From National Finals Rodeo qualifiers to NFR producers, meet the NFR mares who started a legacy in Part One of this Barrel Horse News magazine exclusive story.

A lot of talent and a whole lot more luck go into making a rodeo horse. It was only recently that people started breeding specifically for the sport of barrel racing. In the early days, it was a rare few who did so, because it was cheaper to pick up a reject from the racetrack or show pen.

When the rodeo girls turned into breeding pioneers, like the late Celie Whitcomb Ray and Vickie Adams, they proved that you could raise incredibly talented and tough-to-beat horses. Soon, others started following suit. With the increase in purses and the large influx of people in the sport, breeding for barrel horses really took over in the past 25 years.

Not surprisingly, a few superstar NFR mares have found their way into the breeding shed. Thanks to advances in reproductive technology, namely embryo transfer, breeders could keep their mares running and producing at the same time. Here, Barrel Horse News look at four of the seven mares that have qualified for and competed at the National Finals Rodeo and then later produced NFR qualifiers.

Article by Tanya Randall. Photos by Kenneth Springer

Part One Mares: Slash J Harletta, Go Royal Scarlett, Mulberry Canyon Moon, Flowers And Money

Part Two Mares: Dash Ta Vanila, Sugar Babe, Tag’s Dandy Girl, Dynas Plain Special

Notables (see below): Jetta Rita, MP Meter My Hay, Firewater Fiesta, Sheza Blazin Move, RC Back In Black

Know of any NFR-qualifying and -producing mares we missed? Please contact us!

Slash J Harletta

horses turning barrels
Left: Slash J Harletta, the only AQHA Champion to ever qualify for the NFR in barrel racing, produced NFR qualifiers and performers Free Etta and I Got Bugs. Legendary sire Fire Water Flit, out of “Harletta,” also won money for Celie Whitcomb Ray the year she qualified on Free Etta. Right: Harletta’s 1982 gelding, I Got Bugs, qualified for two NFRs in 1987 and 1989. “Bugsy” placed in three rounds at the 1987 NFR. Two years later, Bugsy won three straight rounds and placed in one more with Celie Whitcomb Ray, pictured in 1989.

It’s hard to find a more enduring legacy than that of Slash J Harletta. The 1961 daughter of Harlan out of Frog’s Annette by Frog W is the only American Quarter Horse Association Champion to have ever qualified for the NFR in barrel racing or possibly in any event.

“Harletta” earned her AQHA title by collecting performance points in speed events, while standing grand champion at halter. She’d later take Ray to the 1971 NFR.

The famed mare already had two foals on the ground when Vickie Adams purchased a half-interest in the fall of 1976. Ray won the reserve championship at the Texas Barrel Racing Association Futurity that fall on Adams’ Flit Bar mare Wabena Bar Flit. Adams used the calcutta money to purchase half of Harletta.

“Back then, the calcutta paid as much as the futurity,” Adams explained. “I took the calcutta money that Celie won on my mare, who would take me to the [1977 NFR], and bought Harletta. How’s that for irony!”

Given Adams’ history with winning Flit Bar horses, she immediately wanted to breed Harletta to the aging stallion. She and Ray decided that Harletta would decide which of them got the first foal.

“We knew with us both riding and running that it wouldn’t be good for us to be partners on every colt,” Adams said. “That would just be a commotion. Celie wanted a filly, and I wanted a stud colt. I knew Flit Bar was old, and I wanted a stud colt out of a mare as great as Harletta. So, we let Harletta decide. The first one after our partnership was Fire Water Flit.”

horse turning a barrel at the NFR
Harletta’s first foal, Free Etta, a 1974 mare, went to the NFR in 1982 and placed in two rounds before winning the seventh with the second fastest time of the entire rodeo with Celie Whitcomb Ray.

Afterwards, the ladies would take turns owning the foals, regardless of their sex.

Harletta’s second foal and first filly, Free Etta, a 1976 daughter of Wiggy Bar, was her first NFR qualifier. At the 1982 NFR, Free Etta and Ray placed in two rounds before winning the seventh with the second-fastest time of the entire rodeo.

Although he didn’t run at the Finals, Fire Water Flit, Harletta’s 1978 stallion by Flit Bar, helped Ray qualify that year before returning to Adams for the later derbies.

