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

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #100 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.

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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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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Barrel Talk with NFR Barrel Racing World Champion, Mary Walker

Mary Walker Accepting her 7th Go-Round Buckle
Mary Walker accepting her buckle after winning the 7th round.

At 53 years young, Mary Walker’s dream came true in 2012 when she qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

She wowed the crowds as she and her gelding, “Latte” won four rounds, set a new WNFR earnings record, won the WPRA best dressed award, the Top Gun award for a new Ram truck, and utimately the 2012 Barrel Racing World Champtionship.

Mary has overcome adversity and inspired thousands on her road to the WNFR. In April of 2011, Mary and her husband, Byron lost their 21 year old son Reagon in an auto accident. Only two months later Latte fell on her at a rodeo – shattering her pelvis, fracturing her back and requiring numerous plates, screws and months of rehab.

If you’re a barrel racer with dreams of making the NFR, Mary’s story is one that will inspire you to ask “What’s my excuse!?” Triumph really can come from tragedy and Mary is testimony to that.
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Five Pre-Run Rituals of the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

NFR Opening Ceremonies
NFR Opening Ceremonies

The introduction to this week’s Q&A will be short and sweet.

But should your pre-run ritual be?

How long does it take YOU to prepare for a run?

If you’re like most barrel racers, you follow at least somewhat of a routine, but how you prepare (and how long you prepare) can make or break your run.

Learning about the pre-run rituals of the top 15 WNFR barrel racers can definitely deliver insight into potential changes that may catapult your own barrel racing success to a new level, and that’s exactly the goal of this week’s Q&A video.

When we asked the top 15 what their pre-run rituals where, and many of their answers were similar. We’ve summarized their replies and discussed them further in the video below which was filmed LIVE from Las Vegas at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo!
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2012 Warm Up with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

Can you feel it? The anticipation is building… soon the doors of the Thomas & Mack will open to over 170,000 fans, as rodeo’s top cowboys and cowgirls contend for a place in the history books.

Whether you’ll be watching from your seat in Las Vegas or tuning in from home, there’s no doubt we’re closing in on the most exciting 10 days of barrel racing all year. With over $765,000 up for grabs, and nearly half of the field being NFR rookies, it’s sure to be good watching.

Viva Las Vegas!
Viva Las Vegas!

Again was fortunate to catch up with rodeo’s leading ladies as they gear up for Wrangler National Finals rodeo. Thousands of barrel racers dream of blasting down the alley at the Thomas & Mack, yet each year only the top 15 WPRA earnings leaders make the cut.

Whoever you find yourself rooting for, it’s our hope that the introduction to the WNFR qualifiers below will give you a personal look into the lives and times of barrel racing’s elite and make watching the action even more enjoyable!

The questions and answers are the first in a two-part series developed to deliver inspiration and insight into understanding what it really takes to make NFR dreams reality.
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Your NFR Game Plan – Steps for Turning BIG Barrel Racing Dreams into Reality

Your NFR Game Plan - Steps for Turning BIG Barrel Racing Dreams into Reality

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #151 & #152 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher or Google Play.

In this special post, I’ll be sharing a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how someone without all the typical support systems and resources that the NFR barrel racers seem to have… can work toward reaching THAT level of barrel racing achievement.

First, you should know that over a year ago I started making detailed plans for the NFR.

I don’t mean planning my wardrobe for this year (haven’t even started on that yet!) – I mean getting ready to RUN there.

Yep, I already know where we’re going to stay & keep horses when I’m competing in Vegas. 

Wait, what!?  Someone might say “You don’t even have ______, ______, or ______ yet!”

While that may be true on one level, my faith in the unseen and what I DO have is even more true on deeper level.  I’m just planning for the eventual and inevitable.

I have no doubt in the dream God planted in my heart.

So EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I’m preparing for the NFR. ✨

You can be getting ready too – no matter how far away it may seem right now.
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A Saddle Fitting Adventure with NFR Barrel Racer, Tana Poppino

*For my most recent insights on saddle fit, check out
How to Evaluate, Find and Enhance Saddle Fit for Faster Barrel Racing.

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #29 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.

When it comes to saddle fit, the journey that led me to the level of understanding (and my horse’s level of comfort) that we currently enjoy started nearly two years ago. In this article, I’ll be sharing what I learned so that you and your horses can benefit as well.

For many years, I had been riding in a high quality and comfortable (for me) barrel saddle. I bought it slightly used and remember when I first swung it on my horses back without a pad – it fit like a glove. A match made in heaven, or so it seemed.

Heather, Pistol and NFR Barrel Racer, Tana Poppino
Heather, Pistol and NFR Barrel Racer, Tana Poppino

Slowly over time, I noticed that the area behind my horse’s withers started to atrophy. You’ve probably also noticed these “dips” that occur in the area behind the shoulders. However, because it’s so common, you (like me) probably thought nothing of it. Tana Poppino didn’t think much about her grey gelding, Goose’s prominent withers either, until she joined forces with Martin Saddlery.

This slow change in my horse’s topline, combined with some insight from my amazing equine bodyworker, suggested that there could be a saddle fit issue. She often found subtle but repetitive tenderness and “stuck” areas while working on my gelding.

Once I realized there was an issue, it sparked some intense study on the subject of saddle fit which also resulted in numerous consultations with a variety of professionals. During this time, I stumbled upon research done by Martin Saddlery – it was clear they’d been doing their homework. Connecting with Martin led my gelding and I to personally consult with NFR barrel racer Tana Poppino. With her help and many months of trial, error and insight, I came to some interesting conclusions. Conclusions that have not only helped me SEE, but FEEL a difference in my horses, and ensure they can compete to their fullest potential – without discomfort, pain and restricted movement.
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