By Carolynn Vietor
With the winter rodeos almost over, we look forward to March and spring time! Cowgirl Ivy Conrado has certainly made the best of the winter runs going to the top of the WPRA World Standings with her big win at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. Her Reserve Championship at Denver, combined with wins at Casper and Billings, make her winnings for 2016 over $32,000! Ivy and her great home raised mare, CFour Tibbie Stinson, are off to a super start, and we wish her continued success in 2016.
How about the final round at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo with all the barrel racing contestants dressing up? Good job everyone, you all looked great! The $5,000 Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Award went to Montana cowgirl Shelly Anzick. Shelly’s outfit was beautiful and the honor is very well deserved. Thank you to the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum and the Jerry Ann Taylor Foundation for their continued support of this award, as it is making a difference in how nice the contestants look.
With March upon us, it is time to be getting ready for many contestants to make that long drive to Kissimmee, Florida for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo held April 7-10, 2016. Our contestants will be competing for $93,664, plus a $1,000 travel stipend for making the trip to Florida. Many thanks to Osceola County, and this wonderful committee for making the Pro Rodeo Circuits what we always dreamed they would be.
As I write this letter, I am returning from the great San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and the National Finals Rodeo Committee meeting.
At this meeting, Shawn Davis announced the he has hired “the best grounds person in the business” to improve the ground conditions at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo! This is the news that all contestants and the WPRA have hoped for! We thank Shawn Davis for making this commitment to the goal of “making the Wrangler NFR ground the very best it can be”. Thank you not only to Shawn, but to the NFRC Board for their support in ground improvement at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. It has been such an honor working with this board made up of the greatest people in the world of professional rodeo. Thanks to all of them for their support of the WPRA over so many years! Also, thanks to Keith Martin, Executive Director and CEO of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, for the awesome Texas hospitality shown to all!
The WPRA Board of Directors had their monthly conference call on February 9, 2016. At this meeting we finalized the agreement between the WPRA and the Mexican Rodeo Federation. As soon as this agreement is signed, we will be allowing their barrel racers to purchase Mexico only WPRA Permits to compete at the co approved Mexican Federation Rodeos of which there are 14, which includes a Mexico circuit finals, for 2016. Per the PRCA rules for the RNCFR, the top two contestants (year-end and average champion) from the co approved circuit finals in Mexico will be allowed to compete at the 2017 RNCFR. We are looking forward to working with Mexico and possibly expanding the international possibilities for professional rodeo.
At this February Board meeting, we also finalized the Ground Improvement Program for 2016 which is in it’s beginning stages of implementation now. Each circuit will select two rodeos to receive funding through the WPRA for analysis of their soil and water. The first of the educational articles will be out very soon to committees. This is a very exciting beginning to ground improvement in all circuits.
The spring board meeting will be held in Kissimmee during the RNCFR, and your new board will be seated at this time. Be sure to contact your director with anything you would like to have brought up at this meeting.
Where does time go? It is hard to believe that it has been three years and this is my last President's Letter. It seems like yesterday that I took office as WPRA President, and what an honor it has been serving the membership again. I have done my best to listen to all who have called or asked questions. While we don’t always agree, I hope I have been able to explain why our board makes the decisions that we do. I wish every member could serve on the WPRA Board and experience how decisions are made, and how much effort goes into each and every decision.
I have so enjoyed and consider it an honor to have worked with the board of directors the past three years. I have learned greatly from each and every person on these boards and cherish the relationships we have made. Again, we don’t always agree, but learn from hearing everyone’s opinion, and always try to do what is best for the entire association.
The WPRA office staff is the best ever! While we have had some turn over, everyone has been very professional and great to work with. The three long time staff members, Janet Cropper, Kelsey Larsen, and Ann Bleiker are absolutely the best at everything they do. Included in the list of people who have been with us many years is Dana Eismeier, our attorney, who has been with us over twenty years. Over the years we have all become good friends, and I will miss them greatly.
Not being one who likes goodbyes, I will just say, I will see you soon, stay in touch, and always be safe!
Thank you all!
As many of you may know, the barrel racing world lost one of our legends with the passing of Wanda Harper Bush on December 29, 2015.
For all you who were fortunate enough to have known Wanda Bush, you understand the gratitude we feel for being in her life. Wanda was my hero, my mentor, and best of friends. I am so thankful for being able to experience Wanda’s gift with horses, her patience with her students, her honesty, her tell it like it is attitude, and the years of friendship we shared. She is a legend to not only barrel racing, but to our cowgirl heritage. She holds more GRA/WPRA and AQHA World Championships than anyone in our history, not only in barrel racing, but in cutting, calf roping, flag racing, reining, and halter. I was honored to have shared my early years of being on the WPRA Board of Directors with Wanda serving as the Texas Director. During those years, in the 1980’s and 90’s, Wanda came to Montana for thirteen years of “Wanda Bush Clinics” held on the Rocking Chair Ranch, Philipsburg, Mont., providing the opportunity for our Montana barrel racers to learn from the greatest instructor ever! Wanda will be missed by all who loved her, but she will live on in our hearts and minds forever.
