ARLINGTON, Texas — December 3, 2020 — Everything about the 2020 National Finals Rodeo experience is different, including the arena setup for the barrel racers. The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has set an expansive standard pattern inside Globe Life Field. The 16-17-second barrel runs will be a stark contrast from the traditional 13-14-second NFR pattern inside the tight confines of the Thomas and Mack Center Arena in Las Vegas.
Over 10 consecutive runs, those seconds add up. It’s also fair to consider the distance including a longer alleyway and no back gate.
“It’s 40 more seconds of sprinting at least, and they’ve extended the alleyway a little, which means horses that take off at the corner are running farther to the first barrel and farther out the back,” said two-time WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer Hailey Kinsel. “You’ll see as the rodeo gets going that there’s no back gate—you run back into the warmup pen, so the horses that don’t stop as well are going to run longer. With it being a bigger setup, it is going to take more of a toll on the horses.”
2020 marks Kinsel’s and her all-star mare DM Sissy Hayday’s fourth NFR. The Texas native says that while keeping “Sister” in outstanding shape is always important, it’s even more crucial this year. Kinsel is confident she’s done her part to set the mare up for success.
“My goal was to have mine fit to go 10 rounds, and I believe she is,” said Kinsel, who has four backups prepared as well—her own gelding Thunder Stones (“TJ”) and mare Corona Share Of Fame (“Nala”), in addition to Cassidy Kruse Dean’s gelding Outta Clear Blue (“Leroy”) and Hodges Farms’ mare DH Jess Stellar (“Jules”). “I made a few more runs in the last month or two than I normally would getting ready for Thomas and Mack, just to get her wind up and get in that summertime sprinting shape, as well as being fit for the turns and not getting sore. I have no doubt she’ll do fine, but I do want to be ahead of that curve in case she gets sore or tired. I want to beat that and make sure I get off her ahead of time.”
Making more competition runs was only half the job of increasing Sister’s fitness. Kinsel took advantage of the space in her pasture at home to condition Sister for ‘long sprinting.’
“I’ve been working her a long ways on a pretty big flat area, and I try to long trot and long lope so she’s really reaching forward. I think that matters a lot when you’re setting up for this much sprinting,” Kinsel said. “I’ve breezed her a lot more in the pasture, just to get her wind up. It doesn’t take a lot, but I feel like every five to 10 days I gauge the time so I can have recovery days afterward and then ask her for a sprint. It’s just 20-30 seconds of sprinting, but over time it builds up that anaerobic support so that when I go to ask her to sprint in here, it’s not asking for as much.”
Kinsel says this type of conditioning is a similar, yet ramped-up, version of how she prepares Sister for the summer rodeo run of multiple runs on the standard patterns common out West. However, Kinsel says even the rigors of the rodeo road don’t compare to 10 days of consecutive runs on a standard.
“I’ve seen horses at the end of Calgary, when you do six to seven runs on a standard, and they are tired by the end of that,” Kinsel said. “Normally even over the Fourth of July, people say ‘Oh we do that all year long,’ but really we don’t. We change horses more often, and maybe we’ve eliminated some of the trailer miles, but it is a long run.”
Her program has proved successful, as the pair set the rodeo record on a WPRA standard pattern this summer. Only time will, quite literally, tell just how prepared Sister and each of the top 15 horses are for the Big Show.
“I’m so excited that it’s a standard pattern for her—obviously she’s really loved it before. She really does well and adapts well to anything, and she’s done well in a big stadium with energy before,” Kinsel said. “I’ve done all I possibly could to have her ready. For me, I wanted to have her as fit and ready as possible.”