Life Happens, And Then...

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

When I started this year, making the NFR was still a dream. Now, it’s my goal.

by Jessie Telford

I’ve been rodeoing most of my life. Back when I was barrel-racing in high school and college rodeos, making the National Finals Rodeo seemed attainable. It was a goal, something I planned to do. Then, you grow up and life happens and making the NFR becomes less a goal than some vague dream. At least that’s what happened to me. Even as recently as last year, finishing the season in the top fifteen was still a dream. But all that changed this year.

My original goal for this year was to finish high enough in the standings to qualify for Rodeo Houston in 2019. I’ve never gotten to run there and really wanted to. San Antonio was the only winter rodeo I entered this year, but it went really good. I think I ended up third there and won a little over sixteen-thousand dollars. I shot into the top ten in the barrel-racing standings, figuring that wouldn’t last. But my luck held at the spring California rodeos and into the summer. Week after week, I stayed in the top fifteen. After a while, seeing your name in the top fifteen makes you think, Maybe qualifying for the NFR is possible.

But just as quickly my thoughts returned to my life and how much I had on my plate. Between my husband Jake’s business training and competing on cow horses and the fact that our two girls, now twelve and thirteen, are busy going to rodeos, horse shows, team ropings and barrel jackpots, I wasn’t sure how hard I could rodeo.

Jake encouraged me.

“You really need to think about entering a few more rodeos,” he said. He knew that in my heart of hearts I wanted this. Every horse person’s dream, whether you’re into barrel racing, jumping, cow horses or racehorses, is to reach the level where you’re competing against the best of the best of the best.

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

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In the barrel-racing world, it takes a special horse to compete against the best of the best. I have a special horse: Famous Cool Whip.

For a while now, I’ve been training futurity horses. Cool Whip is out of a mare that I rodeoed on in high school and college. I raised him from day one and trained him as a four-year-old futurity horse. At first, he was a little inconsistent. He hit quite a few barrels, but there were at least two or three times when he ran the fastest time of the whole weekend—the fastest out of eight-hundred runs! That’s when I knew he was special.

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Sometimes those special horses either figure it out and get easier to ride, or they’re almost too smart and they want to overwork. They know the barrels are coming, which makes it that much harder to get them past the barrels—and that much harder to win on them. Cool Whip went the opposite way. As a five-year-old, he got easier to ride and more consistent. And he stayed fast.

Now he’s seven and running better than ever.

This summer, when I started rodeoing hard, I realized how fortunate I am to live in Caldwell, Idaho. From Caldwell, I’m nine-to-ten hours from most of the rodeos in California, Wyoming and the Northwest. Everything is a half-day’s drive away. I bet I put more miles on my rig than the majority of the girls out there, simply because I could come home at the end of every weekend.

My routine changed for this final two-week run. I’m on the bubble, and when you’ve rodeoed all year long and you have a legitimate shot at making the National Finals Rodeo, you pull out all the stops.

When I started this year, making the NFR was still a dream. Now, it’s my goal, and I have six more rodeos left to reach my goal.

Read more about the CINCH JEANS and Classic Equine athletes fighting to make the NFR. Follow #theCjHASE

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen


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