December 3, 2020 — Arlington, Texas — Round One of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is a long-awaited day, in even the most mundane of years. 2020 proved to be anything but conventional. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada, the 2020 Wrangler NFR was forced to search for a temporary new location from its home since 1985 at the Thomas and Mack Center arena in Las Vegas. Arlington, Texas, and the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field answered the call and pulled together a historic first performance.

Round One continued its trend of uncertainty and unpredictability, as No. 16-ranked barrel racer Jessie Telford replaced No. 3-ranked Dona Kay Rule. Prior to the 2020 Wrangler NFR, Telford had $38,477 earned from 42 rodeos, while Rule banked $67,454 in the regular season to earn the No. 3 position heading into the NFR. Barrel Horse News reached out to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association for comment on the status of Rule’s replacement and did not hear back from the WPRA, as of press time.

In a Facebook status on Rule’s professional athlete page, Rule wrote: “I want everyone to know how much your support had meant to me. I would like to say that all of [sic] involved want the best possible outcome. Covid19 [sic] is not fault of the PRCA nor WPRA. I am not sick, I have zero symptoms so do not worry. I would never forgive myself if I made another person sick – with that said I do believe we could still run and be within the guidelines set before us and not expose anyone. No matter the decision made please be kind to each other and use good sense before saying mean things to or about anyone. God’s got this.”

The barrel racing action was as strong as ever on the WPRA-approved standard pattern. For the first round of action, the barrel racers ran in order of their season standings, making Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Kisskiss Bangbang the first barrel racer to tackle the Globe Life Field pattern, followed by No. 2 in the world standings, two-time WPRA world champions Hailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday. The reigning world champs ultimately topped the round and earned the very first Globe Life Field go-round gold buckle with a time of 17.18.

The wide-open course of Globe Life Field is a drastic difference than the short course of the Thomas and Mack Center arena. Practice did help each contestant get a feel for what the ground and setup would feel like for showtime, however nothing will feel exactly like a full-speed run. While Kinsel and Sister handled the course with ease, Kinsel says she was relying on her experienced mount rather than her preconceived notions from practice.

Kinsel says she expects each horse to get faster as the 10-day rodeo progresses.

“I didn’t run Sister in practice, so I wasn’t sure quite sure how the ground was going to feel, but I had to send it and see what happened,” Kinsel said of her Round One game plan. “I eased Sis in there, or tried to, going to the first barrel, just not sure what the feel was going to be like and how much she was going to be able to take a hold of the ground when we went to turn, because it did feel a little on the shifty side with the sand. When I felt her take that first step, I could relax and let her take her time in the turn. There were a couple of other things different, like behind the third barrel the yellow banner was not there for practice and neither were the steers, so [that threw off] a lot of horses.”

With nine more rounds to go, the Texas native will shift down in the draw position to the bottom of the ground. Kinsel says thanks to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s decision to implement a tractor drag at draw No. 8, the likelihood of a safe and more efficient bottom-of-the-ground draw is vastly improved.

“I will definitely watch this round back and see what the last run looked like and what the run looked like for her. We were going by feel tonight for us, but I’ll be glad to watch it back and see what it looked like and make our plan from there,” Kinsel said. “Tonight felt like a really good start. She took one stumble step, but as long as she’s firing to go, we’ll keep going. I would expect all horses to get better in here, and I think my horse will too, just get faster and faster as the week goes on.”

For the first time in National Finals Rodeo history, a tractor drag was used to work the ground in mid-performance after the eighth barrel racer ran. Photo by Kenneth Springer.

“We’re really thankful for them for looking out for our horses in a different setup and different dirt, knowing that in a standard pattern [the horses] are going to run harder across the pen into that turn, so we need good footing for them to stop in,” she continued. “We’re really grateful that they [made the decision to drag the pattern].”

Taking home the Round One win is always a special moment, which Kinsel also did at her first NFR in 2017.

“It’s exciting that Arlington welcomed us here to have an NFR,” she said. “We are grateful to be anywhere that is happy to have us, but especially in my home state.”

Round One Results

Rank, Name, Horse, Time, Money Won

  1. Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 17.18, $26,230.77
  2. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 17.25, $20,730.77
  3. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Kisskiss Bangbang, 17.32, $15,653.85
  4. Cheyenne Wimberley, KN Fabs Mist Of Fame, 17.37, $11,000
  5. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 17.50, $6,769.23
  6. Shelley Morgan, HR Fameskissandtell, 17.56, $4,230.77
  7. Jessie Telford, Famous Cool Whip, 17.59 (Jessie Telford replaced Dona Kay Rule)
  8. Brittney Barnett, Chicks Keen O Pocopoo, 17.65
  9. Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West, 17.74
  10. Jill Wilson, Lean Mean Blue Dean, 17.81
  11. Wenda Johnson, Macgyver Moonflash, 17.96
  12. Emily Miller, Namgis D 33, 18.06
  13. Ryann Pedone, French Zone, 18.32
  14. Jimmie Smith, Lena On The Rocks, 18.81
  15. Lisa Lockhart, Rosas Cantina CC, 22.11*

*Denotes penalty

WPRA Regular Season Earnings

Rank, Name, Hometown, Regular Season Earnings, Rodeo Count

  1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Lampasas, TX,  $86,724.83, 41
  2. Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, TX, $78,460.86, 39
  3. Dona Kay Rule, Minco, OK, $67,453.54, 43 *
  4. Jimmie Smith, McDade, TX, $65,022.06, 54 – first NFR
  5. Tiany Schuster, Krum, TX, $55,060.38, 66
  6. Jill Wilson, Snyder, TX, $53,370.97, 35 -first NFR
  7. Shelley Morgan, Eustace, TX, $53,074.95, 49 – first NFR
  8. Stevi Hillman, Weatherford, TX, $52,389.30, 49
  9. Jessica Routier, Buffalo, SD, $51,370.60, 42
  10. Cheyenne Wimberley, Stephenville, TX, $47,039.19, 65
  11. Ryann Pedone, Sunset, TX, $42,580.60, 70 – first NFR
  12. Emily Miller Beisel, Weatherford, OK, $42,388.19, 47
  13. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, SD, $40,904.14, 46
  14. Wenda Johnson, Pawhuska, OK, $39,953.14, 24 – first NFR
  15. Brittney Barnett, Stephenville, TX, $39,565.33, 84 – first NFR

WPRA World Standings

Rank, Name, Hometown, Earnings,

  1. Hailey Kinsel, $114,691.63
  2. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, $112,378.68
  3. Tiany Schuster, $85,791.15
  4. Dona Kay Rule, $77,453.54 *
  5. Jimmie Smith, $75,022.06
  6. Stevi Hillman, $69,157.92
  7. Cheyenne Wimberley, $68,039.30
  8. Shelley Morgan, $67,305.72
  9. Jill Wilson, $63,370.97
  10. Jessica Routier, $61,370.93
  11. Ryann Pedone, $52,580.60
  12. Emily Miller, $52,388.19
  13. Lisa Lockhart, $50,904.14
  14. Wenda Johnson, $49,953.14
  15. Brittney Barnett, $49,565.33
  16. Jessie Telford, $48,477.20*

* No. 16-ranked Jessie Telford replaced No. 3-ranked Dona Kay Rule at the Wrangler NFR


Kailey Sullins is editor of Barrel Horse News, and an avid barrel racer and breakaway roper. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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