Racer and Best Selling Author, Heather Smith

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #37 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.

The interview below was featured in the Success in the Saddle Fit Rider Newsletter.
What prompted you to increase your fitness?
I’ve always been interested in fitness and nutrition but in the past few years I’d started learning more about how our riding can benefit from gaining core strength and how stability and balance in the saddle can be increased through specific exercise out of the saddle.

Being a dedicated student of horsemanship for many years has taught me that horses really are our mirrors. The way a horse behaves, moves and performs is often a reflection of their rider.

Heather & Pistol

I don’t think it’s fair to ask our horses to have a level of fitness that we’re not willing to achieve ourselves. So expecting them to give us their best in competition is a matter of giving them our best every day as well.

What is your fitness routine?
I’m not a person who’s ever been obsessive about exercising, but I am committed to maintaining my general health and have noticed differences in how I think and feel when I make movement a priority. Read more

Cool Down with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

2012 Cool Down with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

With all the excitement that the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo brings to the month of December, it’s also a good time of year for quiet reflection; a time to take inventory of the months past and where they have brought us in the present.

In this “Cool Down with the Top 15” we asked rodeo’s leading ladies about their greatest challenges and achievements in the past year, who and what inspires them, as well as tips for aspiring professional barrel racers who desire to follow in their footsteps.

Their advice and experiences are wide and varied, but all offer exceptional value to any barrel racer who has ever dreamed of blasting down the alley at the Thomas & Mack, or just wishes to take their barrel racing to the next level.


Brittany Pozzi
Brittany Pozzi

What has been your biggest challenge or lesson in 2012?
My biggest challenge was the passing of my boyfriend Broc Cresta. This has been a huge life changing experience and will forever be part of my life.

What has been your greatest achievement or most memorable experience this year?
The most memorable moment was in Livermore, CA where Broc and I both won event buckles and our friends and family were there to cheer us on. My greatest achievement was coming into the finals in the lead and not rodeoing after Cheyenne.

If you could give one tip to aspiring professional barrel racers, what would it be?
Work hard and stay hooked! You might encounter tough times but they too shall pass.


Mary Walker
Mary Walker

What has been your biggest challenge or lesson in 2012?
My biggest challenge has been to be patient. Be very patient!

What has been your greatest achievement or most memorable experience this year?
My great achievement was winning Cheyenne! It was so much fun and they treat you so good there.

Who has been your greatest influence and inspiration and why?
Martha Josey. She has always helped so many young kids and also has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. She has also broke her pelvis. She was one of the first to call and say I will be ok and that I would heal.

If you could give one tip to aspiring professional barrel racers, what would it be?
One tip I would give is never purchase a horse that is more than your own riding ability.
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