Kristie Peterson2018 Inductee
Peterson and Bozo to be Enshrined in ProRodeo Hall of Fame
By Jolee Jordan
In their early days, barrel racing superstardom may have seemed unlikely.
He was a broncy stud colt, suspected of being partially blind in one eye, who was traded for three months training on another horse and later sold for just $400. She was a tough all around hand in Little Britches rodeo competition, who claimed that barrel racing was her least favorite event.
Yet, when Kristie Peterson teamed up with French Flash Hawk, the world of professional rodeo barrel racing was forever changed. Together, the duo won WPRA World Championships, broke records and forever changed barrel racing.
On the first Saturday in August in 2018, just as they were throughout their careers, Peterson and Bozo will go side by side into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame as part of just the second class of inductees representing the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
“It’s very exciting,” says Peterson. “It’s nice that the PRCA is including the girls now.”
Though she lives in Texas now, Peterson grew up on a ranch near Parker, Colo., and said that, though they had horses, her parents, Don and Sue Marshall, didn’t know anything about rodeo when Kristie and her brother, Scott, expressed an interest in the sport.
“My folks were interested in Arabians and we had a full blooded Arabian stallion,” Peterson says. “We were the only kids in Little Britches coming out of the roping box with our horses’ tails in the air.”
Despite being in a new world, Peterson’s folks took their kids to all the Little Britches events around their home.
“We went to Castle Rock, I think, for the first one and they took us every weekend,” Peterson says, noting how much she appreciated her family for allowing her the experiences. Riding one of their half Arabians, Peterson’s brother set a record in the flag race and Peterson herself won the Little Britches All Around World title for her age group.
“We did trail, goat tying, poles . . . . we did it all,” notes Peterson, adding, “I liked the poles and breakaway but I didn’t like barrels at all.”
Reaching adulthood, Peterson went to work and got married. She and husband, Chuck, began raising a family, first with son Justin and then two daughters, Jaime and Jordan. Rodeo left her life for a time, until a horse named Blue Whizz Bob brought her back to the sport.
“When I got Bob, I got excited about rodeo again,” says Peterson, who was working for the Elbert County Sheriff’s Department as the Jail Administrator. “He was the first one that got me excited about barrel racing again.”
Bob paved the way for Peterson’s meteoric rise in ProRodeo in two ways. First, she began to win enough on him to think about focusing more on barrel racing and second, because his sire, Tiny Watch, would appear on the papers of her next prospect, a two-year old sorrel stallion with lots of chrome that she paid her neighbor, Mike Hatfield, $400 to buy.
French Flash Hawk was out of Caseys Charm, a mare by the Tiny Watch son Tiny Circus. Caseys Charm was one of many horses owned by James and Francis Loiseau of South Dakota. When James passed away in 1979, his widow found it difficult to carry on in the business for a time and the foals they had raised began to mature without having much training put into them.
Eventually, Loiseau sent a couple of geldings to Bill Myers to break and sell while Loiseau’s daughter, Lis Hollman and her husband John offered to buy Caseys Charm.
“She offered to sell her to us for $700 and we said that wasn’t enough so we paid $1,000 and promised never to tell what poor horse traders we were,” laughs Hollman. Hollman bred the mare to Sun Frost, raising a pair of full brothers, both sorrels with lots of white.
Fate played in again as friends of the Hollmans came by looking for prospects and were given their choice of the two colts. They choose French Flash Frost, a yearling at the time that went on to a successful career in both the heading and barrel racing, leaving the weanling French Flash Hawk with the Hollmans.
“He was difficult on the ground, extremely skiddish,” Hollman says of the young Bozo. “You could do about anything on the right side but nothing on the left.” A visit to the local Littleton Large Animal Clinic determined the colt was likely partially blind. The Hollman’s decided to trade the horse to Hatfield for what amounted to three months training on some other horses.
“It was the best thing that could possibly have happened to that horse because then he ended up with Kristie and Chuck,” says Hollman. “It was fate or whatever.”
