Nellie Miller

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Kenneth Springer

By Jolee Jordan

NFRMiller Defends Title in Reno



Reno, Nevada—6/25/18—Sister is special.

Everyone in ProRodeo already knew that Nellie Miller’s blue roan mare Rafter W Minnie Reba (aka Sister) was pretty unique, even before the mare carried Miller to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) average win and the WPRA World title last December.

On Saturday night, June 23, 2018, Sister simply added to her legend, joining rare air occupied only by names like WPRA World Champions Bozo (Kristie Peterson), Scamper (Charmayne James), and Bandit (Jan Hansen) along with Gail Tyson’s Havadouble as the only horses to win back-to-back championships at the Reno Rodeo.

2018 ProRodeo Hall of Fame team Kristie Peterson and Bozo were the last to accomplish the task when they won their third set of Reno spurs in a row nineteen years ago in 1999.


Nellie Miller
Photo by Phil Doyle NFR

Charmayne James and Scamper, the only other WPRA Hall of Fame duo, are included in the short list in a unique way, earning their back-to-back titles in 1984 and 1988—the wins count as back-to-back wins as the Reno Rodeo did not sanction WPRA barrel racing in 1985-1987 due to new WPRA rules at the time requiring equal money for the ladies as the PRCA events.

Today, Reno is one of the favorite stops for the ladies, thanks both to the huge purse and to the huge crowds which fill the Reno Livestock Events Center for each of the nine performances.


Nellie Miller
Photo by Phil Doyle NFR

Ninety-six ladies began the odyssey for the Reno Championship Silver Spurs and each got two chances not only at the $37,500 committee added purse and points on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, but also to set their two-run average time inside the top 12 of the standings in hope of making it back to the short round on Saturday night.

The back-to-back format here in Reno allowed that a full set of cowgirls competing on Friday had a chance to qualify for the Championship Finals. After seven sets had competed, Katie Pascoe and Miller, both of California, had not been challenged in the average after competing on the first day of the 2018 Reno Rodeo last Friday, June 15. In fact, the closest challenger was Cassidy Kruse, two tenths behind the leaders.

That changed in a big way on the second Friday of the rodeo as the leaders finally were forced to give up their top position. WPRA legacy cowgirl Kylie Weast has been hot all season, already ranked inside the top 15, and she added to that after winning the first round with the fastest time of the rodeo at 17.00 seconds. She paired it up Friday night with a 17.50 to squeak ahead of Pascoe by one one-hundredth of a second.

Also moving into the Championships from the final set of competitors was standout Wilderness Circuit cowgirl Jessie Telford, 2002 Reno Rodeo Champ Tammy Fischer and former Ram National Circuit Finals champ Carmel Wright. Not only did Telford advance, she was breathing down the necks of the leaders in fourth with just eight one-hundredths separating the top four.

The finals presented a big opportunity for many of the cowgirls qualified, as just three came to Reno ranked inside the top 20 (Weast, Miller and Telford) while five were ranked lower than 133rd. Four came in lurking in range of the top 15: Pascoe (46th), Fischer (34th), Kruse (45th), and Wright (30th). Pascoe and Kruse are the only ladies to win checks in both opening rounds.

As per WPRA rules, the Finals order of competition is drawn and Miller drew last of the 12 ladies to compete this year. Interestingly, Miller trailed a year ago coming into the Finals as well and the cowgirl she was chasing, Sydni Blanchard, ran last. This time around, it was Miller who watched as Weast and Pascoe, the two ladies ahead of her, ran early in the round.

With the Reno committee generously hand-raking the pattern following each lady, Wright kicked the short go round off with Weast running second and both cowgirls had a bit of trouble negotiating the pattern inside the huge arena in Reno. Wright posted a run of 17.61 which Weast bested by just one one-hundredth of a second. As the leader coming into the short go, Weast went to the top of the leaderboard but left room for others to move ahead of her.

