December 5-14, 2024


The Way I Seet It – Part 3

Dec 1, 2023

The Way I Seet It – Part 3

By Susan Kanode

It truly is the time of year when all roads lead to Vegas. We are counting down the days and soon hours to the first championship competition to complete rodeo’s 2023 season. 

I am so grateful for the women in rodeo, from those that volunteer on the committees, to the secretaries, timers and behind the scenes personnel — there are a lot of women that make this sport tick. The barrel racers and breakaway ropers are some of my heroes and my view from behind the scenes wouldn’t be complete without them. 

The Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping (NFBR) kicks off two days before competition starts in the Thomas & Mack Center. It will be held for the second consecutive year at the South Point Arena and like the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR), there will be 10 full rounds of competition and an overall winner. Regular season earnings will be added to Vegas money to determine the world champion. 

Breakaway roping has come a long way, but the women going for titles are looking at future rewards as much as a current payday. Rounds in the breakaway roping pay $5,080 compared to barrel racing’s $30,706. The overall winner earns $13,866 for the fastest time on 10 head. The barrel racing, like the other events at the Thomas & Mack, will pay the NFR champion $78,747. 

I know that breakaway roping fans want to see them compete in the Thomas & Mack Center. Trust me, I’m one of those and I do too. Social media buzz will tell you it’s all about the money, but there’s many factors to consider. There are so many elements that go into the NFR and making a big change like that bears considering all of them. 

I hope that breakaway is included in the NFR in the future and I do think it is a possibility. I just want to encourage people to consider the future of breakaway roping like the competitors have. They are making sacrifices now for future rewards and doing it with grace, determination, and gratitude. 

Barrel Racing

            We all know that Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi is in the driver’s seat, and she has an arsenal of amazing horses that got her to the NFR and will take her down the famous alley into the Thomas & Mack Center. Brittany has been to the NFR 17 times and it’s taken a lot of horses to have that success. She won world titles in 2007 and 2009 and is ready to be on stage with her husband, Garrett and daughter Tinlee looking on. 

Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi during the fifth round of the 2022 Wrangler NFR. | PRCA Photo by Hailey Rae

            While she has a $109,739 lead over Jordon Briggs, the 2021 world champion, it is not a slam dunk. Jordon and her great gelding “Rollo” are one of the most consistent duos in the sport. She also won the NFR championship in 2021 and finished fourth in that category last year. She narrowly missed winning her second world title with total earnings $27,652 behind Hailey Kinsel and “Sister.” 

            Speaking of Hailey, she may be entering the NFR in 13th place, but after Brittany’s big lead, the competition is super tight and she and the blonde bombshell mare, DM Sissy Hayday, can never be counted out. 

            I am super excited to see Emily Beisel at this year’s NFR. Emily is making her fifth consecutive appearance at the NFR and we have watched her and Chongo make magic in this arena in the past. She won the Governor’s Cup in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and it was impressive. 

Emily Beisel during the eighth round of the 2022 Wrangler NFR. | PRCA Photo by Hailey Rae

            The arena at the Denny Sanford Premier Center has very similar dimensions to the Thomas & Mack Center. Emily rode a young mare, Ivory on Fire “Liza,” there and won $43,250 of the $45,000 available by winning or tying for first at every opportunity. This is the highest that she has been in the standings entering the NFR and I expect her to keep moving up. 

            Taycie Matthews has been working towards an NFR qualification since she first climbed on the back of a horse as a child. She and her sister, Jaylie, have been fighting for a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association title for the past three years. Jaylie was reserve in 2021, Taycie was reserve in 2022, then Taycie got the win last June. They both attend the University of West Alabama and are competing in college rodeos as well. Taycie won her championship on her mother Kim’s mare, Fame Fire Rocks, “PopRocks,” who has garnered the respect of the other barrel racers. 

            PopRocks was named the Nutrena Horse of the Year presented by the AQHA. It will be a special award for an amazing horse that got Taycie there. Unfortunately, he sustained a late-season injury and will be home recovering. It may change Taycie’s plans for the NFR, but she knows how to win, still has horsepower and her debut in Las Vegas will be filled with memories. 

