5 Things I Learned from Watching the 2018 NFR Barrel Racing

This year I watched the NFR barrel racing every day without fail. I was entranced by every single run and could hardly contain my excitement each time I watched it. Those girls and horses are beyond talented and I can only hope to be even half as talented as they are some day.


As I reflect on the NFR barrel racing this year I couldn’t help but notice that there are some things that I have realized after watching it. Beyond the fact that those horses are incredible and those girls are talented riders, there were some additional realizations that I made this year that I think would be of value to those of you who also take part in the sport.

Never Give Up on a Horse Too Quickly

NFR barrel racing would not be complete without Lisa Lockhart. She is a 12 time NFR qualifier and a class act. I am not sure what initially made me a Lisa fan but it probably had something to do with her amazing buckskin, Louie. Louie is an incredible horse and has definitely earned his keep over the years for Lisa.

NFR Barrel Racing

When Lisa ran down the alley at the Thomas and Mack on night one on her other buckskin horse, Rosa, I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed. I was looking forward to seeing Louie. That being said, Louie has proved himself. I can understand Lisa wanting to give Rosa a chance after doing so well during the regular season.


They ended up hitting the third barrel in round one.


I spent the whole day hoping that Lisa would saddle up Louie for day two. He knows the arena and he’s just plain ol’ good.


She chose Rosa again for round two.


And you know what?


They won round two.


It is easy for me to sit here and make horse selections for Lisa. It is quite another thing when you are down there in Vegas, fourth in the world, and trying to decide what to do. Lisa made the right call that night and it ended up in her being the recipient of a $26,000 cheque and a go around buckle.


This is a perfect example that you should never give up on a horse too quickly. Always give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping for the best. They may just surprise you (and win you a pile of money).

You Don’t Need an Expensive Horse to Compete with the Best in the World

A new face to NFR barrel racing this year was Tracy Nowlin. She came into the finals this year twelfth in the world after attending 79 rodeos during the regular season and earning a total of $90,495.80. While that is impressive enough in itself, you will be more impressed by how she achieved this NFR qualification.


Tracy qualified for her first NFR on just one horse, Dolly Jo. Dolly Jo is a daughter or Royal Quick Dash and was purchased by Tracy for just $1,850. They had initially been looking at the horse in the hopes that she could be a calf horse for Tracy’s son. However, Tracy made a late night decision to purchase the mare not as a rope horse but as a potential barrel horse.


It turns out that Tracy’s decision was a very wise one. She placed in the first and second round of this year’s NFR barrel racing. That’s right. Running among some of the very best and most expensive horses in the sport Tracy and Dolly Jo were able to remain competitive.


This gives so much hope to girls out there who do not necessarily have the resources to buy a super expensive horse. While the barrel racing world is increasingly becoming a sport based on who is running the best bloodlines, there is still room for those outliers.

Consistency is Key

Carman Pozzobon came into this year’s NFR barrel racing fifteenth in the world – the last slot that qualifies for the event. She had earned a total of $89,126.63 in the regular seasons at a combination of Canadian and American rodeos, punching her ticket to her very first NFR.


Throughout this year’s ten days of NFR barrel racing the competition was extremely fierce. While Carman’s mare, Ripp, is fantastic, she was in most cases a hair too slow to get a cheque.
Carman’s Placing
Carman’s Time
Fast Time of the Round
13.51 (Hailey Kinsel)
13.65 (Lisa Lockhart)
13.59 (Amberleigh Moore)
13.49 (Jessie Telford)
13.49 (Ivy Conrado)
13.63 (Hailey Kinsel)
13.61 (Hailey Kinsel)
13.57 (Taci Bettis)
13.40 (Hailey Kinsel)
13.37 (Kylie Weast)
But the thing that gave Carman an edge over her competition was her consistency. Carman was the only one out of the fifteen running in the NFR barrel racing this year to not hit a barrel. And do you know what that got her? The title of 2018 NFR barrel racing aggregate champion. That alone earned her a cheque for just over $67,000.


Yes, being fast is important but consistency is also very important in this sport.

There is Nothing Wrong with Helping out a Fellow Competitor

An awesome story that came out of this year’s NFR barrel racing involved Taci Bettis and Tammy Fischer. The two have rodeoed quite a bit together since Tammy took Taci under her wing for Taci’s rookie year in 2017. That year, Tammy led Smash up the alleyway at the NFR all ten nights for Taci. Taci ended up having a phenomenal first NFR, walking away with around $65,000.


However, things were a bit different this year because Tammy also qualified for the NFR.


The first four nights of NFR barrel racing this year were a bit rough for Taci. She hit a barrel in the first round, was a hair off the pace in the second, and then hit barrels again in the third and fourth rounds.


Then they decided to switch things up. Tammy started leading Smash down the alleyway. Yes, Tammy would get off her horse, which she would be running very soon, to help her friend get into the arena calm, cool, and collected.


The result? Taci got fourth in the fifth go-around, fifth in the sixth go-around, split fourth and fifth in the seventh go-around, won the eighth go-around, placed second in the ninth round and won fifth in the final round. That’s right. She won a total of $87,846.15 at the NFR once Tammy started leading her in!

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Tammy and Taci are running after the same money and the same buckles. They are competitors. However, Tammy had the sportsmanship to help out a competitor in need and I applaud her for that. She is a great example of what our sport should be. There is no reason why we should not help a fellow competitor when we can. The girl you help might end up beating you. But that’s okay. At the end of the day people will remember you for the type of person you were and not how many tenths faster you ran in round six of the 2018 NFR barrel racing.

Barrel Racers can be Tough as Nails

Another thing I learned from this year’s NFR barrel racing, again, has to do with Tracy Nowlin. Like I mentioned above, Tracy and Dolly Jo placed in the first and second rounds of the NFR. However, after that, knocked barrels plagued the pair for most of the remaining rounds.


A statement was sent out on behalf of Tracy during the NFR stating:


Thank you for all of your support for Tracy and Dolly Jo. She reads all of your messages and knows you are rooting for her and Dolly Jo! She isn’t just “hitting barrels.” She physically can’t ride Dolly Jo right now to the best of her capability. I took her to get an MRI today per Tandy she has little tears in her rotator cuff and bicep, and in her neck she has 3 bulging disks as well. She will see Tandy’s recommendation for a surgeon next week. Please keep her in your prayers!!


I cannot imagine riding an NFR-caliber horse while healthy let alone riding with those sort of issues going on! Tracy and Dolly Jo worked very hard all year long to get to the NFR and she was not going to let some health issues prevent her from a potentially once in a lifetime opportunity.


And I am sure that Tracy wasn’t the only one dealing with issues that we didn’t hear about. Over the course of the year you can guarantee that every single one of those girls had to navigate hurdles in their journey to the NFR. It’s not an easy road to the NFR and it takes a tough individual, along with a phenomenal team, to get there in one piece. Tracy’s situation is a glaring example of this.

Finish Line Thoughts

There isn’t much, in my opinion, that is more exciting than NFR barrel racing. The horses are phenomenal and the women competing are all incredible jockeys. Unfortunately, most spectators do not see the blood, sweat, and tears behind those amazing runs. If they did, they would learn some valuable lessons about barrel racing and life much like the ones I only briefly touched on above.


As always, remember it’s always a #gooddaytoride.


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