Rebecca Kenner was third to compete, stopping the clock at 17.57 seconds for the lead at that point. She was followed by Pascoe but she and Naughty took down two barrels on a run of 17.49 that would have gone to the lead. Danyelle Williams, next in the draw, likewise found trouble keeping the barrels standing, ending her hopes of a Reno title.

Cassidy Kruse ran next aboard the comeback kid, JJ. Unfortunately, a stumble at the first pushed their time longer than the Wyoming cowgirl would have liked at 17.94. It is good enough for fourth at the time.

Megan McLeod-Sprague had been in Reno for Championship Saturday last year, the only repeat qualifiers along with Miller. In 2017, she finished third in the Final round and fourth in the average. This year, the Idaho mother of two took the lead in the Finals with a smooth run of 17.40 seconds, landing second behind Weast in the average.

Then things started to get really interesting. Tammy Fischer, the only other former Reno champ in the field, ran next on her mare Zeva. Though they didn’t move McLeod-Sprague in the go round with their 17.43, they pushed Weast to the brink, moving to second in the average by just one one-hundredth of a second.

South Dakota talent Amanda Harris kept the ball rolling with a third straight 17.4, this one at 17.46 before Tanya Jones opened up the round with her fast time of 17.25 seconds.

Jones rode her gelding Slick, who just started his pro rodeo career this spring, sprinting to the lead at one of the summer’s most lucrative and prestigious events. She laid the gauntlet for the tough veterans to follow, Telford and Miller, both in the running for a berth in Las Vegas at the WNFR this December.

Telford and Cool Whip were the last with a chance to put pressure on the reigning WPRA World and Reno Rodeo Champ but the pair suffered an uncharacteristic mistake on the first that snowballed with a wide third turn that put their time at 18.42 seconds.

Which left the door open for Miller, much wider than she needed as Sister could slip through the smallest crack for the win. Rounding the pattern with ease, the reigning champions made it a clean sweep on Saturday night, winning both the short go and the average after finishing their run in 17.21 seconds.

Miller’s three-run time of 51.74 earned the cowgirl her spot in the history books and a second set of silver spurs.

“Reno Rodeo was good to us again this year. Took home another set of spurs and won the California SixPac Rodeos award,” the always humble Miller posted on social media.

The California Six Pac is comprised of Oakdale, Red Bluff, Clovis, Redding, Hayward, Livermore and Reno; a $4,000 bonus and buckle is given to the high point winner who competes in all six rodeos. Miller carried a 7.5 lead over steer wrestler Nick Guy into Reno and handily held the lead after winning the final rodeo in the series. She and Sister won three of the rodeos (Hayward, Livermore and Reno) as well as second in Red Bluff.

Last year, Miller noted that winning in Reno was particularly sweet given that she grew up going there to watch her dad compete in the roping. The first set of Reno spurs she won went to Sam Williams last year and Sister made sure that Miller had a pair to match this time around.

“The best part was sharing it with my whole family who made the trip to cheer us on,” Miller continued on Facebook.

Miller earned an event best $9,757 while Jones was close behind in money won at $9,056. The money moves Miller closer to WPRA World standings leader Hailey Kinsel as the two are virtually knotted up as summer gets underway.

Miller also sits second, behind Telford, in the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour standings, seeking a berth in the lucrative Tour Finale event in Puyallup in September.

For more information on the Reno Rodeo, visit them on-line at


1st Round

  1. Kylie Weast, Hell on the Red, 17.00, $3,356
  2. Lori Todd, Dashin Red Warrior, 17.17, $2,877
  3. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 17.19, $2,237
  4. Jimmie Smith, CR Dee Plays Forcash, 17.19, $2,237
  5. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 17.22, $1,598
  6. Jessie Telford, Famous Cool Whip, 17.26, $1,278
  7. Katie Pascoe, JR Naughty Jet, 17.35, $959
  8. Megan McLeod-Sprague, Fast Feet N Freedom, 17.38, $639
  9. Teressa Peck, Heavens Sakes, 17.42, $479
  10. Cassidy Kruse, JKR Assured Win, 17.47, $320