As of the second week of January, the 2015 Circuit Finals are in the books, and the champions are headed to the Ram National Circuit Finals, in Kissimmee, Florida, on April 7-10, 2016. The 2015 Circuit Champion and the Circuit Finals Average Champions are both qualified to compete for the $93,664 purse thanks to Osceola County, Florida. Congratulations to all the following WPRA members who achieved their goals in 2015 by winning their Circuit Championship and Circuit Finals Championship titles! The 24 Circuit Contestants are:
Note: If same person wins the Year End and Finals Average title then the Reserve Circuit Champion qualifies for RNCFR.
Circuit Champion Circuit Finals Average Champion
Turquoise, Las Cruces, NM Circuit Finals
Sherry Cervi Sherry Cervi
Badlands, Minot, ND Circuit Finals Calyssa Thomas Calyssa Thomas
Prairie Circuit, Duncan, OK, Circuit Finals Kim Couch Mary Burger
California, Lancaster, CA, Circuit Finals Ann Scott Jolee Jordan
Mountain States, Rock Springs, WY Finals Brittany Pozzi Andrea Busby
Wilderness, Heber City, UT Circuit Finals Vickie Carter Vickie Carter
Columbia River, Yakama, WA Circuit Finals Pam Capper Callahan Crossley
Southeastern, Davie, FL Circuit Finals Jennifer Mosley Megan Swint
Great Lakes, Louisville, KY Circuit Finals Natalie Foutch Kristine Knauf
Texas, Waco, TX Circuit Finals Kelly Tovar Kelly Tovar
Montana, Great Falls, MT Circuit Finals Lindsay Kruse Heather Knerr
First Frontier, Harrisburg, PA Circuit Finals Nicole Yost Jennifer Barrett
Reserve Circuit Champion
Turquoise, Las Cruces, NM Circuit Finals
Badlands, Minot, ND Circuit Finals Kaylee Gallino
Prairie Circuit, Duncan, OK, Circuit Finals
California, Lancaster, CA, Circuit Finals
Mountain States, Rock Springs, WY Finals
Wilderness, Heber City, UT Circuit Finals Terri Wood Gates
Columbia River, Yakama, WA Circuit Finals
Southeastern, Davie, FL Circuit Finals
Great Lakes, Louisville, KY Circuit Finals
Texas, Waco, TX Circuit Finals Jana Bean
Montana, Great Falls, MT Circuit Finals
First Frontier, Harrisburg, PA Circuit Finals
While in Las Vegas, the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association met with representatives of the WPRA to discuss our agreement for 2016 and beyond. We discussed many aspects of the agreement and how the WPRA impacted Canadian Pro Rodeos. The CPRA Board has many new members, and had questions for the WPRA. As of January, 2016, the CPRA and the WPRA have signed an Agreement for 2016, which is the same as 2015. We welcome their new President Murry Milan, his board and staff, and look forward to working with them in 2016.
The WPRA Board has also been in dialog with the Mexican Rodeo Federation on co-approving their rodeos for 2016. The PRCA and the Mexican Rodeo Federation signed a co-sanctioning agreement on October 29, 2015 which allows the members of the Mexican Rodeo Federation to obtain a PRCA permit, and will allow the top contestants to compete at the Ram National Circuit Finals in 2017. At the time of this writing, the WPRA Board is working on the terms of the agreement between the WPRA and the Federation, and hope to have the agreement finalized this month.
To those of you running at Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and hope to make the finals, be sure you “Bring That Bling”, as there will be another Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed $5,000 Award given to the best dressed barrel racer in the final round on February 6. The WPRA thanks the Jerry Ann Taylor Foundation and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum for their continued support of recognizing the importance dressing up to compete!
A very important election is under way in the WPRA. Be sure you exercise your right to vote for President, Vice President, one of seven Circuit Director’s, and/or Futurity Director. You may write in a candidate of your choice, but be sure they are eligible and willing to run for office before you throw your vote away. This is your association, VOTE!
Since this President’s Letter is my next to last one that I will have the honor of writing, I would like to interject a personal note. On January 30, in Billings, Montana my family is being honored by the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame as the Great Montana Rodeo Family of the Year. What an honor this is from a group who’s purpose is to raise money for scholarships for students who rodeo. They have become, in just 13 years, the largest State High School Rodeo Scholarship Program in America!! The money raised goes to Montana High School Rodeo seniors who want to pursue a college education and continue their rodeo career. Many thanks go to the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame for this honor to the Vietor Family!
In closing, I want to leave you with a favorite saying of Wanda Bush’s - “PAY ATTENTION!”
