Bayleigh Choate may be new to professional rodeo, but that doesn’t mean the 19-year-old Georgia native now of Fort Worth, Texas, isn’t giving veteran barrel racers a run for their money this season. Currently coming in at 10th in the world and first in the Resistol Rookie standings, Choate is living proof that sometimes all you need is one good run to turn your luck around.
“My first six months on the road were really rough — like, I had $800 to my name, if that tells you anything,” Choate said with a laugh. “I hit a barrel at the rodeo in Montgomery, Alabama, and it was the end of the rope for me. I was like, ‘Why am I even doing this?’ One of my friends told me, ‘It just takes one rodeo to turn your career around. Keep going.’”
At the urging of her friend, Choate pressed on. She says when a call from the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association came that same day offering her a spot at Rodeo Austin, she decided to give it another shot.
“I ended up doing well in Austin,” Choate shared. “That was the rodeo that got me rolling into the summer run. It turned everything around.”
Choate has amassed most of her earnings this season aboard her fan favorite and Better Barrel Races 2021 Futurity Horse of the Year, TJR Stinson Blue. At only 5 years old, “Boozer” is transitioning from futurity colt to rodeo horse seamlessly. In fact, Choate says he’s thriving out on the rodeo road.
“He absolutely loves the rodeo performances — he could care less about the slack. If he runs slack, I actually have to play him his own music and hype him up. He loves the attention, the lights and the fame. I know he is convinced that he is the star of the show,” Choate said with a laugh of the Twisted J Ranch-bred and Whitney Godinez-trained gelding.
In addition to Boozer, Choate has two other geldings on her trailer — 7-year-old Kassie Mowry-trained gelding Hail To Be Famous and 9-year-old gelding LK Heza Fame from Aimee Kay’s program. Both are sons of all-time leading barrel horse sire Dash Ta Fame. Choate says while Boozer is definitely the crowd favorite, all three horses deserve credit for helping bring her dream to fruition.
“Each one of my horses has a place where they excel, and every penny in this race counts,” Choate explained. “I’m really grateful to have all three of them on the road with me.”
Although Choate admits she still has much to learn about rodeoing professionally, she is learning to ride the ebb and flow of the sport as the season goes on. In addition to keeping her head down and focusing on her goals, Choate says two words have had a profound impact on her outlook — be water.
“I am always reminding myself, ‘Be water,’” Choate shared. “That advice was given to me in February, and it has really helped me get through this year. If you pour water into a star-shaped container, it’s going to take the shape of a star. If there’s something standing in its way, it’s going to keep going until it goes around or through it. That’s the thing I’ve lived by this year because rodeo is hard. You have to adapt and overcome. To succeed in rodeo, you have to be water.”
WPRA Top 15 Barrel Racers as of August 12:
- Jordan Briggs, Tolar, TX, $175,875.84
- Wenda Johnson, Pawhuska, OK, $118,747.19
- Stevi Hillman, Weatherford, TX, $103,826.82
- Dona Kay Rule, Minco, OK, $102,974.62
- Sissy Winn, Chapman Ranch, TX, $95,296.61
- Kassie Mowry, Dublin, TX, $91,657.25
- Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, TX, $83,607.09
- Shelley Morgan, Eustace, TX, $82,248.82
- Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Lampasas, TX, $28,339.52
- Bayleigh Choate (R), Fort Worth, TX, $77,946.84
- Emily Beisel, Weatherford, OK, $68,215.57
- Michelle Darling, Medford, OK, $67,283.53
- Leslie Smalygo, Skiatook, OK, $64,630.10
- Jessica Routier, Buffalo, SD, $62,955.44
- Cheyenne Wimberly (G), Stephenville, TX, $59,781.98
For complete WPRA standings, visit wpra.com/standings-pro-rodeo-world/