2nd Round

  1. Ivy Conrado, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 17.07, $3,356
  2. Tanya Jones, Rockin A Lil, 17.09, $2,877
  3. Pascoe, 17.16, $2,379
  4. Carmel Wright, Fortunes Last Xtrem, 17.19, $2,078
  5. Jody Hale, 17.20, $1,438
  6. Tammy Fischer, LK Sheza Hayday, 17.20, $1,438
  7. Jennifer Barrett, Beduinos Prospector, 17.22, $799
  8. Danyelle Williams, Sonny (grade), 17.22, $799
  9. Kruse, 17.24, $479
  10. Christine Laughlin, Jess Undeniable, 17.26, $160
  11. Amanda Harris, Frenchman Fire Fly, 17.26, $160

Short Go Qualifiers

  1. Weast, 34.50
  2. Pascoe, 34.51
  3. Miller, 34.53
  4. Telford, 34.58
  5. Fischer, 34.68
  6. Kruse, 34.71
  7. Jones, 34.73
  8. Wright, 34.79
  9. McLeod-Sprague, 34.81
  10. Williams, 34.90
  11. Harris, 35.03
  12. Rebecca Kenner, Dfmcowboychip, 35.05

Short Go

  1. Miller, 17.21, $2,486
  2. Jones, 17.25, $1,864
  3. McLeod-Sprague, 17.40, $1,243
  4. Fischer, 17.43, $621


  1. Miller, 51.74, $5,034
  2. Jones, 51.98, $4,315
  3. Weast, 52.10, $3,596
  4. Fischer, 52.11, $3,116
  5. McLeod-Sprague, 52.21, $2,397
  6. Wright, 52.40, $1,918
  7. Harris, 52.49, 1,438
  8. Kenner, 52.62, $959
  9. Kruse, 52.65, $719
  10. Telford, 53.00, $479

Total Winnings

Miller, $9,757

Jones, $9,056

Weast, $6,952

Fischer, $5,175

McLeod-Sprague, $4,279

Wright, $3,996

Conrado, $3,356

Pascoe, $3,338

Todd, $2,877

Smith, $2,237

Telford, $1,757

Pozzi Tonozzi and Harris, $1,598

Kruse, $1,518

Hale, $1,438

Kenner, $959

Barrett and Williams, $799

Peck, $479

Laughlin, $160



NFRConrado Leads Second Round in Reno, Pascoe Still No. 1 in Average


Reno, Nevada—6/23/18—Hopes ran high as competitors made their way into the Reno Livestock Events Center this week. Every competitor at the 2018 edition of the Reno Rodeo—the 99th anniversary of the summer kick-off rodeo—is hoping for big things: a pair of championship silver spurs and a truckload of cash to springboard them into contention for a berth at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) at the conclusion of the rodeo’s Championship Round on Saturday night, June 23.


Ivy Conrado
Photo by Kirt Steinke NFR

Temps were unseasonably cool as the week began and the pace of the action on the rodeo grounds was frantic. Monday, June 18 through Thursday, June 21 is Bob Feist Invitational week, with high stakes team roping going on in the indoor arena while rodeo action continued to thrill in the huge outdoor arena.

As the sprint through the week began, the leaderboard had become as cool as the temperatures in Northern Nevada with no one able to budge the California hauling buddies, Katie Pascoe and WPRA World Champ Nellie Miller, from their perch atop the average standings.

A stop on the Wrangler Pro Tour, the Reno Rodeo runs in a back-to-back format; the ladies of the WPRA get two runs, one in the morning slack and the second that same night in the performance. At the end of the first eight days, the fastest 12 cowgirls will run again in the short go.

On Monday, a pair of barrel racers from the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) gave themselves a chance for a berth in Saturday’s finals.

Kathy Grimes and her good black mare Issy posted the best time in the morning slack at 17.59 seconds. Kellie Collier rode Eagle for the best mark in the performance that night at 17.44. Both ladies two-run average times put them inside the top 12 at the moment but by week’s end, they were clinging to the final spots.

