Meet the 2022 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association first-time Nationals Finals Rodeo qualifiers.

Compiled by Blanche Schaefer

Spotlight on First-Timers by Abigail Boatwright and Jessica Lash

Read more about the 2022 top 15 WPRA barrel racers here.

Sissy Winn

Sissy Winn
Sissy Winn. Photo courtesy WPRA

Hometown: Chapman Ranch, Texas

Horses: Chewingthehotwire (“Chewy”), 2014 gelding, Flaming Fire Water x Native Quick Dash x Royal Quick Dash; A R Dash Ta Flame (“Scoop”), 2013 gelding, Dash Ta Fame x Discreat Retreat x Mr Jess Perry

WPRA Season Ranking: 7

WPRA Season Earnings: $101,848.16

Rodeo Count: 64

NFR Qualifications: 1 (2022)

*EquiStat Lifetime Earnings: $203,849

Recent Career Highlights: Champion Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo (calendar year 2021; 2022 season money); Lubbock and Mercedes, Texas; Bozeman, Montana; Jerome, Idaho; Livingston, Montana. 2022 Calgary Stampede finalist; Fort Worth Best Dressed Award winner, go-round winner and semifinalist; San Antonio Bracket 2 and Semifinal 2 high-money winner. 2022 Reserve Champion Cascade, Montana; third Belle Fourche, South Dakota; Strathmore, Alberta; Arcadia, Florida; Waco, Rosenberg, Helotes and Pecos, Texas; fourth Weatherford, Texas; Salinas, California. Finished 2021 at No. 20 in the world. Finished No. 8 in the 2017 WPRA Resistol Rookie of the Year standings. College rodeoed for Texas A&M University, multiple rodeo wins at youth/high school, college and pro levels. 2011 Miss Rodeo Texas Princess, 2015 Miss Rodeo Texas Teen.

Spotlight on First-Time Qualifiers:

BHN: Tell us about the horses you rode this year and how you got connected with them.

Winn: “I rode Chewy in the winter rodeos, and I’ve had him since he was 5 — he’s 8 now. Shelby Ridling trained him, and Kenna Squires owned him [prior to me]. Last year is when he came on really strong in the rodeo scene, and I rode him throughout the winter rodeos. He had won about $30,000 after San Antonio, total. I got my second horse, Scoop, in April. Danyelle Campbell trained him, and she did a phenomenal job on him in the futurities and derbies, and we really just clicked. He was a huge help in the summer rodeos.”

BHN: What was the hardest part about rodeoing this year?

Sissy: “I think the hardest part is we live in South Texas, so we had to drive even farther than what a lot of people have to drive. My vet is in Brock, [Texas], and I drive seven hours to go see him. My shoer is four-and-a-half hours away from me in Bellville [Texas].”

BHN: Now that you’ve qualified, looking back on your journey to get to the NFR this year, what would you tell yourself before you started?

Winn: “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m always my biggest critic, and I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to do the best I can for my horses. I know they’re going to put me in the position I need if I’m riding my best. So just try not to be so hard on myself, and have a good time.”

Margo Crowther

Margo Crowther
Margo Crowther. Photo courtesy WPRA

Hometown: North Fort Meyers, Florida

Horses: Shes Packin Fame (“Sissy”), 2012 mare, Carrizzo x Heidis Dashin Sixes x Packin Sixes; Im Stylin Like Sissy (“Style”), 2017 mare, Carrizzo x Heidis Dashin Sixes x Packin Sixes

WPRA Season Ranking: 8

WPRA Season Earnings: $96,870.71

Rodeo Count: 82

NFR Qualifications: 1 (2022)

*EquiStat Lifetime Earnings: $382,632

Recent Career Highlights: 2022 Champion NFR Playoff Puyallup, Washington; Deadwood, South Dakota; Rock Springs, Wyoming; Omak, Washington; Caldwell, Idaho; Bonifay, Homestead, Dade City and Davie, Florida; Dothan, Alabama. 2022 Reserve Champion Casper, Wyoming; third place Filer, Idaho; Canby, Oregon; Salinas, California; Waxahachie, Texas; Old Fort Days Super Derby Champion, NBHA Open World Champion, multiple pro rodeo, open, futurity and derby wins

Spotlight on First-Time Qualifiers:

BHN: What were your goals for this year?

Crowther: “Starting last October 1, my goal for the rodeo season was to win my Southeastern Circuit. I had a lot going on with my kids and life, and I didn’t want to not rodeo, because my mare was in such a prime age and was feeling and doing well, but I didn’t want to be traveling and away from my kids [Sawyer, 12, Stella, 10, Saylor, 3]. I wrote my goals down, and it said to win the Southeastern Circuit and go into the Circuit Finals by winning a lot. Then, after doing good and I was winning my circuit from Day One, it just fell into place that by May, I could make the decision to make a summer run and make an NFR run. My goals changed after a few months.”

BHN: Tell us about your horse Sissy.

Crowther: “She’s a family member, and we all adore her and love her like a human being. If she could sleep in the house, she would. I’ve owned her since she was an early 3-year-old, and I trained and futuritied her. She’s a phenomenal, gritty mare that absolutely loves her job. I didn’t win any money on any other horse. It was pretty cool to know that she literally won every single penny for me.”

BHN: What does it mean to you to finally get this chance to go to the NFR?

