“I had to move to Texas for seven years and come back to California in order to get it done,” reflected McLeod.
The Texas transplant who posted a 15.70 during slack to cinch the win followed it up by winning the prestigious Fort Smith Super Derby the very next weekend aboard Slick By Design, another Cole and Martin owned horse.
“It’s been an unbelievable past couple of months,” said McLeod. “I’ve got to thank the incredible owners of the horses for giving me the opportunity to do this. Charlie Cole and Jason Martin own Slick By Design (Designer Red x Dream Of Blue); that’s the horse I won the Derby in Fort Smith on. They bought him in November after the AQHA World Show where he won the Jr. Barrels. I got him after that. I was entered at the rodeo in Huntsville, Texas and they said ‘Why don’t you take him?’ I ended up winning the last hole there and I was so excited because he’s kind of young and hasn’t been to a lot of rodeos. I ended up winning second on him at Graham, Texas then won Guymon (Okla.) on him.”
The Ramona Rodeo wasn’t necessarily in McLeod’s playbook until a fortunate scheduling coincidence enabled her to have a horse available on the West coast to run. Cole and Martin, who own High Point Performance Horses in Pilot Point, Texas, have numerous AQHA World and Congress titles to their credit and happened to be showing on the West Coast.
“They were at Del Mar, Calif. at a Quarter Horse show and asked me if I wanted to enter Ramona. I was like, “Are you sure?” I rode Mossmemoe (Driftin Gin x Viva Chargette) at Ramona. I took him to a few smaller Texas rodeos last year like Mesquite just to kind of get him to some rodeos. He won the Quarter Horse Congress in the pole bending last year; he’s like a 19-second pole horse. I flew in for Ramona and never dreamed I’d end up winning it. I ran him the night before Ramona in Las Vegas and got by the first barrel and was like a second off. I thought, ‘Please let me at least win something, at least the last hole at Ramona, and then I ended up winning it, it was crazy! He made a phenomenal run.”
McLeod is happy to ride her current wave of success wherever that may take her. Immediate plans include hauling the 2007 black stallion Slick By Design (“Slick”) and the sorrel gelding Mossmemoe (“Moe”) to Kansas and then on to Canada for summer rodeo action during the month of June.
“Charlie and Jason have always wanted a barrel sire and they’ve wanted to qualify a horse to the NFR too, so we’ll take it month to month and see how it goes. If June goes well in Canada then we’ll make a 4th of July run,” said McLeod.
While she described Slick as more her style, McLeod said Moe tends to be a powerful kind of horse that she tends to ride quieter than she needs to at times. However, the formula is working for the veteran who has trained for the public out of her Whitesboro facility for the past seven years with the help and support of her husband, John, and their three daughters, all horse enthusiasts. McLeod’s oldest daughter, Jenna, is out of college and lives in California, while middle daughter, Katelyn, attends college in Oklahoma and the youngest, Lindsey, is a junior in high school.
“All the girls and my husband John are a huge part of keeping the business going,” expressed McLeod.
Ramona Rodeo Results: 1. Michele McLeod, 15.70 seconds, $2,060; 2. Benette Little, 15.72, $1,751; 3. Jolee Lautaret-Jordan, 15.73, $1,442; 4. Christina Richman, 15.80, $1,236; 5. Sheena Robbins, 15.92, $1,030; 6. Danyelle Campbell, 15.98, $721; 7. (tie) Heidi Phillips and Dolli Lautaret, 16.04, $463 each; 9. (tie) Courtney Cline and Sarah Kieckhefer, 16.05, $335 each; 11. Susan McWhorter, 16.07, $257; 12. Jody Sheffield, 16.10, $206.