On Tuesday morning, former College National Finals Rodeo Reserve Champ Danyelle Williams had the best time, a run of 17.68 seconds on her good horse Sonny.

The ladies of that set grabbed a gear for the perf, however, thrilling the huge Reno crowd with the fastest time of the rodeo, a beautiful, flawless 17.07 by Ivy Conrado and her good mare, J Lo.  The team won second at the WNFR last December and enjoyed a solid winter showing that left Conrado ranked inside the top 30 as summer gets underway. Though she was longer on her morning run, Conrado was able to make up a lot of ground in the second round.

Conrado stole the show with her fast time but two other ladies were able to move onto the leaderboard with their Tuesday showing. Williams paired up her solid first round time with a fast 17.22. She is just the third cowgirl behind Pascoe and Miller to break 35 seconds on two runs at that time.

South Dakota’s Amanda Harris was equally impressive. After posting a 17.77 in the morning run, she also ran a 17.2 in the perf, this one a 17.26 second effort.

Wednesday brought a cowgirl on a comeback mission. Cassidy Kruse is no different than the rest of the athletes competing here this week in that she’s hoping for a big bounce with a good showing here in Reno. The Wyoming cowgirl has already had a taste of Vegas, earning a trip in 2015, and she’s battled through adversity to give herself another shot at the Thomas & Mack Arena, home of the WNFR.

Kruse came to Reno ranked 45th in the standings but well aware that a big win in Reno could potentially double the $13,000 she’s already pick up this season thanks to the huge $37,500 purse offered by the Reno committee.

Kruse easily punched her ticket to Saturday. Riding her old faithful JJ, the same gelding that took her to the WNFR and won the first round she ran him in while there, Kruse posted a smooth run of 17.47 seconds in the first round in the morning on Wednesday.

The time was good enough to be in the money thus far but was third on the day behind the lightning fast time of Jimmie Smith, who tied WPRA World Champ Nellie Miller with her run of 17.19, as well as WPRA World Champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, who lit up the board with a 17.22 second effort.

Returning Wednesday evening, Kruse and JJ found another gear, this time stopping the clock at 17.24 seconds. Her two-run average time of 34.71 is third, the closest to get to leaders Katie Pascoe and Miller, the traveling partners who had led since the gates cracked on Friday, June 15.

“JJ made his very first runs back in two months at Reno!” Kruse posted to social media. “Gave him some time off before the 4th to make sure everything was right and he was ready to go!”

“First run he was a little lazy, but second run he came back hard!” she continued. “Every run on this horse is truly a blessing! Thanks for the ride J man and THANK YOU to my team that has made him come back every time!  Also thanks to my cute friend Danielle Oedekovenfor riding him while I was gone for a week and keeping him in shape! Much appreciated!”

Thursday’s group got a hot start in the morning slack with Megan McLeod-Sprague posting the best run, a 17.38 second effort to wind up sixth in the first round. Three cowgirls piled up behind her with runs in the 17.5’s: Brittney Barnett, Leia Pluemer, and Mary Jo Camera.

In the evening performance it was a pair of Northwest cowgirls in the spotlight as Tanya Jones posted the second best time of the rodeo, clipping at Conrado’s heels with her 17.09 aboard her gelding Slick. Fellow Oregonian Jody Hale ran right after Jones and was also fast at 17.20 seconds.

The short go list was shaken up further with the fast times on Thursday. Jones moved to fourth in the average with McLeod-Sprague just two one-hundredths behind her. McLeod-Sprague was one of the finalists here a year ago and punched her ticket again with a consistent run of 17.43 in the second round.

Hale also slid into the top 12 but she is on the bubble and will have to sweat through the remaining set of barrel racers to see if she gets another run in Reno in 2018.

The preliminary competition in Reno rounds up on Friday with a tough set of ladies including Prairie Circuit cowgirls Kylie Weast and Emily Miller; both have been red hot lately, with Weast ranked eighth in the WPRA World standings and Miller 14th.

The set also includes Taci Bettis and Jessie Telford, two more cowgirls currently inside the top 12 in the standings. Bettis is third and Telford 12th.