New Owners, New Fame for Bozo
Peterson brought Bozo home on Thanksgiving day in 1989. After gelding him, Chuck broke him to ride before Kristie started him on the pattern.
Peterson believes the name Bozo came from circus in his dam’s sire’s name.
“I never was good at naming them,” Peterson remarks with a laugh.
From the start, there was no clowning around for Bozo when it came to the barrels. Calling him a natural, Peterson had Bozo running open times by the summer of his three year old year.
“He just loved it, he took to it so easy,” she remembers.
Peterson ventured into the aged events for the first time in her career, earning nearly $150,000 in two years of futurities and derbies in 1991 and 1992. Bozo won the Barrel Futurities of America World Championship Derby and Sweepstakes in December of 1992. She’d also dipped her toe into the rodeos, buying her WPRA card in 1991 and earning the first of 11 Mountain States Circuit titles.
In a foreshadowing of things to come, Peterson won more than $10,000 en route to the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo (DNCFR) championship in 1992 in Pocatello, Idaho, the first of four DNCFR’s she and Bozo would collect in their career.
“He did really well in the futurities but at five, in the derbies, he was just awesome,” Peterson remembers. “At first I thought he was a really nice horse, a good placer, but soon I figured out he was a winner.”
Still working a full time job at the county jail as well as being Mom to two teenagers and a toddler, Peterson stepped out just a little more in 1993, kicking off the year with a big win at the National Western in Denver and finishing with a monster late summer run highlighted by her first wins at Cheyenne and Dodge City.
Peterson qualified for the first of eight consecutive National Finals Rodeos in 1993, entering the Finals ranked fourth. The spotlight that year was on Charmayne James and her super horse Scamper, as they sought to earn an unprecedented 10th WPRA World title.
“I was in awe [of Charmayne and Scamper],” Peterson admits. “I actually snuck in and took a look at Scamper in his stall.
“I was glad he was going out when we started . . . he and Charmayne made a lot of money when it was really hard to do.”
Peterson’s first introduction to the rodeo fans at large came at that Finals as the upstart, part-time barrel racer from Colorado nearly upended history in the making. Peterson and Bozo won second in their first run in Vegas and turned in two round wins. In fact, likely the only thing that kept them from the WPRA World Championship that year was a tipped barrel in round nine.
The sting of watching the coronation and subsequent retirement of Scamper was lessened for fans by the exciting new team of Bozo and Peterson. Bozo was flashy with lots of white on his face and a hard charging and turning style and Peterson was a perfect champion, humble and always quick to deflect the publicity to her great equine partner.
It wasn’t long before Peterson retired from her “regular” job, making barrel racing her focus. She never went down the road as hard as most of her peers, however, choosing the best rodeos in the winter and staying closer to home in the summer, generally making the NFR with a rodeo count under three dozen.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, who were taught to turn barrels off their hind ends, sliding around the turns, Bozo was the ultimate four-wheel drive barrel horse, pulling with his front end while powering through the turn with the hind. His success in all types of setups and ground soon had other trainers aspiring to teach Bozo’s style to their barrel horses, forever changing the sport.
Peterson won her first WPRA World title in 1994 on the strength of her first average win. After finishing second in 1995, she rattled off a streak of three straight championships from 1996-1998. Bozo seemed to know the big moments, earning championships at all of the major rodeos, often multiple times.
Peterson doesn’t hesitate when asked her favorite memories.
“One was at Calgary and one at Cheyenne and both were in the mud,” she says. She won Calgary three times and Cheyenne four. “At Calgary, it was like a lake out there. I remember thinking, ‘how are you even doing this?’ He was just putting his feet in the right spots.”
At Cheyenne, Peterson and Bozo set a new arena record during the short round, despite mud and tornado alarms sounding off around the arena.
“He just thrived on the impossible.”