Lisa Lockhart during the sixth round of the 2022 Wrangler NFR. | PRCA Photo by Hailey Rae

            I can’t write about barrel racing without talking about Lisa Lockhart. This is her 17th consecutive qualification. She won the NFR championship in 2014 and again in 2016 aboard An Oakie With Cash, that we all knew as “Louie.” She finished as the reserve world champion in 2014 and 2015. It is crazy to think that she has competed at rodeo’s championships and never left with the gold buckle. 

            Last year, Lisa entered the NFR in 14th place, won $168,326 and finished in fourth. She did that riding Promise Me Fame Guys “Levee,” and it was fun to watch. Lisa and Levee will be working their way up again this year. She is nearly $136,000 behind the leader and Brittany is going to keep adding to her earnings. Mathematically, all of these women and horses are in contention. We will have to wait and see how the stars align in Las Vegas, and I’ll be happy for everyone that has success. But I can’t imagine how the rodeo world would respond if Lisa got the gold. 

            Along with Taycie, there are three more NFR Rookies. Summer Kosel who is a mom of four from South Dakota qualified in ninth. Ilyssa Riley who won the Texas Circuit Finals to start her season is in 10th and Paige Jones from Oklahoma will be the final runner at the first performance. 

            I’ve been thinking back through NFR after NFR and wondering if I’ve ever seen a field of horses this tough. The answer is unequivocally no. In the past, I’ve thought that any one of them could win on any given day. That’s true this year as well, but I think the level of talent will see any one of them winning consistently and that will determine our world champion. 

Breakaway Roping 

            If you would have told me four years ago that the top five breakaway ropers in the regular season standings would all have earned over $100,000, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. This event has come a long way in a short period. While it is not on equal footing with the other events, it’s getting better for these fierce competitors and I’m so glad they have the desire and commitment to stay the course. 

Samantha Fulton during Round 3 of the 2022 National Finals Breakaway Roping. | Photo by Jackie Jensen

            Leading the pack with $164,548 is Shelby Boisjoli who has competed at each of the Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping events. A highlight of her regular season was at Idaho’s Caldwell Night Rodeo when Shelby and her world champion tie-down roping husband Haven Meged each earned championships. She’s also started the NFBR in first place in 2021, then slipped in the standings to reserve champion. This year, she has a $17,805 head start when she nods her head in the South Point Arena. That is just over three round wins or the average and part of a round win. 

            The money is every bit as significant in the breakaway roping as the other events. Just ask Speed Williams, eight-time world champion team roping header. His daughter, Hali Williams, is in second place behind Shelby and I’m sure Speed will be thinking about every dollar and how it could impact his baby girl’s chance for gold. This is Hali’s first qualification. 

            Defending world champion Martha Angelone is third and this qualification is going to be more memorable than the past three. Her sister, Sarah Angelone, is one spot behind her. Martha and Sarah grew up in Virginia, moved to Texas to have better opportunities to rope and rodeo and haven’t looked back. 

            Along with Shelby and Martha there is one other competitor that has qualified for the NFBR each year it has been held. Erin Johnson, mom of three, is also making her fourth appearance. She won $336 on her very last run of the season and it was just enough. She finished $73 ahead of Samantha Fulton. 

Martha Angelone during Round 9 of the National Finals Breakaway Roping. | Photo by WPRA

            I’m excited to see Jackie Crawford back at the NFBR. She missed in 2022, finishing 17th. She roped at the inaugural event in Texas while pregnant with daughter Journey and won the world championship.  She made it back in 2021 when it was at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. This will be her first competition at the South Point. Jackie is married to 10-time NFR qualifier (header) Charly Crawford. They also have a son Creed and he and Journey are growing up on the rodeo trail. 

            I watched Danielle Lowman encourage her fellow breakaway ropers last year from the sidelines. She finished the season in 16th and missed the NFBR by $614. This year, she’s making her second appearance starting in 11thplace. The Navajo Nation is very well represented by Danielle and her success is a big encouragement to her people. 

            There are two more NFBR rookies to keep an eye on. Bradi Good from Abilene, Texas, will be starting in eighth place. Kendal Pierson will make her debut at 12th. The 2021 National High School Rodeo Association champion is from a ranching and rodeo family in Canada. She had dreams of competing at the Canadian Finals Rodeo and thought she would have to qualify in the team roping. When they added breakaway roping, she became the very first champion. 

            Looking at the competition in all of rodeo’s championship events, I can say one thing for sure – It’s going to be epic!