Article by Julie Mankin

ImageStephanie Fryar of Big Spring, Texas, and her 9-year-old mare Sail On Lena took top honors on the first run at the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo—the initial leg of the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour’s Ariat Playoffs.

She won the round with a 17.43, then turned around to clock another 17.48 for fourth in the second round. Fryar won the two-head average by a slim margin over Brenda Mays, who’d won the second round with a rodeo-fast-time of 17.20. Fryar’s efforts earned her $6,707, and it couldn’t have been more timely; as of early September she sat 15th in the WPRA standings to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“I was just shooting for the average,” said Fryar. “I wanted to make two clean runs.”

Her two good trips meant she had to run near the bottom of the ground in the next round, though, and “Salena” had a little trouble getting out of it.

“She worked good, ‘peeled the paint off all three barrels,’ but kind of got hung up, and I missed the (semifinal) cut by like five-hundredths,” Fryar said.

Fryar, who hauls by herself, said 2007 was a year of seasoning for both her and Salena, and said this year they’ve grown together and are more mature. That still doesn’t make being 2,000 miles from home any easier when you’re on the bubble.

Last year, Fryar had gone home just after Cheyenne, so this year’s Kansas run in August and the rodeos in the Northwest were all new to her. Some soundness issues weighed heavily on her mind, too.

“Before the semifinals, I could tell Salena was sore,” she said. “The vet didn’t want to do what I wanted to do, and I went with their opinion. But after Kennewick, she was really sore. So I drove back to Nampa and had her hock injected.”

The treatment helped, and Salena came back and placed in a round at Ellensburg.

“Her getting sore and me losing that little bit of trust in her kind of hurt,” Fryar said. ‘But after Walla Walla and Ellensburg, I felt more confident about Puyallup.”

Fryar also hauls a 6-year-old mare that she typically runs in the mud, on whom she was recently just out of placing in Bremerton and did place at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

“She’s kind of just sitting there waiting,” said Fryar. “It’s hard to get off the one you’re winning on.”

In Caldwell’s semifinals, Brenda Mays continued her dominance with a second-place 17.54 behind round-winner Barb West’s 17.53. Rounding out third was Shelley Murphy, who hadn’t placed up to that point, and the fourth-place qualifier to the finals was Christina Richman.

Murphy not only hadn’t won a dime in the first two rounds at Caldwell, but she’d been three-tenths out of first in round one and a half-second off in the second go. Somehow she squeaked into the semis in the last hole, but still wasn’t confident because she’d just been to a couple of other rodeos and tipped barrels.

“On the way back from Walla Walla, I got a ride with Tammy [Key-Fischer] and Jackie [Jatzlau],” said Murhpy, “and told them, ‘Even if I come back eighth, I’m thinking about turning out because we’re just not clocking.’ Tammy woke up from her nap and told me it would be a $3,000 fine. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll be there for sure.’”

Running second out in the semifinals, Murphy clocked a 17.67 and figured she was dead in the water. But it held on for third and netted her a little cash. Plus, it was just her first run of the day and in the back of her mind, she knew her little firecracker, Flick, would be lethal on the second run.

“If I run this horse twice in the same day, he really fires,” said Murphy. “Sometimes I think that because he and I have had our little trials and done tons of tuning, that when I take him back in there he thinks he’s in trouble. I hope not. Maybe he thinks, ‘Alright, if I do it perfect this time, this lady will get off of me.’ And it usually works, unless his mother rides him wrong.”

Doing her thing exactly right, Murphy posted the second-fastest time of the entire rodeo, a 17.33, to edge out Barb West by more than a tenth for the big win.

And don’t think Key-Fischer and Jatzlau weren’t clamoring for their share.

“They were saying, ‘Oh yeah, you owe us,’” Murphy laughs. “ ‘You can take your $3,000 out and give us the rest.’”

The other ironic thing about Murphy’s win was that it allowed both Deb Renger and Layna Kight to get into Puyallup.

“I took up three spots for Puyallup, because I won Pocatello [the DNCFR], won Caldwell, and was in the tour standings anyway,” said Murphy. “Somebody out there was probably like, ‘Go Shelley!’”

Murphy and Mays both left Caldwell with $7,453, while West earned $7,701.

Tour trivia

In its ninth year of existence, the ever-changing ProRodeo Tour can still be a little difficult to figure out, so we thought we’d break it down for you here.

Twenty-six already-existing regular-season rodeos made up the 2008 Tour, starting with Odessa, Texas, in January and ending with Dodge City, Kan., in August. Contestants designated 15 of those 26 to officially count toward the Tour standings.

Once Dodge City was over, the top 35 point-earners from those rodeos, plus the winner of the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, competed at the Caldwell Night Rodeo (Aug. 12–16).

Then the standings were updated again and the top 22, plus the DNCFR winner and the Caldwell winner, advanced to the Western Washington Fair Rodeo in Puyallup (Sept. 5–7). From there, the top 11 barrel racers in the standings plus the Puyallup winner qualified for the River City Roundup in Omaha, Neb. (Sept. 25–27).

Now, the top 10 from the latest Tour standings will run at the Texas Stampede (Nov. 7–8) for the Tour Championship and some valuable post-season dollars that also count toward Wrangler National Finals Rodeo standings.


Julie Mankin is an avid barrel racer and roper as well as a regular Barrel Horse News contributor. E-mail comments on this article to [email protected].


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