March 7, 2021 — Arlington, Texas — The world hadn’t yet heard of Hailey Kinsel nor DM Sissy Hayday when they burst onto the scene four years ago, winning the barrel racing at RFD-TV’s The American in 2017 for $433,333 after clawing up through the qualifying system.
Three Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world championships, another RFD-TV’s The American championship in 2019 and more than $2 million in Equi-Stat earnings later, ‘Hailey and Sister’ is a household name in the barrel racing and rodeo communities.
In 2021, the duo once again conquered the cloverleaf inside AT&T Stadium in textbook style to win their third-career RFD-TV’s The American championship. As an invited contestant, the reigning WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer earned $100,000.
Kinsel and Sister have now earned $658,333 inside AT&T Stadium: $433,333 for the championship as a qualifier in 2017, $25,000 for second place in 2018, and $100,000 for each championship as an invitee in 2019 and 2021.
“My horse is the same, she’s just as awesome, God is still good, and I still haven’t learned how to wear the right mascara,” Kinsel said with emotion on stage after the victory. “For her to be able to handle the energy and take it all in and trust me no matter what, it means the world to me. I’m grateful for every opportunity, especially the big nice ones like this, and especially after a really hard year for everyone. For RFD-TV to give us something so good to run at, for me to showcase my amazing horse, I am so grateful.”
The victory is due to some strategic jockeying on Kinsel’s part after struggling to keep the first barrel standing lately. In the long round of eight Saturday, the pair clocked a 15.917 to finish second to defending RFD-TV’s The American champion Stevi Hillman and Cuatro Fame. Kinsel focused on ensuring the barrels stayed up in the first round by handling her mare a little more in the turns, knowing Sister had the speed to make up for it.
“She’s been coming back on the first really hard. It got me in trouble at San Antonio,” Kinsel said. “[The alley at The American] is square to the pattern, but it feels strange running to the first barrel. I wanted to take a bit wider angle, and I got a little wider each day. [In the long round] I was trying to control her a little and then be very reactive on the backside. I wasn’t worried about being super fast, because being the long round and taking eight, I knew she could be fast enough for eight as long as I make nice turns. I knew if I needed to pick her up, I was OK. And I did that everywhere; it was my timing to start the turns a little early, so then I had to pick her up.”
Kinsel came back for the round of eight on Championship Sunday with a new strategy. Barrel racing contestants advanced to the Final Four based on an average, and Kinsel’s time of 16.029 was just enough to secure the fourth position and move on to the Final Four shootout round. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Ima Famous Babe smoked a 15.434 to top the round of eight, and Kinsel knew she needed to make her own adjustments to have a shot at being fast enough to win the clean-slate Final Four.
“[In the round of eight] I almost was a little too tense going into the turn, thinking I’m going to change where I start each turn, and then not have to pick her up on the backside,” Kinsel said. “Since I was so tense, it felt like she went in tight, and then she relaxed on the backside. She didn’t take that explosive stride out of it.”
Prior to the Final Four, Kinsel consulted with her mother, Leslie, and best friend, fellow National Finals Rodeo barrel racer Ivy Conrado-Saebens. Kinsel had nothing to lose knowing she’d earn some money anyway since all Final Four contestants got a check, so she changed her riding strategy once again.
“My mom and Ivy called me out on it afterwards and were like, ‘You’ve got to flow with it to start your turn.’ I was being too careful to be clean,” Kinsel said. “The nice thing about the format around the clean slate is I knew you’re getting paid either way, so now’s the time to come back over the first barrel if you’re going to, or smoke it—one of the two. I was committed to not going to touch her; just leave it alone and see what happens, and it worked. It did give me a little confidence that maybe I’m not too far off in my angles. I just need to adjust like a tiny bit, but not as much as I’ve been doing. It took a format like this for me to be like, ‘OK, let’s test something out and I’m gonna drop my hand and see what happens.'”
Sister responded perfectly and laid down the type of run for which the palomino mare is famous. They clocked the fastest time of this year’s American, a 15.420, to seal the $100,000 victory. Kinsel says that while arena setups for RFD-TV’s The American have changed each year and thrown every possible challenge at barrel racers, it’s only further proven the ability of her once-in-a-lifetime mare.
“There’s a reason rodeo horses win it every time,” Kinsel said. “I’m glad I have a rodeo horse, because it just proves how incredible those horses are. Sis has been great at the barrel races and jackpots and I feel like she’s proven herself there, but to be able to over and over again prove herself with a change of setup, two arenas, one arena, whatever, she’s just good with it all. That’s really fun for me to be on her and prove her in all of that.”
RFD-TV’s The American Results
- Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 15.420, $100,000
- Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 15.903, $25,000
- Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West, 16.014, $15,000
- Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Ima Famous Babe, 22.002*, $5,000
Final Four Qualifiers—Aggregate on Two
- Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi, Ima Famous Babe, 31.589
- Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 31.676
- Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West, 31.916
- Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 31.946
- Jill Wilson, Lean Mean Blue Dean, 32.024
- Emily Miller Beisel, Namgis D 33, 32.141
- Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 32.295
- Taylor Smith, Cash Flow Depot, 32.54
Round of Eight Results
Round of eight time, average on two. Four fastest average advances
- Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Ima Famous Babe, 15.434, 31.589
- Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West, 15.765, 31.916
- Jill Wilson, Lean Mean Blue Dean, 15.963, 32.024
- Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 15.869, 31.676
- Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 16.029, 31.946
- Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 16.183, 32.295
- Emily Miller Beisel, Namgis D 33, 16.065, 32.141
- Taylor Smith (Q), Cash Flow Depot, 16.452, 32.550