Former Reno Rodeo Champs Tammy Fischer and Christine Laughlin will also compete on the final day along with 2015 RNCFR Champ Carmel Wright and Kynzie McNeill, who claimed her first College National title last Saturday at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.

For more information on the Reno Rodeo, visit them on-line at Stay tuned to for continuing updates.

Results (In Progress)

1st Round

  1. Lori Todd, Dashin Red Warrior, 17.17
  2. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 17.19
  3. Jimmie Smith, 17.19
  4. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 17.22
  5. Katie Pascoe, JR Naughty Jet, 17.35
  6. Megan McLeod-Sprague, Fast Feet N Freedom, 17.38
  7. Teressa Peck, Heavens Sakes, 17.42
  8. Cassidy Kruse, JKR Assured Win, 17.47
  9. Brittney Barnett, Frenchmans Pick, 17.52
  10. Leia Pluemer, Famous French Bug, 17.53

2nd Round

  1. Ivy Conrado, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 17.07
  2. Tanya Jones, Rockin A Lil, 17.09
  3. Pascoe, 17.16
  4. Jody Hale, 17.20
  5. Jennifer Barrett, Beduinos Prospector, 17.22
  6. Danyelle Williams, Sonny (grade), 17.22
  7. Kruse, 17.24
  8. Amanda Harris, Frenchman Fire Fly, 17.26
  9. Miller, 17.34
  10. Sydni Blanchard, French Riviera, 17.36


  1. Pascoe, 34.51
  2. Miller, 34.53
  3. Kruse, 34.71
  4. Jones, 34.73
  5. McLeod-Sprague, 34.81
  6. Williams, 34.90
  7. Harris, 35.03
  8. Rebecca Kenner, Dfmcowboychip, 35.05
  9. Conrado, 35.07
  10. Deb Guelly, Queencommandercurtis, 35.12
  11. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 35.13
  12. Hale, 35.17


NFRPascoe Leads the Way in Reno


Reno, Nevada—6/18/18—It’s known by its tagline, the Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West, and the Reno Rodeo lives up to its name every year. For nearly a century, Reno has hosted one of the most exciting shows in ProRodeo, performing in front of a raucous capacity crowd nearly every one of its ten performances.

In the ladies event of barrel racing, Reno is notoriously wicked, a dogfight for the title each year that awards the champion spurs only to the cowgirl and her equine partner who can cut off the clock in near record times.

The competition in Northern Nevada is so tough in fact, that only six cowgirls in the nearly six decades of GRA/WPRA barrel racing in Reno have won more than one title. Only three cowgirls have won more than two titles here and they’re all WPRA World Champions: Sammy Thurman, Charmayne James and Kristie Peterson.

One cowgirl is poised to join this illustrious group and she already has a WPRA World title to her credit. Nellie Miller won the Reno Rodeo in 2017, one step on her fated path to the championship.

After the opening set of the 2018 edition in Reno, Miller stands on the edge of winning back-to-back titles here, something that no one has been able to do since Peterson won three straight from 1997-1999.

In the WPRA barrel racing, 96 ladies will have their chance at winning the coveted silver spurs as Reno Champ. Each cowgirl will make two runs in a day, one in the morning slack and a second in the evening performance, with the fastest 12 on two runs returning for the championship round on Saturday night, June 23.

Standing in Miller’s way as the first weekend of action closed out, however, is the cowgirl she brought with her from California, Katie Pascoe. Like Miller, Pascoe comes from rich California cowboy heritage. Her dad, John W. Jones, Jr. is a three-time PRCA World Champion and her granddad, John Sr., owns a title too. Both are Hall of Famers.

Pascoe detoured from rodeo for a time as she followed her husband Bear across the country as he played pro football. She jumped back into the sport several years ago following his retirement.

Riding JR Naughty Jet, Pascoe earned the Rookie of the Year title in the California Circuit in 2016 and currently sits third in the California Circuit after a good showing worth more than $10,000 during the California spring run of rodeos this season.

