In general, I tend to keep my emotions under wraps and stay reserved. I may be excited and sometimes I get frustrated, but no matter what, I always work toward having a handle on my emotions. It doesn’t matter what is happening, it is my goal to be able to turn off emotion completely and only focus on exactly what I have to do. It’s better for me in competition and it’s better for my horses. Throughout the years, I have sort of trained myself to keep control of my emotions. 

I look back at 2013 and it is all so surreal to me it is still hard to believe it actually happened. People have asked me many times over, “What did you do different in 2013? What made the difference?” The truth is, I don’t know. Everything just seemed to fall into place. The right things happened at the right times all year long.

Stingray ran her heart out at the biggest rodeos all summer. In summary, my year came down to her. Good horses don’t come along very often and I am very fortunate to have Stingray. She made my year possible. I started the summer with a little catching up to do. I didn’t rodeo very much in the spring and George was not 100 percent healthy, so I was leaving him at home for the first time and everything else in my trailer was far from seasoned. I borrowed an outstanding horse, Easy, who helped me win Reno and gave me peace of mind that I had a solid backup if Stingray needed a break.

As I went to one rodeo after another, Stingray just seemed to get stronger and stronger. I watched her closely and she just came through every single place I needed her to. We ended up having an amazing summer and early fall, and then I gave her a break before heading to Vegas. Every day, Stingray was and still is my number one first priority. Having her feel the best I can is my constant goal. Before Vegas, during and after, there was a team of people who helped me make sure that Stingray felt 100 percent. All the family, friends, and professionals – to everyone who helped Stingray, thank you.

No matter how many times in the past I’ve made the trip to Las Vegas, seeing casinos on the horizon getting closer has always made me anxious, nervous, and excited, all at the same time. This year was just like the first time, and maybe even more so now that I am older and have such an appreciation for everything it took to get to this point. All the people who helped me, all the miles I had driven and all the big moments Stingray had given me thus far gave me a huge feeling of accomplishment, and it was all in preparation for the next 10 days.

We started the week strong and I remember just looking forward to that next run. All week, people would come up and try to talk to me about how much money I had won thus far or how much I needed to win in each round based on what the other girls had won, but I just tried to tune it all out. I only thought of the current day, that night’s run. One day at a time. I poured all my focus into making one run at a time. So much can happen as the week goes by and I knew there were 14 other girls who could come in and win more on any given day. Focusing on what could happen is just as draining as looking backwards at what did or didn’t happen, so I tried to do neither. I never have been one to study the numbers, so I actually hadn’t realized until the eighth day that Stingray had placed in every round thus far. A friend mentioned it and when I realized what that meant, tension started to well up inside. It was getting harder and harder to keep my thoughts and emotions at bay. Just three more runs, just two more runs…just one more run.

The morning of the tenth day, I thought back to 2010. That year, I hit the third barrel in round 10 and it did cost me the average. I didn’t want to make the same mistake of safetying up in the tenth round to try and be “safe.” I know better than to ride Stingray in safe mode, because there is no such thing in her mind. She always gives 110 percent every time we head down that alley and I knew I needed to prepare myself to give her the same. All day long, I visualized the run from the night before, replayed the perfect position in my mind, good timing and the exact steps I needed her to take.

Standing in the alleyway of the tenth round, my nerves started to surge. I was as nervous as I had ever been. I remember taking deep breaths as I held onto that perfect run that I had been visualizing all day with all my might. I kept thinking to myself, “This is what we do every day, this is why we are here, one more run, 110 percent for her. For Stingray.”

Once she turned the third barrel, it felt like a tidal wave of relief, pride and a feeling that I really don’t have the words to describe. They grabbed me right after my run to come down to the arena floor. It wasn’t until that moment, out of the corner of my eye that I saw the Ram Top Gun truck come around the corner that I realized what had just happened. I don’t know how to explain it, but all of a sudden it was very emotional, and for one of the first times in my career, I let it be.

All at once, it was done. It was such an awesome experience, and so many people played a special part in it throughout the entire year. I can’t thank everyone enough who helped Stingray and me along the way. But, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.


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