After spending her fair share of years under the bright lights in Las Vegas winning 11 world titles, Charmayne James shares what she enjoys about watching the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo during her current stage in life as a spectator, teacher and barrel racing enthusiast.

When I watch the National Finals Rodeo, I pretty much enjoy what everybody else enjoys. Seeing the oohs and the ahhs each night, how fast they go, how good they work, how quick the horses are. In that Thomas and Mack pen, it’s a little tricky. It’s a blind alleyway, so I like watching everybody navigate it and seeing how they do from night to night, whether they change horses or stay on horses, how they handle the ground.

At the end of the day, just seeing who’s going to win and how the competition is shaping up. It’s a thinking game — how do they handle it, what’s going to happen now with the average, especially when those last few go-rounds get a little tricky. Watching people try to keep the barrels up; do I go for the go-round, do I leave the barrels up or take a chance? You wonder what their mindsets are.

—> 2022 NFR Coverage and Recaps

Charmayne James and Scamper running out of the arena at NFR
BHN photo by Kenneth Springer
Favorite Teams

I just love watching Jordon Briggs. She’s got such good knowledge of fundamentals like horsemanship, how horses move, and you can see that her horse carries himself so well. Jordon’s timing with her hands and body position is just perfect. As somebody who’s spent the last 20 years of my life trying to teach people better hands, better riding, having horses broke that have the fundamentals where you can move parts of their body, you can see with Jordon and “Rollo” that there were no corners cut in the training process. When I watch her go, it makes me happy inside.

I also love Hailey Kinsel. “Sister” is so fast and Hailey is such a good rider, and the team they are together is so special. Being in my position, I know what a bond I had with my horses “Scamper” and “Cruiser,” especially when you get to an upper level like that. The bond Hailey and Sister have makes it so fun watching the teamwork, whether they win or don’t.

Witnessing the Evolution of the Barrel Horse

It’s pretty evident that the breeding of the horses has evolved so much. There are so many well-bred horses with a whole family line that’s good at barrel racing. There’s a lot more people breeding for barrel racing now, so the competition and the bloodlines are super tough — you see it more every day.

There are more bloodlines coming on all the time, and there are better trainers out there. It makes you wonder that now with better trainers, better riders, more money in breeding, we’re probably going to come into some new bloodlines we didn’t really know were good for barrel racing yet.

Charmayne James with her NFR back number on standing by Scamper
BHN photo by Kenneth Springer
What to Watch

You can learn a lot about becoming a better rider and competitor by paying close attention while watching riders at this level. Watch somebody like Jordon who has good hands. Pay attention to people like Hailey who keep coming back time and time again, who is a good rider and such a strong advocate for the love of our horse.

Recognize good people and good teams; the ones who stay in there consistently. There’s a lot to be learned from their humbleness and their approach to rodeo and competition.


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