By Nellie Miller with Kailey Sullins

My life on the road, and even at home, seems pretty normal to me, but when we get into the busy times of the rodeo season like the summer run it can be different day-to-day. July is typically the most hectic time of the year for us, so here’s a little about the daily routines I go through when I’m on the road.

Our summer run kind of kicked off with the Reno, Nevada, pro rodeo. We started there and then came home for a couple of days until the big run began. After our few days of rest at home, we headed up to Oregon for the Fourth of July. I only went to two rodeos over Cowboy Christmas, which were St. Paul and Molalla, Oregon, and then from there I went up to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I was in the first pool there. I ran there for four days and then headed south and was entered in Sheridan, Casper and Cheyenne, Wyoming, during the four days I was off from Calgary. As soon as I ran at Cheyenne in slack July 12, I went back up to Canada.

The drive is about 16 hours from Cheyenne to Calgary. We left about 1 p.m.—a lot of time is spent driving from one place to the next. I try to stop when I can during those long drives. I don’t carry pens or panels with me, because it makes me nervous to keep the horses overnight in portable pens. I like something a little more secure. I try to find places along the way to put my horses in—since I’ve been doing it for several years now, I have my certain stops I’ll go to and the places I like and know. Knowing where you want to be and knowing where you want to go each day helps with scheduling and travel plans. A lot of times I try to stay off-site when I get to a rodeo, because it’s a lot quieter and there’s not a lot going on. I feel like the horses rest better that way, but sometimes you can’t avoid it, like in Cheyenne or Calgary where it’s just way more convenient to be onsite. So, on our way from Cheyenne to Calgary we drove to the border and stopped there. There is a rodeo arena on the Canadian side of the border, and we stopped there and stayed the night and then drove the rest of the three or four hours the next day.

After Calgary we went home for a bit and then went on to the Salinas, California, pro rodeo. We left on finals night from Calgary and drove to the border and stayed the night and then drove the rest of the way home. “Sister” got a few days at home to rest and then we went to Salinas.

We hit a barrel at Salinas, so we didn’t make the short round there, which was kind of a good thing, because we got to go home for a day before we headed back to Cheyenne for the regular performances. I feel like the horses rest better at home, so that was good for Sister to be home if even for a day. We left July 22 for Cheyenne. It’s about 1,100 miles from our place in California to Cheyenne, so we drove to Wells, Nevada, and stayed the night there.

But first, before we made it to Wells, we had to take care of one of those errands that pop up along the way during a rodeo run that you forget about. We had to meet our farrier on the way to get one of Sister’s shoes fixed. When things like that pop up, it can be easy to stress about, but it seems like they always works out and you have to just roll with it and not worry too much. Once we left from Wells and headed on to Cheyenne, we made it to Cheyenne on Tuesday night.

Once we get to a rodeo, it really depends on who is with me, what type of a rodeo it is—a weeklong rodeo like Cheyenne or just one run—as far as what my daily routine looks like, but regardless I try to keep it as simple and consistent as possible.

My kids and husband were with me while I was up in Cheyenne. If my husband and kids are with me, my husband usually takes care of the animals. I get up and do kid stuff and breakfast and get ready with them around 7:30 a.m. They have definitely been on summer time, because they’ve been saying up late and sleeping in. We usually get up and I take care of the kids in the morning, and he’ll get up early and feed my horse for me. If I’m by myself, I of course do the horse stuff. I change my role as needed.

I’m pretty low maintenance as far as alternative therapies. Sister is strong and put together well. She doesn’t have many soreness issues. I of course do things to keep her healthy along the way as far as nutrition and things with my vet, but as far as alternative therapies I don’t do a lot. Really the only thing I do is I nebulize her before I run. I think that helps a lot with her breathing, especially when changing altitudes.

In between rodeo days, especially in places like Cheyenne where we are camped for several days, there’s not a lot going on between performances. It’s a lot of boring stuff and catching up on errands, like getting things fixed on the trailer and stuff like that, and then wait and see what days I’m running.

I didn’t enter anything else during the week of Cheyenne, because I knew it would be hectic trying to fit everything in and only having one horse made it difficult to do everything. I had to choose what I wanted to do.

During the day, I try to get Sister out of her stall, or a lot of the time I’ll pony her off my other horse just to stretch their legs. I like to get them out in the mornings to stretch and get them moving, especially if the stalls are small or if they aren’t moving around a lot. If I’m doing a lot of driving back and forth—like with the Calgary trip Sister got tired at the end when I drove back north—in those cases I try not to mess with her too much and let her rest as much as possible.

Remembering to take care of yourself as well as your horses is important as well. I try to eat healthy, because when you’re on the road you get sick of restaurant food and fast food and it makes you feel better to have a healthy meal. Plus with the kids I try to have healthy stuff in the trailer for them and easy lunch stuff we can throw together. It helps keep everybody healthier and it’s less expensive, too. When you’re going out for three meals a day it adds up. We try to be as healthy as possible when traveling.

I really like the afternoon performances, because then you’re not up all night long. I’m pretty early to bed myself, so staying up in those late nights or slacks after rodeo performances gets tiring and I try not to enter those. However, Sister really likes the night-time perfs and thrives in the night time and runs better. She feels good and it’s usually cooler, so we do like it for those reasons. The afternoons are just more relaxing. For instance in Cheyenne, you can run in the afternoon and then go out to dinner after and not rush to get everything put away and get to bed. Typically I try to be in bed around 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. When we’re home and the kids are in school we try to get the kids to bed earlier, but during the summers we kind of throw that out the window.

After Cheyenne, I headed home. I didn’t enter anything the first week of August, because July was so hectic and busy and Sister got a lot of runs in July—more than normal. I wanted Sister to have a week of doing nothing, so she got the first week of August off to rest. I did enter Hermiston, Oregon, and Omak, Washington, the second week of August. From there on out, I’m just going to pick the places Sister really likes and try to limit the runs to keep her fresh.


Nellie Miller is the 2017 WPRA World Champion and rode her home-raised and -trained 11-year-old mare Rafter W Minnie Reba (KS Cash N Fame x Espuela Roan x Blue Light Ike) - affectionately known as "Sister" - to the title. Miller has amassed $625,517 in Equi-Stat recording lifetime earnings. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Pretty sure you are having so much fun of the things and activities you like. Wish I could enjoy the rodeo more like you do.

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