HAPPY NEW YEAR! It is January 2016, and we look back at the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris Ranger as the richest rodeo in history. A record $10 million was up for grabs for the 120 contestants that qualified for the Wrangler NFR! Our WPRA barrel racers took home an eighth of that total. What a barrel race it was! The fans in the Thomas and Mack absolutely went wild during the barrel race. Our 2015 season leader, Callie duPerier proved she could hold up to the pressure as she and her great horse, Dillon, made 10 flawless runs, to be crowned the 2015 Wrangler NFR Average Champion and the 2015 WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer. Her total money won at the Wrangler NFR was $126,923.07. Congratulations to Callie and her wonderful family for this great achievement. Her entire family was there to support her throughout the 10 day marathon.
Lisa Lockhart brought Louie back from a bacterial infection, which could have been fatal, to an amazing Wrangler NFR! Louie proved his greatness beginning the first round, winning second, after having a very short conditioning period after getting the go ahead from Dr Swanson that he could be ridden. Louie placed in every round, except the two that he got barrels. She won $123,538.48 at the Wrangler NFR. This amazing athlete took Lisa to the 2015 WPRA Reserve Champion title.
The Rookie race has been so close all year between Jackie Ganter and Vickie Carter, and the Wrangler NFR should have been a battle to the end. However, less than a month before the Finals, Vickie's horse, Blaze Man, had two colic surgeries, and her goal of running him at the NFR came to an end. As you recall, Vickie has been "Riding for Rach" all year for Blaze Man's owner who lost her life to carbon monoxide poisoning. Vickie had to find replacement horses, and try to learn to ride them at the Wrangler NFR. Proving to be the great jockey that she is, she placed in the ninth round with an awesome run. Jackie Ganter proved that she was a force to be reckoned with on her great horse, Guys French Jet. The team made great runs in all 10 rounds and was one of the two contestants to keep all the barrels standing. The team won $85,461.54 at the Wrangler NFR. Jackie and Jet are very deserving of the title 2015 WPRA Rookie of the Year. This must be the year of the buckskins! Did you realize the World Champion, the Reserve World Champion, and the Rookie of the Year all rode buckskins?
Congratulations to Fallon Taylor on winning the $5,000 for the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed award for the third year! Fallon is a trend setter with her flamboyant and flashy style of dressing, just like Jerry Ann Taylor was in her day. Carrying on this tradition was the reason this award was created by the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum and the Jerry Ann Taylor Foundation. Second place was Sarah Rose McDonald and third was Mary Walker who also looked very nice in every round in their more traditional style.
The WPRA Star Celebration was held on Dec. 3 in the Grand Ballroom of the South Point Hotel. What a great event it was! Over 500 people attended and enjoyed the entire program. With Joe Beaver and Will Rasmussen as emcees, it has to be great. We honored our Top 15, our outstanding individuals and committees, and our Justin Best Footing Award winners in each circuit. The Top 15 took home their saddle rotation saddle, which they drew for, and more gifts than you could imagine. Your Vice President, Jerri Mann, is in charge of the Saddle Rotation Program and getting all the great awards and gifts these ladies receive. Jerri does a fabulous job, and we thank her very much!
The WPRA Board of Directors met during the Wrangler NFR the day after the Star Celebration. Perhaps the most important topic discussed was the Ground Improvement Program for 2016. The Board voted to fund $15,000 toward ground improvement in the coming year. Ground improvement is top priority for the WPRA, and we have funded the program and set implementation goals for it. The allocated money will pay to implement the entire program, not just the soil testing. These goals are:
- To provide educational information three times a year. The WPRA will send all committees a newsletter with educational materials on soil improvement, ways to work the ground, and how to obtain help if needed.
- The program will be based around funding each circuit to select two or more rodeos to have their ground analyzed by Safe Arena Footing. SAF will determine what is needed to make the ground better, will provide each rodeo with ways to improve their soil, and ways to work their ground with the equipment they have available.
- Member feedback from online surveys, after a rodeo, allowing each member to express her opinions on the ground and all aspects of the rodeo.
Each circuit director will continue to work directly with their committees, along with SAF. These are brief summaries of the overall plan, showing that we have taken action that is workable, educational, and within our budget.
January begins a new year, and we have an election starting in January, with nomination ballots going out to all 2016 members. The positions up for election this year are President, Vice President, Columbia River Director, First Frontier Director, Montana Director, Texas Director, Mountain States Director, Southeastern Director, Wilderness Director and Futurity Director. As you can see this is a very important election. Several existing directors and the Vice President have sent consent forms in stating that they are willing to run again. As President, I have decided not to seek office for another three year term. You can nominate anyone who is eligible to run for office, even if they did not send in a consent form. The top two nominees in each category will go on the ballot. Please see your rule book for more details.
Happy New Year to ALL!!