Crowther: “It means that if you really believe in something and you work hard, you can do anything. I feel like there were so many times when I told myself that it’s not possible. But it’s a dream come true of mine. It really hasn’t set in, until I get there and I run in the first round. But it’s exciting and it means a lot, especially with my two girls growing up and loving horses. That means they’re going to be excited to reach for the biggest and hardest dream, not settle, and just know you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Bayleigh Choate (2022 Rookie of the Year)

Bayleigh Choate
Bayleigh Choate. Photo courtesy WPRA

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Horses: Hail To Be Famous (“Dash”), 2015 gelding, Dash Ta Fame x Itty Bitty Boon x Flaming Talent; TJR Stinson Blue (“Boozer”), 2017 gelding, Eddie Stinson x YO Threatnin Frost x Pat Cowan; LK Heza Fame (“Preacher”), 2013 gelding, Dash Ta Fame x Sheza Peasa Pie x Pie In The Sky

WPRA Season Ranking: 11

WPRA Season Earnings: $90,892.81

Rodeo Count: 89

NFR Qualifications: 1 (2022)

*EquiStat Lifetime Earnings: $331,080

Recent Career Highlights: 2022 WPRA Resistol Rookie of the Year. 2022 Cowboy Christmas highest-money earner; Canadian world standings barrel racing leader and Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier. 2022 Champion Ponoka, High Prairie and Wainwright, Alberta; Kansas City, Missouri; Mineral Wells and Vernon, Texas; Rodeo Austin Playoffs winner and third place overall Rodeo Austin. 2022 Reserve Champion Salinas, California; Armstrong and Williams Lake, British Columbia; Jacksonville, Texas; La Crete, Alberta. NBHA Youth World Champion, multiple open and youth wins

Spotlight on First-Time Qualifiers:

BHN: What was your most memorable moment from this year?

Choate: “Probably the funniest was Ponoka [Alberta, Canada]. Before the first round of barrel racing, they had mounted shooting. It was on a big racetrack. I was standing at the back of the alleyway, and they did the mounted shooting, and my horse took off to the other side of the track and wouldn’t move. We couldn’t get him to go through some ropes out there. He just would not move. They were putting barrels up in the arena, and my horse was on the other side of the track. I had to get off him, longe him in a circle, and inch up to the arena while I was longeing in a circle. Everyone was freaking out thinking I was going to miss my run, and I thought I was going to miss my run, too. I was yelling, ‘I’m here, I promise!’ Finally he was like, ‘OK, I’m sorry,’ and that’s when he ran his fastest time. I think he ran so fast because he was so scared.”

BHN: What does it mean to you to make the Finals?

Choate: “Right now, it doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like I did that, but it’s an amazing feeling. Almost like a sigh of relief — I did it. It’s so rewarding, because I know where I started in this whole professional rodeo career, so to see where I ended up, it’s a reward for me and my support system, just to represent them on such a big stage and give my horses the opportunity to shine on a big stage. It’s really special to me.”Leslie Smalygo

Leslie Smalygo
Leslie Smalygo. Photo courtesy WPRA

Hometown: Skiatook, Oklahoma

Horses: Justaheartbeattofame (“Gus”), 2010 gelding, Justaheartofawarrior x Yawl A Fame Maker x Dash Ta Fame

WPRA Season Ranking: 15

WPRA Season Earnings: $84,453

Rodeo Count: 50

NFR Qualifications: 1 (2022)

*EquiStat Lifetime Earnings: $86,359

Recent Career Highlights: 2022 Champion Cody, Wyoming; Red Lodge, Montana; Goliad, Texas; El Paso, Arkansas. 2022 Reserve Champion Cheyenne Frontier Days; Woodward, Oklahoma. Third place Ponca City, Oklahoma; fourth place Puyallup and Ellensburg, Washington; Vernon, Texas. 2021 Prairie Circuit Champion (year-end), multiple pro rodeo and Open wins

Spotlight on First-Time Qualifiers:

BHN: You bought Gus sight-unseen as a 3-year-old off the track after riding and training his full brother. What made you decide to take the chance on him?

Smalygo: “I had this feeling that if I got Gus, he was going to be great. I just knew it in my bones. I started riding him, and within two weeks, he was solid on the pattern. With the Justaheartofawarrior horses, you show them something once, and it better be right, because that’s going to be how they do it for the rest of their lives. I would marry Gus if I could! He will never understand how much he means to me. He’s the type of horse people only dream of. He’s my whole heart.”

BHN: When did you realize the NFR was within reach?

Smalygo: “He ran really well at Denver. We didn’t have a very good run in the first round at Guymon, but in our second run he broke the arena record. From there, it was really me saying, ‘I’ll try this one or I’ll try that one.’ I didn’t watch the standings — I knew I had money in my account to keep going, and that’s what mattered to me. It was that way until Cheyenne Frontier Days, where I won my performance and my semi-finals, and then placed second in the finals. From then on I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got a shot. I think we can do this!’”

BHN: What does this qualification mean to you?

Smalygo: “Dreams just don’t come true for people like me, so I didn’t really waste my time on them. I don’t come from much. I was a nobody. I was going to jackpots, and then I was like, ‘I want to see what rodeos are all about.’ It just went from there. If you believe in yourself and you really have a vision of what you want to do — not just a dream, but a vision — there is nothing that can stop you. If you believe it, if you want it, and if you work hard enough for it, it will happen. I’m proof of that.”

Editor’s Note: *EquiStat Lifetime Earnings are as of reports pulled October 31, 2022, and include WPRA rodeo earnings through May 2022 and other barrel racing event earnings through August 2022. EquiStat only began recording WPRA rodeo earnings in 2010, therefore some individual’s earnings may be significantly more than reported through EquiStat.


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