Once a 13-year-old World Champion, Jackie Jo Perrin Holder makes a new name for herself in the courtroom.
By Megan Nelson, originally published in the April 2004 issue of BHN.
A lot of people can’t recall who the NFR world champion was five years ago. But 27 year after a pig-tailed 13-year-old girl from Antlers, Okla., won the World, no one has forgotten the name Jackie Jo Perrin.
“I can’t go anywhere that someone doesn’t know me,” Jackie Jo Holder said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s in Oklahoma, the legal field or at a rodeo.”
It doesn’t matter that Jackie Jo Perrin has been Jackie Jo Holder for 16 years. Nor does it matter that Holder hasn’t competed extensively in the rodeo arena since college. What does seem to matter is the impression that Holder has left.
When Holder, 40, raced her way to the GRA World Championship and Rookie title aboard her 7-year-old gelding, Walkin Boss JR, AKA “Boss,” she stole the hearts of rodeo fans and eventually the nation. Holder had become the youngest ever World Champion and the first person to win the world in her rookie year. As the Associated Press picked up her story, her picture was in every newspaper from Oklahoma to New York.
The daughter of Billy and Ann Perrin returned to the finals the next year after competing at only 32 rodeos, half of what she attended the year before. She finished the NFR in fourth place.
After returning to Antlers, Holder’s education took priority as she completed junior high school and high school. She competed and won several high school titles, but tragedy struck her senior year, when her beloved Boss, which was trained by her father Billy, died from colic.
These days, the self-proclaimed “has been” is making a name for “Jackie Jo Holder” as an attorney at Stamper and Holder and as a wife and mother of two. The road to where Holder currently resides started 21 years ago.
After high school, Holder attended college at Southeastern Oklahoma University in Durant, Okla., on a rodeo scholarship. She only rodeoed for a year because she never found a horse she clicked with. In 1998, she married George Holder, a cattleman from Sopher, Okla. After graduating with a degree in elementary education, Holder became a mother to Samantha, who is now 15. Five years later, Holder went back to school and earned her masters degree in special education. During that time, she had her second child, Jericho, who is now 10. During that time Holder never set foot in the stirrups of a barrel horse.
“I quit rodeoing for 11 years because I didn’t find a good horse,” Holder said. “And I don’t like to lose.”
After her absence from the barrel racing scene, Holder jumped on board Benjays Jet Leo, a half-brother to Boss, which her father trained. Holder won a couple regional rodeo championships including the CRRA. Holder didn’t ride the Mr Jet Leo gelding for long, due to lameness problems, but still sees the 25-year-old horse in her parent’s pasture. Riding Benjay would be the last time Holder would ride a horse for several more years.
In 1997 Holder’s sister, Cindy, was killed by a drunk driver. Barrel racing was something that they did together and it was hard for Holder to face it alone. Her efforts were once again focused on family and work.
After teaching school for five years, Holder worked behind a physical therapist and speech pathologist for close to three years. She then headed up a counseling clinic with 15 mental-health counselors working underneath her. It was suggested that Holder go back to school to update her counseling degree, which would take three years to accomplish.
“I knew that I could get through law school in three years,” Holder said. “So I said that I was going to go back and get what I really wanted from the beginning—a law degree.”
Holder commuted three hours to the Oklahoma City University School of Law in Oklahoma City and worked for Oklahoma law-legend Joe Stamper in Antlers her first year of law school. With a law degree in hand, Holder started practicing general law for Stamper. Holder soon became partners with Stamper, who practiced law in Antlers for 68 years. On Feb. 11, after practicing law until he was 90 years old, Stamper was laid to rest.
About four months ago, Holder received a call. On the other end was a friend requesting Holder to ride a horse. Holder rode the horse to a couple competitions and successfully infiltrated the top 15.
“It kind of got the fever back in me,” Holder said. Although Holder will probably always have the “fever” she isn’t planning a return trip to the NFR anytime soon. But the possibility has not left her mind.
As she approaches the fourth decade of her life, Holder hopes to fill a void that seems to be missing. Even with the satisfaction she receives from her multiple roles, she can’t deny the blessing of her natural ability to ride a barrel horse.
“God doesn’t bless you with an ability to do something and you not use it and be happy,” Holder said. “I don’t want to waste (my blessing) because there is something inside of me missing and I want to find it.”
But it’s still going to take a great horse like Boss to give Holder the strength to sacrifice the life she’s built.
“By the grace of God, if He puts (a good horse) in front of me, I will. If He doesn’t, I won’t.”