Adams’ stallion choice of Bugs Alive In 75 produced Harletta’s second foal to compete at the NFR. I Got Bugs (“Bugsy”), her 1982 gelding, carried Ray to two NFRs. At the 1987 NFR, Bugsy placed in three rounds and came back in 1989 to win three straight rounds and placed in one more.

Harletta’s NFR legacy continued through Fire Water Flit and his sons as well as Harletta’s son Letta Hank Do It.

Go Royal Scarlett

NFR mare turning a barrel at the NFR
Go Royal Scarlett won a round at each of the three NFRs in which she appeared, ridden by Ruth Haislip.

A homebred for the late Ruth Haislip, Go Royal Scarlett carried the small animal veterinarian to three NFRs from 1998 to 2000. The 1992 mare was by Royal Go Go, a stallion owned by former NFR qualifier Gail Tyson, out of Wild N Groovy by Three Ohs Wild.

Tillar Murray turning the second barrel
Go Royal Scarlett’s gelded son Royal Star Commander qualified twice and competed once, winning a round in his only appearance at the NFR with rider Tillar (Murray) King.

“Scarlett” was just 6 when they made their first NFR. She won a go-round during each of her trips to Las Vegas. They never went to more than 45 rodeos a year and won numerous California Circuit titles when Haislip quit hauling nationally to focus on her practice and her two sons.

The mare was two years shy of her retirement when Haislip flushed her first embryo out of Scarlett. The result was the 2006 gelding Royal Star Commander, by AR Star, a son of Shawne Bug that Haislip owned in partnership with fellow NFR qualifier Marilyn Camarillo at the time.

Commander was the first American Semifinals Rodeo champion with Erin Ricotti. In 2015, he qualified Deb Guelly to the NFR but didn’t compete in Las Vegas. He made his Thomas and Mack debut in 2017 when he qualified with his new owner Tiller (Murray) King. Commander joined his mother as an NFR round winner after taking first in the seventh round that year.

Mulberry Canyon Moon

Mulberry Canyon Moon turning the second barrel
Mulberry Canyon Moon, ridden by Angie Meadors, and her son MCM Imasharpguy have the rare honor of winning the same round, No. 9, exactly nine years apart at the NFR.

Multiple NFR qualifier Angie Meadors paired up with Mulberry Canyon Moon, the 2007 Equi-Stat Leading Futurity Horse, to qualify for the NFR in 2010 and 2011. At their first NFR, Meadors and “Mulberry” won three rounds — the fourth, ninth and 10th.

Even before her retirement from the arena, Mulberry, a 2003 daughter of Marthas Six Moons out of De Streaker by Osage Streaker (TB), was producing via embryo transfer. Her 2012 A Sharp Frenchman gelding, MCM Imasharpguy (“Sharpie”), followed his dam’s path from futurities to rodeos.

As a 5-year-old, Sharpie set arena records across the country with Stevi Hillman before qualifying for his first NFR in 2017, where he placed in the sixth round. After taking most of 2018 off to recover from surgery, Sharpie was back with Hillman at the 2019 NFR, where he was able to duplicate Meadors’ and Mulberry’s ninth go-round victory when they turned in the fastest time of the 2019 NFR.

At the 2020 NFR in Arlington, Texas, Sharpie was joined by his half-brother SR Industry Titan, Mulberry’s aged-event champion son by Firewaterontherocks. “Titan” made his pro rodeo debut at the NFR with Wenda Johnson in the saddle.

Stevi Hillman riding Sharpie at the NFR
Ridden by Stevi Hillman, MCM Imasharpguy followed in his mother’s footsteps, winning Round Nine at the 2019 NFR.

In the sixth round of the 2020 NFR, Hillman and Sharpie placed third, with Johnson and Titan placing sixth, making Mulberry the only NFR mare to have two offspring placing in the same go. Wenda and Titan also placed in the seventh round, and Hillman and Sharpie shut the clock off on the WPRA standard pattern in 16.79 to win the 10th round.

Flowers And Money

Flowers And Money at NFR
Flowers And Money became the first NFR-qualifying mare to produce a WPRA World Champion with Flos Heiress’ victory in 2014.

When Fallon Taylor was just a teenager, Flowers And Money (“Flo Jo”) carried her to four straight NFR qualifications from 1995 to 1998.