Though her favorite memories come from the two of the largest arenas in ProRodeo, it was in Las Vegas in one of the smallest that Bozo’s legend is most firmly cemented. Bozo was a machine at the Thomas & Mack, earning five consecutive average wins.
Bozo ran down the alley 80 times, running for one of just four checks in the rounds each night at the time. He won 14 go rounds and earned money 66 times. Incredibly, he hit just two barrels with a streak of 59 clean runs in between. Peterson placed in 22 consecutive rounds from 1995 through 1997, missed a check in the first round of 1998 and rattled off another 17 straight round checks.
“It was just a love of the game,” Peterson says of Bozo’s NFR prowess. “He loved running down that alley, the noise. He was a big ole showoff.”
Though equal money for the barrel racers didn’t happen at the NFR until 1998, Peterson and Bozo still managed more than half a million in NFR earnings and more than $1.3 million in their WPRA career. In peer voting, Bozo won the AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year five times and the WPRA’s Horse with the Most Heart four times.
Peterson retired the great gelding not long after winning her third RodeoHouston title in 2003.
“We had moved to Texas and Chuck was still wanting to go but I always liked being home and riding colts more than the competition. We went to Houston for the first year in the new building and we won it.”
Bozo was called into duty for Peterson’s youngest daughter, Jordan, for a time after his pro career closed out.
“I’ll never forget the first time I let her go in the alley on him. She was saying, ‘Mom, let him go!’” Peterson laughs. “He taught her a bunch. In fact, Jordan went on to make the NFR herself in 2009, aboard a blood relative of Bozo’s called Frenchmans Jester.
Perhaps as big as Bozo’s many wins was the long-term impact his success brought to the barrel racing industry in terms of bloodlines.
“We are so grateful to Kristie and Chuck,” says Hollman. “Bozo brought tremendous recognition to our program.”
Early in Bozo’s career, Hollman and Loiseau sought out Peterson.
“Mom had heard about Kristie and Bozo and wanted to meet them in person so we called Kristie,” Hollman recalls. “We spent a couple of hours there and she showed us Bozo. It was a wonderful visit and it gave Mom immense pleasure and joy watching Kristie and Bozo conquer the world.”
Hollman had sent Caseys Charm back to her mother, who bred back to Sun Frost, producing PC Frenchmans Hayday, aka Dinero. Dinero would end up with Mel Potter, Sherry Cervi’s father, as the centerpiece of his breeding program. Dinero would run at the NFR with Cervi and sire her WPRA World Champ mare, MP Meter My Hay.
“Mel Potter always loved Bozo,” says Peterson, whose world titles were often won after hard fought battles with Cervi. “I thought it was neat that he sought out that breeding and went on with it.”
Bill Myers, who had ridden horses for and developed a friendship with Loiseau, went looking for similar bloodlines as well, buying Frenchmans Guy as a weanling. The stallion was by Sun Frost out of Frenchmans Lady, a half sister to Caseys Charm. Both mares were out of Loiseau’s AQHA Hall of Fame mare Caseys Ladylove.
Today, Frenchmans Guy is the number two all time leading sire of barrel horses, having produced winners of nearly $10 million.
“We received a lot of recognition for mother’s breeding program but she always gave credit to the horseman. She said it was important to have a good horse but more important to have a good horseman who could make them shine,” Hollman says. “And Kristie gave credit to mother.
“We owe a debt to Kristie and Chuck. Not everyone could have gotten along with Bozo and accomplished what they did. It was great intuition on their part to just let Bozo be Bozo.”
On May 4, 2016 at the age of 29, Bozo died peacefully at the Peterson’s home in Lott, Texas. Peterson still rides some, preferring the young horses to competing despite having double hip replacement in 2013. She is also busy with her grandkids including expecting a new baby in July, her daughter Jordan’s first with husband Justin Briggs.
As for Bozo, she remains awestruck at his list of accomplishments and at a loss to explain what made him love the sport so much.
“It’s like any great athlete. You never know what IT is. It’s just their heart and desire to be great.”