Article by Danika Kent – Photographs by Peggy Gander

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Briana Reynolds.

The Ram Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo, part of the North American International Livestock Exhibition, was held November 10-12 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. Two tenacious teams rose to the challenge of not only outrunning their competition but overcoming personal obstacles to reel in Great Lakes championships.

Briana Reynolds, Ellsinore, Mo., topped the Ram Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo average, edging out 2011 Great Lakes Circuit Champion, Tammy Whyte, Eau Claire, Wis., by a mere hundredth of a second.

Reynolds caught her limit in 2008 when she won all three rounds to take the average title on the well-known Mega Hoss. This year, she rode in on her backup horse, Sharpest Casady, since her veteran mount was sidelined with an injury.

“I was super excited to do it on ‘Junior,’ because I hadn’t hauled him as much,” exclaimed Reynolds.

Riding an unseasoned horse, while intimidating, almost paled in comparison to the fact that Reynolds sustained a torn ACL in October. The determined competitor opted to postpone surgery in lieu of finishing out the rodeo season. After begging her doctor to let her ride, she was granted permission on the condition of riding with a supportive leg brace.

Reynolds admitted that although she was fitted with a custom made brace, she didn’t ride with it because it impaired her ability to jockey her horse.

“In the second round, I lost my stirrup, and it was killing me because I really needed [my ACL] to stay balanced,” she recalled.

But it’s “no pain, no gain,” and Reynolds bank account gained $2,058 for the combined efforts of the team. She is scheduled to have surgery in December and Junior will be accepting greater responsibilities next year.

 

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Tammy Whyte.

Junior was not the only barrel horse that rose to the Great Lakes Finals challenge. Tammy Whyte’s gelding, Luckys Tiny Bit, who has won multiple rounds at the Great Lakes Circuit Finals over the years, had recently been turned out due to ongoing bleeding issues.

“It had gone over the edge, impairing his breathing capacity and scaring him to death,” she explained,” explained Whyte.

It looked as if Whyte’s season would sink rather than swim — at least it did until she ran into fellow barrel racer Tana Poppino, who offered help.

“It was one person helping another, which I am very thankful for. She gave me connections, and I switched things up,” said Whyte.

Whyte hadn’t planned on being able to use “Cisco” all three rounds, but despite her reservations, he performed exceptionally well and placed third in the first round. Whyte was encouraged by Cisco’s improved ability to recover, and was able to call on him for the two remaining rounds.

The team’s newfound confidence in the products suggested by Poppino culminated in a third round win, a second place finish in the average and her sixth consecutive year-end title with 2011 earnings of $14,670. Cisco is going to enjoy the winter off, and Whyte has high hopes for him to have another competitive summer ahead of him in 2012.

The rest of the barrel racers in the Great Lakes Circuit have their work cut out for them to surpass these big fish in 2012.

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Great Lakes Circuit year-end champion Tammy Whyte and Luckys Tiny Bit.

 

For full results of the Ram Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo, visit www.prorodeo.com.

First round: 1. Robin Beck, 15.73 seconds, $1,372; 2. Adriane Kochie, 15.75, $1,029; 3. Tammy Whyte, 16.01, $686; 4. Briana Reynolds, 16.12, $343.

Second round: 1. Katie Mihlbauer, 15.88 seconds, $1,372; 2. Briana Reynolds, 16.06, $1,029; 3. Adriane Kochie, 16.13, $686; 4. Robin Beck, 16.18, $343.

Third round: 1. Tammy Whyte, 15.98 seconds, $1,372; 2. Olivia Boll, 16.01, $1,029; 3. Briana Reynolds, 16.07, $686; 4. Bobbie Jo Bohlman, 16.20, $343.

Average: 1. Briana Reynolds, 48.25 seconds on three runs, $2,058; 2. Tammy Whyte, 48.26, $1,544; 3. Twyla Kite, 48.71, $1,029; 4. Bobbie Jo Bohlman, 48.73, $515

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