JADE FORD AND LAINIE WHITMIRE MADE A CHANCE CONNECTION through a breeding to Whitmire Ranch-owned stallion Bullseye Bullion, and it didn’t take long for the two to become friends. Fans of fast horses and impeccable bloodlines, Lainie and Jade found a common bond that forged not only a friendship but also laid the foundation for the revolutionary Breeders Challenge incentive program.

“It all started when we bought a breeding to Bullseye Bullion,” Jade recalled. “From there, it evolved into a friendship. From the friendship, it evolved into a business relationship, and then we came up with the idea for the development and implementation of a new incentive program. That’s really how Breeders Challenge was born.”

Jade, who owns and operates Cinder Lakes Ranch in Valley View, Texas, alongside her husband, Rick Ford, says it began as a casual conversation.

“Ray [Whitmire] and Lainie have been very successful operating incentive programs in different disciplines, and of course Rick and I are very involved in the breeding side,” Jade said. “We were all talking about the stallions, their progeny, and how barrel horses are evolving. The breeding is becoming so specific, and breeders are becoming more intentional than ever. I think we were asking ourselves, ‘What do the next 5 to 10 years look like?’”

For Lainie and Jade, the answer was simple. While there were established incentive programs already bringing exceptional changes to the industry, they had their own vision for the next decade of barrel racing.

“We wanted to develop a program that encompassed our experiences individually and brought them collectively to the table,” Jade explained. “We created Breeders Challenge with breeders, owners, stallion owners and nominators in mind. Competitors can be tied into those entities in a lot of ways, but those individuals were our focus. We wanted to elevate how we were paying back those who were paying in while also pushing the industry to the next level.”

Jade Ford and Lainie Whitmire at Breeders Challenge
Fans of fast horses and impeccable bloodlines, Lainie Whitmire (left) and Jade Ford (right) found a common bond that forged not only a friendship but also laid the foundation for the revolutionary Breeders Challenge incentive program. Photo by Buckskin Rowe

Since its inception in 2020 and its premier event in 2021, Breeders Challenge has continued to revolutionize the face of barrel racing, drawing involvement from the industry’s leading sires and pulling top competitors from across the country to qualifying events for a chance to run for life-changing checks at the annual Breeders Challenge Finale in Fort Worth, Texas.

In addition to a generous return on owners’ investments and great payout for their competitors, Lainie says the Breeders Challenge team works hard to bring a sense of celebration and achievement to the Finale events through the now-famous Friday night draw parties.

“[The draw parties] are a lot of fun,” Lainie said. “It’s so much work for riders to make it to the Finale — all the blood, sweat and tears that go into getting there is really what gave us the idea to do them. We pop a champagne bottle on stage, have a light show, and really just go over the top.”

Now three years in, Lainie says the draw parties have won over even the wariest of participants.

“When people came to check in last year, the first thing they asked was, ‘What time is the draw party?’” Lainie said with a laugh. “People really get excited about it.”

Jade says the draw parties are also a way to ease the pressure on competitors before Saturday’s Finale.

“The Finale is intended to be tough — we wanted to have the best set of horses on our dirt, so there’s a lot of energy, adrenaline and pressure coming into the event,” Jade explained. “We took the approach of, ‘Hey, once you get here, let’s take a break and celebrate. Saturday night you’re running for some incredible money. Game face on. But before then, let’s have a nice, catered meal, cheer each other on, and build some camaraderie back into it.’”

—> Read more: 2022 Breeders Challenge Finale Results

For Jade and Lainie, the dream that started as a casual conversation between friends during the peak of breeding season in spring 2020 has hit the ground running and only continues gaining traction.

“If you asked us at the launch what the first five years would look like, I would say we were hopeful, but it’s a been whole different thing to see it all come together,” Jade confessed. “The realistic side of you is asking in that initial moment, ‘What if it works? What if it doesn’t?’ Seeing what the program has done in three years is an incredible feeling, but we look at this and ask, ‘Where do we want to be in 20 years?’ That long term projection and what we plan to do between now and then is a key part of our success. When we’re looking that far ahead, we’re not only taking care of this generation of horses; we’re already thinking about the next generation. We can celebrate where we are, but we should always be asking, ‘What’s next?’”

The 2023 Breeders Challenge Finale kicks off in Fort Worth from September 13–16. Find all the race info here and follow along on barrelhorsenews.com as well as Barrel Horse News social channels for coverage and updates.


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