Life on the rodeo road is filled with ups and downs—just ask professional barrel racer Paige Jones. She’s been all-in since 2008 and started competing professionally in 2020, just a few months after she turned 18. A life in rodeo has taught Jones many things. She’s learned that success in this sport has a lot to do with how well you handle the highs and lows. Rodeo is equal parts humbling and rewarding, and she knows you must be careful not to measure too much of your success by the outcome of one run. She’s learned that rodeo family can be the best family, and that there’s always someone ready to lend a hand when it’s needed. And she’s learned—maybe most importantly—to value the horse above all else.

Jones made her professional debut in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. Navigating the constantly changing tide of events canceling and rescheduling was hard enough on a seasoned rodeo competitor. It was doubly hard on a rookie.

“My first year with COVID there were so many rodeos getting canceled,” Jones said. “I was very overwhelmed, like everyone always is their rookie year—but then we had COVID on top of it. Running with all the big names in the industry, I felt like I didn’t ride my best nor set my horses up for success.”

In 2021, Jones had a solid start to the season but pulled out early, heading home in September when one of her horses, High Cotton Lane, stopped performing as well as Jones knew he should.

“Everyone told me he was fine,” Jones shared. “He was still placing here and there, but he just wasn’t himself. My other good horse [Famous Hayday] wasn’t really on his game, and I was getting frustrated. I still had a chance to make the finals, but I wanted to come home for the health of my horses.”

With two challenging seasons behind her, Jones looks to 2022 as a season full of promise. And with a win like the one she just clinched at the Reno Patriot Barrel Race aboard Famous Hayday, she has every reason to be optimistic. The pair clocked a 17.037 to win the Open 1D championship and $13,790 in a single run June 20.

The Janae Massey-trained gelding has proven himself as a solid member of Jones’ team since he joined it five years ago.

“He was pretty much seasoned and ready to go when I bought him as a 5-year-old,” Jones said. “I actually bought him for a high school rodeo horse, and then when I turned 18, he turned pro with me.”

It’s as if the 2012 gelded son of PC Frenchmans Hayday knows he was born from rodeo royalty—Jones says “Bazinga” handles the challenges of the road in stride.

“I can trust him to stand up on any type of ground,” Jones said. “Monday, I ran [at the Patriot Reno] and then Wednesday, I ran slack at a rodeo. The horse before me fell completely down at the third barrel, but I didn’t second-guess Bazinga at all. If it’s really dangerous, I won’t run, but I can always count on him to take care of us.”

The tough-as-nails gelding isn’t fazed by the miles, either. 

“The morning I won the Patriot Reno, I had driven all night from Utah. He’s one of those horses that gets better the longer the summer goes on. The more he’s running, the better he works. He never gets tired,” Jones shared.

As Jones looks toward the summer rodeo run, she hopes that some big dreams will be fulfilled. But no matter what happens, she is sure of one thing—her horses will come first.

“We all have goals, but we can’t achieve any of them without our equine partners,” Jones said. “We can’t risk them just because we might be able to achieve our goals that year. I want to keep my horses healthy. I can’t do this without them.”

Reno Patriot Barrel Race Open Results

1D—Paige Jones on Famous Hayday, 17.037, $13,790

2D—Shelley Holman on Red Hot N Burnin, 17.556, $9,195

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