Bred by Larry Clark, Flo Jo was discovered and trained by Rick Manucy, a friend of Taylor’s mentor Larry Stevens. The 1990 daughter of On The Money Red out of the Thoroughbred mare Floralie, by 1969 Kentucky Derby Winner Majestic Prince, was known for her fractious nature but had a bond with the young Taylor.

Unfortunately, Flo Jo didn’t care for the Thomas & Mack — the long holding alley in particular — but her daughter Flos Heiress, on the other hand, learned to love it.

By Dr Nick Bar, the stallion that filled Taylor’s WPRA permit, the 2006 mare Flos Heiress was a barrel racing prodigy. In her first year on the pattern, Baby Flo nearly took Taylor to the 2012.

In 2013, they made it to Vegas, only to struggle, placing in only two rounds.

Taylor spent 2014 tweaking her team for an assault on the Thomas & Mack. In 2014, the won the first and fourth rounds and ultimately finished second in the aggregate. Baby Flos’ efforts earned Taylor the coveted gold buckle.

They returned to the NFR in 2015 and placed in seven rounds, proving that the NFR was no longer ‘Not Fallon’s Rodeo.’

During Baby Flo’s last NFR, her first foals were already on the ground via embryo transfer. Not surprisingly, her first two foals are both pro rodeo winners as 5-year-olds.     

Fallon Taylor turns the second barrel at the NFR
Fallon Taylor and Flos Heiress claimed the 2014 WPRA World Championship.

The Ringer — Jetta Rita

gray NFR mare running during steer wrestling
The gray mare Jetta Rita, shown carrying Trav Caldwell to a Round Two victory in steer wrestling at the 2000 NFR, produced multiple NFR barrel racing qualifier A Streak Of Rita. Photo courtesy Trula Churchill

Jetta Rita probably has more NFR qualifications than any other horse mentioned. The gray mare by Very Sharp (TB) out of Jettaretta, by Jet Request, was a steer wrestling horse. At the 2000 NFR, she carried Trav Caldwell to a second round win and split fourth in the average.

After her steer wrestling career was over, Trula Churchill bred her to a young roan stallion that belonged to another NFR steer wrestler, the late Brian Fulton. The pairing with A Streak Of Fling resulted in A Streak Of Rita (“Worm”), who carried Churchill to three straight NFRs and a Canadian Finals Rodeo Championship.

Notable NFR Mares

Powerhouse performers MP Meter My Hay, Firewater Fiesta and Sheza Blazin Move also produced NFR qualifiers and performers.

MP Meter My Hay, a 2002 daughter of PC Frenchmans Hayday, a two-event qualifier and multiple-event NFR sire, and out of Miss Meter Jet by Bar Tonto Jet, won two WPRA World Championships and the NFR average twice from seven straight qualifications with Sherry Cervi. “Stingray’s” first foal, by Dash Ta Fame, was Feel The Sting. “Stinger” qualified Ryann Pedone to the 2020 NFR but was unfortunately unable to compete due to a fractured hock.

With Stinger injured, Pedone made one run at the 2020 NFR aboard HP Dash Ta Fiesta, a Dash Ta Fame son out of WPRA Reserve World Champion Firewater Fiesta, ridden by Kelly Yates. “Fiesta,” a 1994 daughter of the great Fire Water Flit (see Slash J Harletta above), was homebred for the Yates family out of the Mighty Wild mare Mighty Mindy.

Sheza Blazin Move, a 2005 daughter of Blazin Jetolena out of Sheza Cashinova MP by Sir Cashanova, also had a performer at the 2020 NFR with Tres Movidas (“Vida”), by Tres Seis. With Christy Loflin, “Movin” went to three straight NFRs from 2012 to 2014. Fan-favorite Lisa Lockhart chose Vida to share the load on the WPRA standard pattern in Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Vida and Lockhart ran in two rounds, placing in one.

At the 2022 NFR, RC Back In Black (“Beauty”) joined the list of notables. Beauty, a 2004 daughter of Ninety Nine Goldmine and out of Rabbit Redux by Royal Quick Dash, qualified Jane Melby to the 2011 NFR, where they won three rounds. A multiple champion producer Beauty has RC Black In Famous (“Pickles”), a 2015 mare, who started off the NFR for two-time WPRA World Champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi.