From National Finals Rodeo qualifiers to NFR producers, meet the NFR mares who started a legacy in Part Two of this Barrel Horse News magazine exclusive story.
A lot of talent and a whole lot more luck go into making a rodeo horse. It was only recently that people started breeding specifically for the sport of barrel racing. In the early days, it was a rare few who did so, because it was cheaper to pick up a reject from the racetrack or show pen.
When the rodeo girls turned into breeding pioneers, like the late Celie Whitcomb Ray and Vickie Adams, they proved that you could raise incredibly talented and tough-to-beat horses. Soon, others started following suit. With the increase in purses and the large influx of people in the sport, breeding for barrel horses really took over in the past 25 years.
Not surprisingly, a few superstar NFR mares have found their way into the breeding shed. Thanks to advances in reproductive technology, namely embryo transfer, breeders could keep their mares running and producing at the same time. Here, Barrel Horse News look at four of the seven mares that have qualified for and competed at the National Finals Rodeo and then later produced NFR qualifiers.
Article by Tanya Randall. Photos by Kenneth Springer
Part One Mares: Slash J Harletta, Go Royal Scarlett, Mulberry Canyon Moon, Flowers And Money. Read Part One here.
Part Two Mares: Dash Ta Vanila, Sugar Babe, Tag’s Dandy Girl, Dynas Plain Special
Notables (see Part One): Jetta Rita, MP Meter My Hay, Firewater Fiesta, Sheza Blazin Move, RC Back In Black
Know of any NFR-qualifying and -producing mares we missed? Please contact us!
Dash Ta Vanila
Alan Woodbury’s Dash Ta Vanila (“Nila”) is a key player in legendary maternal that’s produced NFR competitors and qualifiers as well as multiple leading sires. Nila, a daughter of Dash Ta Fame, was bred by Carisa Shearer, who rode her dam SX Frenchmans Vanila to the 2001 EquiStat Leading Futurity Horse title.
In 2004, SX Frenchmans Vanila helped Amanda Clayman qualify for the NFR, doing most of her winning in the bigger outdoor pens. The following year, Nila was born.
Nila carried Nikki (Steffes) Hanssen to the 2012 NFR, where they placed in the second round and finished sixth in the average with Tell Em Belle making three of the 10 runs.
Thanks to embryo transfer, Woodbury masterminded the breeding of Nila to leading racehorse sire Corona Cartel. The resulting foal, Rosas Cantina CC, was already a 2-year-old during Nila’s NFR appearance.
Two-time WPRA Reserve World Champion Lisa Lockhart started running Rosa at her Badlands circuit rodeos in late 2016. She gradually worked the mare up to more prominent rodeos. By 2018, Rosa was doing most of the heavy lifting for Lockhart’s most recent NFR qualifications, making her a third-generation NFR qualifying horse through her maternal line.
Rosa and Lockhart won Round 2 of the 2018 NFR and made one run at the 2019 NFR after the mare did most of the qualifying. With the 2020 NFR on a WPRA Standard Pattern, Rosa placed in the second, sixth and eighth rounds and won the third. In 2021, Rosa’s earnings from the most lucrative rodeos during the season, like the Cheyenne Frontier Days, helped Lockhart qualify for her 15th NFR.
Dynas Plain Special
When Janae (Ward) Massey’s 2002 NFR qualifier Cole And Cole was injured late in the 2003 season, leading barrel horse breeder Jud Little offered the granddaughter of barrel racing pioneers Dale and Florence Youree his great mare Dynas Plain Special (“Dee Dee”). The 1992 daughter of Special Feelins and out of Barrel Futurities of America Derby Reserve Champion Dyna Snow, by Dothan (TB), had money-winning experience at several prestigious rodeos and went to several circuit finals with Kim Thomas before Massey took the reins.
Massey locked up her sophomore NFR qualification with Dee Dee at Texas Stampede in Dallas, jumping from 26th in the standings to 14th. However, their biggest jump was yet to come.
At the 2003 NFR, Massey and Dee Dee blazed a trail on the short course, placing in eight of the 10 rounds, winning the ninth round, earning $111,908 and capturing the NFR Championship and WPRA World title.
Thanks to embryo transfer, Dee Dee’s first NFR qualifier was already on the ground when she won the world. Frosty Feelins, by WPRA World Champion Sire Sun Frost, was a 3-year-old at the time, and at 6, she carried Denise Adams to two NFR go-round buckles in 2006. In 2009, Frosty Feelins was a key player in Tiffany Fox’s 2009 NFR appearance, having won Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Dee Dee’s second NFR qualifier was leading barrel horse sire JL Dash Ta Heaven, who was born on May 2, 2005, the day before his great mother was laid to rest due to complications of laminitis. An aged-event standout, JL Dash Ta Heaven helped Benette (Barrington) Little to the 2010 NFR but did most of the winning for her 2012 appearance.
JL Dash Ta Heaven has continued Dee Dee’s NFR legacy as a sire. He had his first NFR qualifier in 2018 with Hell On The Red, bred by the Youree-Ward family and ridden by Massey’s sister Kylie Weast.
Better known as “Sug,” Sugar Babe carried Colette Baier to four straight NFRs in the 1970s. The unregistered 1965 mare was by Bandera Lo, a grandson of a multiple stakes-winning Thoroughbred and a King-Oklahoma Star-bred mare. Her mother was an unregistered ranch horse that also carried some Oklahoma Star and Peter McCue blood.
“I was a hungry kid, just wanting to run barrels, and I started training her,” Baier said. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but we started winning everywhere at the playdays and show-deos back in those days. I had friends that kept encouraging me to go to more, go to high school rodeos, go to this, go to that…so that’s what I did.”
In 1974, Sug and Baier were the darlings of the NFR, placing in all 10 rounds and winning five of them. They won the average, rookie of the year and the reserve championship.
They returned the following year to run the fastest time at the 1975 NFR. Sug and Baier also qualified in 1976 and 1977.
“She really was such a super horse,” Baier said. “She was a powerhouse and hardly hit a barrel. I have a video of her moving off a barrel at the NFR when she was going to hit it. Out of 40 runs, she only hit one barrel, and she slipped and fell into it. I was first out, and they had over-wet the ground.”
In 1980, Baier bred the mare to one of her biggest rivals Maudies Joak, Connie Combs’ five-time NFR qualifier and the 1976 WPRA World Champion.
“My stallion, Suak, which was a combination of Sug and Joak, was a champion when he hit the ground,” Baier said. “I took a picture of him standing next to a barrel when he was a month or two old. It held true. It hardly took anything to train him. It was just in his blood. He was just an amazing animal. He had his mother’s heart. She was just a machine. She was tough, and so was he. He was physically and mentally tough. He was the epitome of what you want in a pro horse.”
Suak took Baier back to the NFR in 1989 and 1990. In 1989, they placed in four rounds, finishing eighth in the average. In 1990, they won the first round and placed in one more.
They narrowly missed the NFR in 1991 and 1992.
“That was a really busy time for me, because all three of my kids were involved in everything and anything,” Baier recalled. “I had my mom and my husband to help keep everything going at home.”
Today, Baier is still riding the bloodline. She has an older gelding by Suak that she still runs occasionally, and her current up-and-comer is a 3-year-old colt by PC Frosty Bid and out of one of her last daughters of Suak.
Tag’s Dandy Girl
In 1976, Pam Ross went to her first NFR on Tag’s Dandy Girl, who was bred, raised and trained by her husband and in-laws. “Tag” was out of the family’s using horse My Tagalong, by Keeno Kid.
Her mother-in-law painted a picture of Dandy Bar, and the stallion’s owner gave her a breeding in return for the painting.
“My father-in-law thought he was going to get a breeding to one of his racehorses, and she breeds the kid’s horse,” Pam said with a laugh. “She was a working horse, but she was a really good rope horse. The kids ran barrels on her. She was just a nice all-around mare. When she foaled, my husband was given that mare.”
Pam’s husband Larry successfully competed on the mare at gymkhanas, and when she came into the picture, Tag became her barrel horse. After six months of amateur rodeos, Pam switched to the pros because it paid better.
After making the NFR, Tag was bred to Little Percent, a grandson of Rocket Bar out of a Dandy Bar mare. She produced 10 foals from that cross, but it was the 1978 mare Tags Celene, who was also started by Larry, who returned Pam to the NFR in 1984.
“He did the futurities on her even though he was too big for her,” Pam recalled. “She was his pride and joy anyway. He went ahead and ran her and did well. The next year I ran her at the derbies. I went to 12 WPRA rodeos and qualified to go to the circuit finals. The next year I went to the NFR.”
Pam and Celene placed in the last four NFR rounds ever held in Oklahoma City. The following year it moved to Las Vegas, and Pam turned her focus to family. Today, she still rides a descendant of Tag’s Dandy Girl — Fantasy Conquest, who is by Tags Pic, Tags Celene’s son by Pic Remedy.