By Jolee Jolee Lautaret
Athens, Texas — The barrel racing bug is one of the most difficult to shake and Cresson, Texas cowgirl Nicole Laurence has been unwilling to find a cure since her early teens.
“No one in my family rode,” laughs Laurence, “so I was self taught. I think they kept thinking I was going to outgrow it . . . but I never did. I just kept going.”
Saying she threw her leg over her first barrel horse at age 14, Laurence has been training her own horses for years and joined the ranks of the WPRA in 2011. The highlight of her rookie season was a trip around the pattern at the famed Pendleton Round-Up, where she won second in the long go, qualifying for the finals.
But fate briefly interrupted her path to rodeo stardom when she met her husband Chase at a team roping. Marriage followed and the couple now has a two year old daughter, Grace.
“I’m a stay at home mom,” she says, noting she took a break from the rodeo trail when Grace was born. “Now that she’s two, I am starting to go to more circuit rodeos.”
Laurence has two horses in her rodeo arsenal. The first is 16-year old Moon Dancin Rebel, aka Rebel. The second is nine year old Bullys Little Dash, better known as Buster. Buster is owned by Jay and Toni Meadows.
“I helped their little girl with her high school rodeos,” says Laurence. “When she graduated, she decided to go to Vanderbilt. And you don’t take a horse with you to Vanderbilt.”
With their daughter away at college, the Meadows asked Laurence to take Buster.
“They told me to treat him like my own,” she says.
Buster and Laurence became a team last fall and they qualified to the semi-finals of The American this winter as they also began the process of getting seasoned to the pro rodeos.
“He had been to the futurities and the high school rodeos but pro rodeos, and especially performances, are very different,” she notes. “I told my dad, this is going to take some entry fees before we start winning some back.“
“Getting that experience takes awhile.”
Laurence had run Buster at a handful of rodeos this winter when the busy final weekend of April rolled around. With four rodeos on the schedule, she took both horses on the road along with Grace.
“She’s got ponies and she loves to travel,” laughs Laurence. “When we loaded to go to the vet the other day she said, ‘rodeo?’”
Laurence chose Rebel for her run in Lufkin and picked up a split of ninth. Buster got the call for a pair of rodeos in Wichita Falls as well as the Henderson County Go Texan Rodeo in Athens. In Athens, she ran fifth out in the slack before the first performance.
“I had been there before on my old gelding but I hadn’t been back since I had Grace.”
Buster and Laurence blasted through the pattern, stopping the clock at 15.30 seconds.
“He tends to get too fast to the first so I have to make sure I rate him,” she notes. “But I always know if he turns the first, I’ve got a good chance.”
Laurence’s time stood up through the rest of the weekend, taking the victory by fifteen one hundredths of a second over former Wrangler National Finalist Layna Kight. She wrapped up the weekend with a pair of second place finishes at the two separate rodeos in Wichita Falls, driving her weekend haul to $2,755.
“I hadn’t won a single dollar all year so it’s nice when it all comes together,” says Laurence. She moved to 22nd in the Texas Circuit standings.
“The circuit finals has been on my list of things to do for awhile so it’s definitely a goal for this year,” she says.
Traveling further from home is tough with Grace and because Chase has “a regular job,” but Laurence isn’t ruling out a short trip over the summer.
“I have a thing for Pendleton,” she admits with a laugh. “Once you’ve run there, you can’t not go . . . it’s addictive.”
Laurence gave thanks to her sponsors which include MVP and Dr. Charlie Buchanan of Brazos Valley Equine Hospital. She also thanked her parents Jess and Teresa Deason as well as the Meadows.
“They are the nicest people in the whole world.”
As for the barrel racing bug which she caught as a teen, Laurence just admits to a passion for the sport.
“I just like my job.”
Courtesy of WPRA