Naughty, now nine years old, is the product of Pascoe’s family’s breeding program, a son of Blazin Jetolena out of the Dash for Cash-Pie in the Sky bred mare, Dash on Sky.

While she’s been hauling with her husband for much of the spring—he’s taken up steer wrestling like his father-in-law—Pascoe is teaming up with Miller for Reno and the busy Fourth of July run.

“Nellie and I have buddied at a couple of rodeos so far and we will enter together over the Fourth,” Pascoe says. “We have known Nellie and her family for quite awhile. We got to know them when we high school rodeoed and in college.”

The long time friends competed in Reno on Friday, June 15 during the first day of the rodeo. In the morning slack, Miller fired off the first shot with a smoking fast time of 17.19 seconds aboard her mare Sister. Pascoe ran out to second for the day with her run of 17.35 seconds.

Returning in the evening’s performance, Pascoe turned the tables on her running mate, stopping the clock in a rodeo-best 17.16 seconds. When Miller posted 17.34 on her second run, it was Pascoe’s name that hit the top of the leaderboard in the average.

With just two one-hundredths of a second between them, the hauling partners had a lot to laugh about on the way back over Donner Pass to California.

By the close of the third set on Sunday night, June 17, no one had come within half a second of the pair. Rebecca Kenner, who also competed on Friday, sits third and the closest to the leaders.

Turquoise Circuit champ Lori Todd stole the show on Saturday morning with her smooth, flawless run that squeaked into the lead over the reigning Reno Champ. Todd’s time of 17.17 leads the first round though a downed barrel in the evening perf will end her chances of making an appearance on Championship Saturday.

Wilderness Circuit Finals Champ Jennifer Barrett was the star on Saturday night riding her good horse Larry. Barrett slid into second in the second go round with her time of 17.22 seconds. Like Todd, Barrett won’t be in the Finals after some trouble with her opening round but looks solid to earn money in the go.

Mother Nature dumped moisture on the Reno Livestock Events Center Arena before the third set of ladies competed on Sunday morning, leaving the times for the first go well off the pace.

However, conditions improved by the Sunday night performance, enough for Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowgirl Sydni Blanchard to scamper into the second round money aboard her mare Frenchie with a time of 17.36 seconds.

The Reno Rodeo continues on Monday with 2017 WNFR cowgirls Tillar Murray, Kellie Collier and Kathy Grimes amongst the scheduled competitors. On Tuesday, past Reno champ Jill Welsh will begin her bid to become just the seventh lady to win two titles here, adding to the one she won in 2015.

For more information on the Reno Rodeo, visit them on-line at Stay tuned to for continuing updates.

Results (In Progress)

1st Round

  1. Lori Todd, Dashin Red Warrior, 17.17
  2. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 17.19
  3. Katie Pascoe, JR Naughty Jet, 17.35
  4. Teressa Peck, 17.42
  5. Deb Guelly, Queencommandercurtis, 17.55
  6. Rebecca Kenner, Dfmcowboychip, 17.64
  7. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 17.65
  8. Randi Buchanan, Royal Flight Ta Fame, 17.70
  9. Italy Sheehan, Woody Pine Cone, 17.75
  10. Rachel Primm, 17.85

2nd Round

  1. Pascoe, 17.16
  2. Jennifer Barrett, Beduinos Prospector, 17.22
  3. Miller, 17.34
  4. Sydni Blanchard, French Riviera, 17.36
  5. Kenner, 17.41
  6. Fox, 17.48
  7. Sammi Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, 17.49
  8. Cheyenne Kelly, Running ta Dash, 17.53
  9. Buchanan, 17.55
  10. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 17.55


  1. Pascoe, 34.51
  2. Miller, 34.53
  3. Kenner, 35.05
  4. Guelly, 35.12
  5. Fox, 35.13
  6. Buchanan, 35.25
  7. Kelly, 35.43
  8. Lynette Clyde, Frenchmans Bella, 35.49
  9. Schuster, 35.61
  10. Janie Johnson, 35.62
  11. Blanchard, 35.73
  12. Katie Droshin, 35.91