Joyce Loomis earned the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) Barrel Racing World Championship in 1970, and in doing so, became the first champion to win over $10,000.
Article by Cheryl Magoteaux, originally published in the October 1997 issue of BHN.
She reflects, “They can win that much now at one event!”
But things were different then. Joyce remembers, “My pick-up cost $2,200 and gas cost 25 cents a gallon. I remember one time, I stopped and had to pay 30 cents a gallon and thought I’d been robbed!”
She pulled a “nice two-horse, side-by-side trailer that cost $500” and she said, “That may be part of one of the big changes in rodeoing.”
“We didn’t make as much in those days, but I’d have money left over in the bank at the end of the year,” Joyce said. “Nowadays, it’s so expensive to go that it’s hard to break even – and that’s if you’re doing well.”
Another change is the amount of rodeos.
“We used to all go to the same rodeos, Odessa, Denver, Fort Worth, El Paso and so on,” she said. “All us barrel racers would eat together and we’d all go see the local sights. We were able to spend a lot of time together and we were closer. These days, they go to two or three a day and you don’t have much time to get to know your fellow competitors.”
Joyce’s main mount for the journey to the world title was her gelding, War Leo Dude, by War Leo out of a Hancock mare.
“I won the Finals that year making one run on him, then on one of Donna Patterson’s horses, ‘Engel,’ but during the season I rode my own horses,” she said.
For the past three years, Joyce has lived in Purcell, Okla., right in the middle of what some have called the “Horse Capital of the World.”
Although she loved her neighbors and friends there, she longed for “a little more country” environment. She found it in nearby Wayne, Okla., in the form of a 176-acre farm that originally was a dairy.
“It’s just four miles from I-35 and right on the Canadian River and it’s so pretty, the eagles nest there in the winter and there are deer!” she said. “Plus, the ground is so sandy that it can rain and rain and you just rake it and ride!”
She’ll be gradually making a move over the next three months.
“I hope to be in by Christmas!” she said.
In the meantime, there’s lots of work to do, barns to be built, fence to be replaced and land to clear. That would be daunting to most people, but for Joyce it’s just another challenge to be met and answered. She’s made a habit of overcoming some severe setbacks, like the one that was a result of a fall last winter.
She’d flown back from Brazil, where she was helping set up a horse breeding operation, and had to take a trip to the dentist. As she walked outside from the dentist’s office, she slipped on the ice and suffered massive damage to her shoulder. Therapy was ineffective and she had surgery in May.
“That was a silly way to get hurt,” she said with a laugh. “I got some of the nicest cards from people who heard I was hurt and thought it was a horse wreck. People wrote how sorry they were about ‘my terrible accident’ and somehow the word was that the injuries were much worse than they actually were. I made sure to write everyone to thank them for writing and told them it was only my shoulder.”
Although it was “only a shoulder,” the surgery was followed by months of painful therapy and Loomis is just now beginning to regain full use of it.
“I’m going to give it until January before I go back to riding full-time,” she said.
“There’s so much to do to get ready for the pageant in Las Vegas, plus I’ve been traveling with her some and she only had three days in August that she wasn’t booked to appear at some event,” she said.
Joyce was Miss Rodeo America in 1963, and if Bobby Jo were to follow in her footsteps, they would become the second mother-daughter team to both win the prestigious title. Karen Lavens James and her daughter, Joani, were the first to accomplish this feat!
When Joyce was unable to conduct her normal quota of clinics this year, she took the opportunity to book some additional speaking engagements. She has appeared at numerous equine events, where she talked on barrel racing and barrel horse training. She’ll also do a symposium on relationships in the horse industry at an upcoming Horse Breeders and Owners Conference in Red Deer, Alb., Canada.
“It’s not a topic that has been addressed much, but I get a lot of comments from couples like, ‘I hate horses and my wife’s really involved in them,’ or ‘We’re so busy with the horses that we don’t have time for each other or the family,’ she said. “There can be real problems in a relationship caused by either being involved in horses as a business or as a hobby.”
Another project that Loomis is excited about for the future is getting her “bed & breakfast” lessons going.
The concept evolved five years ago when Joyce went to New Mexico after her divorce to spend some time with her brother and sister-in-law, Terrell and Charlene Shelley. The country was beautiful, but remote.
“People wanted lessons but I was way out there so far that they’d end up staying with us,” she said. “There were a lot of bed and breakfast places in the area, so I started calling what we were doing ‘bed & breakfast’ lessons and it turned into the neatest thing.
“Staying in a motel can be so expensive, especially when people want real intensive lessons and if they can stay at least five days or a week, it works out nice. We get to work more and spend more time together this way. The new farm is going to be ideal for this. It has a little guest cottage, so it’s going to work great.”
She’s especially interested in structuring some special events or clinics for beginners.
“Sometimes, people are self-conscious about getting out and riding with more experienced people, and my goal is to have some time just for them,” she said.
At regular clinics, there is usually a mix of polished riders and beginners, and sometimes that makes the novices uncomfortable.
“I’m thinking of a clinic that’s just for those beginners,” she said. “I think the 3D and 4D formats are getting the interest of a lot of those people and this would be a way to help them get started.”
What about regular “away from home” clinics for 1998?
“I’ve got quite a few scheduled,” she said. “I like to go to places I’ve never been and see new things.”
Is she competing these days?
“I have a First Down Dash horse I was planning to ride but when I hurt my shoulder, I pulled his shoes and let him rest,” she said. “He’s only a 6-year-old, so we’ve still got time to go compete some after the first of the year, but I really enjoy breaking and starting horses, too.
“I like a program of going slow on them and turning them out several times, then getting them back up and riding. It takes a long time to make one like that, but they’re so solid.”
Joyce’s system for producing top barrel horses is a proven one. She’s trained a variety of futurity and derby winners as well as Ima Sly Doc Too, the horse that carried Susan Marshall to an AQHA World Championship title.
Since she’s located in the heart of horse country, there’s no shortage of barrel prospects close to home for Loomis to look at.
“Here, I can ride my bicycle around the section line and see some great race horse prospects to buy!” she said.
Joyce has been involved in the global expansion of barrel racing, traveling to Europe, Brazil, and Canada to put on clinics, and she’s enthusiastic about the opportunities available these days in the barrel horse industry.
“Barrel racing used to be big just in the U.S., but it’s international now,” she said. “It also used to be just rodeo, but now there are so many events to go to.”
Whether it’s clinics, “bed & breakfast” lessons, training young horses, or writing an article for her monthly training feature in a Canadian horse publication, Joyce Loomis’ enthusiasm for barrel racing and the horse industry is obvious.
“I love people; I love to teach about how to be 100 percent in every area of your life, not just barrel racing!” she said.
Joyce Shelley Loomis grew up on a cattle ranch in the Mogollon Mountains near Cliff, N.M. She became Miss Rodeo New Mexico in 1962, then went on to become Miss Rodeo America the next year.
Seven years later, she was the WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer and also earned an NFR championship along the way.
Not content to limit her participation to barrel racing, she also earned WPRA world titles in roping and flag racing, and she’s garnered points and/or dollars on well over 120 horses in events ranging from barrel racing and pole bending to jumping, reining and pleasure along with roping events. Joyce’s other major career wins include American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and American Paint Horse Association (APHA) World Championships and an AQHA Honor Roll title.