By Jolee Jordan
Calgary, Alberta Canada—
To hear Tiany Schuster tell the story, she is a “placer,” a barrel racer who frequently places in the money at the rodeos but doesn’t often win first. On a mission this season to earn her first trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) held in Las Vegas each December, Schuster has doggedly hit the rodeo trail hoping to build a big lead to insulate herself from the cowgirls who do win first, particularly at the biggest venues with the most lucrative purses.
While her humility is refreshing, especially in someone who has led the WPRA World standings since about the third week of the season with hardly a challenge, one may question her thinking when she talks about being challenged to win in high pressure situations.
The Texas cowgirl has set the professional rodeo world on fire this season, winning more than $100,000 in the winter alone and keeping the same self-deprecating sense of humor and hard working attitude the whole way.
Of course, she’s won first at many rodeos this season, including several wins on the Wrangler Champions Challenge Tour, and she was among the leaders in money won over the Fourth of July holiday.
Then came the Calgary Stampede . . . a chance to catch up for the rest of the field or for the leader to streak away thanks to the big payouts each day and the monster $100,000 check written to the winner.
Competing in her first Stampede, Schuster started slow while competing in Pool B. Her great horse Show Mance had a little trouble with the mud on her opening run, posting a run in the 19’s. But the pair rebounded, getting faster each day until their fourth and final run in pool competition when they shattered the arena record in the first ever 16-second run in Stampede Park at 16.99 seconds.
With an new arena record to chase, the ladies of the WPRA hit the final weekend of the 2017 Calgary Stampede running fast with incredible runs across the board thanks to a phenomenal effort by the Calgary grounds crew. The field of 20 that had begun this adventure was about to be cut in half.
Wild Card Saturday
It all began on Saturday with the Wild Card Round. The 12 ladies who had not yet earned a spot in Showdown Sunday’s final rounds got one last chance to get out of Canada with some money in their Wranglers.
Amberleigh Moore holds a share of the arena record at the WNFR aboard her awesome mare Paige; the duo showed their versatility on the WPRA standard pattern in the huge Stampede Park arena, stopping the clock at 17.09 for the round win.
2015 WPRA Rookie of the Year Jackie Ganter made her second horse switch of the week, calling on Baby J for the last ditch attempt at the finals. Baby J delivered big, putting 17.12 on the scoreboard for the last spot in the finals.
Few rounds during the season can match Showdown Sunday for dramatic effect—it’s not just the huge crowd, the 100+ history of the Stampede or even the money. It’s often the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform under those circumstances.
Adding the pressure that the money counts for the WPRA World standings just adds to the fun. For cowgirls outside the top 15 in the current WPRA World standings—ladies like past Calgary champs Sherry Cervi and Lisa Lockhart and reigning Ram National Circuit Finals (RNCFR) champion Emily Miller—the final round in Calgary is a pot of gold to grab on their way to Las Vegas.
With the pressure high, the first round began with California cowgirl Nellie Miller. Miller has had a great Stampede after accepting her invite just days before the Stampede began when reigning Calgary and WPRA World Champ Mary Burger was unable to attend.
Riding her homegrown rising star Sister, Miller set the pace with a 17.23 second trip. Moore and Paige came next and were fast too, stopping the clock at 17.29 seconds. Ganter got a little close on the first can, taking a costly penalty.
Stevi Hillman stepped up next. Her big bay horse Truck flew through the pattern, bringing the crowd to its feet with a 17.17 to take the lead. Kimmie Wall and Foxy followed next, with a long run to the first. A little extra room on the corners cost her on the clock as she ran a 17.74.
Cervi eased down the long alleyway next, riding Stingray, the palomino mare who carried her to her last two WPRA World titles but who hadn’t made a run since last fall before arriving in Calgary. Though she fell a bit short on Sunday with a 17.68, her heart and try continue to inspire fans and fellow barrels racers alike.
With six down, Schuster began to ease her big sorrel gelding to the gate. Focused and calm, she let off the brake and Show Mance began to eat away at the ground. When the clock flashed 17.17—identical to Hillman, the mark to hit for a shot in the Showdown jumped way up to 17.29 seconds, putting Moore on the bubble.
Emily Miller and Pipewrench took their shot next, needing to be fast. The deceiving sorrel sped through the pattern in a flawless trip, recording a 17.21 to knock Moore out and put herself third with two still to run.
Leading Canadian barrel racer Kirsty White had the hopes of the home crowd on her shoulders as she ran her mare Racey to the first barrel. One of three lefties in the finals, Racey made the first in good time but caught the second on the approach, ending her 2017 Stampede run.
The final cowgirl to have a say about the Showdown round was Lisa Lockhart, the winner here two years ago who was staging a dramatic comeback since bringing her great horse Louie back from surgery following the 2016 WNFR. Making another picture perfect run, Louie and Lockhart raced across the line in 17.49, falling a bit short but, like Stingary, still earning the admiration of all.
The Showdown round was set and for WPRA barrel racing fans, it was ironic to see that the final four here was nearly identical to the final four at the RNCFR held in Kissimmee back in April. Would Emily Miller capture another major title or would it go to the world leader, the other Miller or the red-hot Hillman?
Photo by Mike Copeman
For the second straight round, Miller led things off. Her blue roan mare seemed to run right in the same tracks she had been making all week but with a crack of lightning as she crossed the eye, she put up her fastest run of the week at the best moment possible. The clock read 17.080.
To help eliminate ties—which require a run-off by Stampede rules—the final round is timed down to the 1000th of a second.
Emily Miller was next to run as the order is set by the qualifying times, slowest to fastest. Pipewrench got a little room on the first as the rain began to drizzle down and the pair ran out to 17.263 seconds.
Truck was ready to roll on the final run and he and Hillman rolled hard into the pattern. As the rain came down a bit more, Hillman crossed the line in an incredibly consistent time of 17.207, just three one hundredths off her first run of the day.
The weather in Calgary always seems to insist on having its say on the final Sunday and 2017 was no different. By the time the rakers had cleared the pattern for the WPRA World leader, the rain had changed to hail.
Could Schuster pull off a fourth straight round win when the chips were all-in and the hail was hitting them in the face?
It seems even Mother Nature herself can’t slow down the long strided sorrel horse and his scrappy jockey. With a little slip on the first and two perfect turns to the right, Show Mance and Schuster galloped away with the win, besting Nellie Miller’s time by just five one hundredths of a second at 17.032.
“I don’t care that it’s raining or hailing. That horse is such a phenomenal horse . . . I can’t even begin to explain it,” an emotional Schuster told the crowd as she received her awards and the huge $100,000 check just moments later.
“His name is Show Mance, like romance and it is a romance story today.”
She revealed that Show Mance had suffered a minor cut that got infected several weeks prior to the Stampede, putting his appearance here in jeopardy.
“He spent a few days at the University, we weren’t sure that he was going to be here but he’s here today,” she explained. “I told that vet at the University, ‘don’t worry about it, he’ll be fine, he’s going to win Calgary’ and he did!
“He just showed today—to the world—what a special horse he is.”
Schuster is making a habit of breaking records. She came to Calgary just over $27,000 away from breaking Mary Burger’s year old regular season earnings record; she got nearly half of that in her pool competition but sailed by it on Showdown Sunday.
Schuster won $111,750 for her six runs in Calgary. Of that total, $61,750 counts towards the WPRA World standings (half of the final $100,000 counts), bringing her new total to more than $225,000, obliterating the old record with still two and half months of rodeo to go. She now leads the field by more than $100,000 and is likely eyeing the total season earnings record of $323,570 set by Lindsay Sears in 2008.
“Thank you again, it’s the best day of my life!” she told the roaring crowd.
Hillman was already second in the WPRA World standings but did not gain ground on the leader although her season total is now an impressive $117,000-plus after earning $25,500 in Canada.
Both Millers made big moves. Nellie was the second high money winner here with $35,500 won, enough to push her season total over $100,000. Emily Miller was outside the top 15 when Calgary began but the $26,000 she won here should put her inside the top ten and give the redheaded cowgirl a shot at her first WNFR.
Kassie Mowry and Amberleigh Moore also hit six figures in season earnings while in Calgary while Lockhart and Cervi boosted their chances of returning to Las Vegas. Cervi is looking for her record setting 20th appearance.
For more information on the Calgary Stampede, visit them on-line at www.calgarystampede.com.
Wild Card Round
1. Amberleigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 17.09, $6,000
2. Jackie Ganter, Blazin Baby J, 17.12, $5,000
3. Kassie Mowry, Firewatermakemehappy, 17.23, $4,000
4. Nancy Csabay, Little Miss Wicked, 17.32, $3,000
5. Pam Capper, Lil Pep of Gold, 17.71, $2,000
6. Taylor Langdon, 17.75, $1,000
1. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 17.17
2. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 17.17
3. Emily Miller, Namgis D35, 17.21
4. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 17.23
5. Moore, 17.29, $3,300
6. Lisa Lockhart, An Okie with Cash, 17.49, $3,300
7. Sherry Cervi, MP Meter My Hay, 17.68, $3,300
8. Kimmie Wall, TKW Bullys Famous Fox, 17.74, $3,300
9. Ganter, 22.30, $3,300
10. Kirsty White, Special Tack, 22.73, $3,300
1. Schuster, 17.032, $100,000
2. Nellie Miller, 17.080, $25,000
3. Hillman, 17.207, $15,000
4. Emily Miller, 17.263, $10,000
Total Money Won
Tiany Schuster, $111,750 ($61,750 counts toward standings)
Nellie Miller, $35,500
Emily Miller, $26,000
Stevi Hillman, $25,500
Lisa Lockhart, $18,300
Amberleigh Moore, $18,300
Kirsty White, $18,300
Kimmie Wall, $16,300
Sherry Cervi, $15,800
Kassie Mowry, $14,000
Jackie Ganter, $9,800
Nancy Csabay, $6,750
Pam Capper, $6,000
Kathy Grimes, $3,500
Taylor Langdon, $2,500
Cayla Small, $2,500