By Jolee Jordan
Fort Worth, Texas — The legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo has been a tradition in Texas for 120 years. With a huge committee purse, and high entry limits, the rodeo itself is one of the “bucket list” victories for rodeo competitors, one everyone wants to be able to claim.
That fact is even more true for Texas cowboys and cowgirls. 2014 WPRA World Champion Fallon Taylor does not live in Fort Worth but she grew up and still lives nearby, making the FWSSR about as close to being a hometown rodeo as she can get.
Taylor practically grew up in a rodeo arena, making four appearances at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) as a young girl back in the 1990’s. Though the FWSSR had been going strong for nearly a century when Taylor starting running barrels professionally, it was not a stop for the ladies of the WPRA until 2004. By then, Taylor had moved on to other pursuits, such as acting and modeling.
When she returned to her first passion—the sport of rodeo—Taylor found her way to the pay window at the Stock Show often but had never claimed the ultimate prize here until 2017.
Using a phenomenal second round victory, Taylor came into the Championship Round on Saturday night, February 4 with nearly two tenths of a second lead over her closest competitors in what was otherwise an extremely tight race from top to bottom.
The FWSSR hosts 29 performances of pro rodeo action including many days with two- and three-perfs a day. The WPRA barrel race began with 210 entries; following the first go round, the fastest 70 came back for a progressive second go round which concluded on Saturday afternoon just hours before the Championship Finals.
WPRA World leader Tiany Schuster was one of two cowgirls to use that Saturday afternoon to vault into the finals. Schuster punched her ticket with 16.61 second effort that was good enough for sixth in the go.
Much more dramatically, Oregon cowgirl Amberleigh Moore advanced despite a scary accident on her second run on Saturday afternoon. After completing her three turns inside Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Moore’s cinch broke as she ran her mare Paige toward the alley. Just after crossing the line, Moore hit the dirt hard and lay motionless inside the arena. She was taken out on a back board to be evaluated by the Justin Sports Medicine Team.
Incredibly, Moore had run fast enough to earn a spot into the Championship Finals; even more amazing, she suffered no major injury in the fall and—after another visit with JSM—was able to compete in the final round.
Because the FWSSR takes the time to hand rake the ground after each runner throughout the performances, the Finals are run from the slowest qualifier down to the fastest, allowing the drama of the Championship race to build with each lady.
Multiple WNFR qualifier Kelly Yates led the ladies off on Saturday night, riding a daughter of the famous Firewater Fiesta, the horse which carried Yates to her most recent trips to Las Vegas. Yates posted a smooth 16.82 to lead the way, setting the tone for the tight race to follow.
Texas cowgirl Brooke Rix continued her hot streak, posting a 16.57 as the second barrel racer to compete. The time would hold up through tough challenges from WNFR cowgirls Jane Melby and Kimmie Wall before falling to second after Schuster’s lightning fast 16.45 second scamper through the pattern.
Schuster’s time was so fast, she went to the lead in the average as well as she held off the WNFR competitors who followed her: Tammy Fischer, Amberleigh Moore, Cayla Small and Stevi Hillman.
Ram Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo Champion Kathy Grimes was the next challenger. Shining brightly in purple glitter, she and her mare Issy put together another beautiful run, stopping the clock at 16.58 seconds. Though third in the round, the time was fast enough for Grimes to bump Schuster from the average lead.
Young gun Sidney Forrest and her gelding Sterling took on the field next. The very fast, pretty grey was a tick long around the first corner, though, leaving Forrest’s time at 16.83 seconds, good enough for fourth at that point.
By the time Taylor ran, the bar for her to take the title was set around 16.8 seconds or better. With Babyflo flying underneath her, Taylor easily made the mark, clocking in at 16.62 seconds to capture the final money hole in the go round but taking the overall title by more than two tenths.
“I’m so emotional,” Taylor told the crowd when interviewed by National Cowgirl Hall of Fame member Pam Minick in the arena just moments after the win. “I raised this mare. I’ve won a lot of championships on her and her mom and dad.”
“She’s Texas born and raised and to win the championship in Fort Worth in front of these amazing fans is like the coolest thing ever.”
Taylor and Babyflo join a long list of lefties who have claimed titles inside Will Rogers, among them Sarah Rose McDonald, Shelly Anzick, two-time winner Kelly Maben, and arena record holder Taylor Jacob (16.19 seconds in 2013).
“This is my hometown so I tried my butt off for you guys,” Taylor told the capacity crowd. “I hope you enjoyed the show.”
Taylor won more than $16,000 while in Fort Worth. Grimes meanwhile pocketed nearly $13,000 and added another $5,000 after being named the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Cowgirl during the Finals. It capped a great weekend for the Washington lady — she also won the rodeo in Lake Charles, La. Schuster padded her lead in the WPRA World standings with $11,100 in Fort Worth earnings.
For more information on the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, please visit them on-line at www.fwssr.com.
1. Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress, 16.35, $5,100
2. Kathy Grimes, KG Justiceweexpected, 16.41, $4,372
3. Sidney Forrest, So Epic, 16.52, $3,642
4. Brooke Rix, Gypsy Hat Oh Fame, 16.54, $3,157
5. Dena Kirkpatrick, Kates Always First, 16.56, $2,429
6. Tiany Schuster, JSYK Im Famous, 16.61, $1,943
7. Kimmie Wall, TKW Bullys Famous Fox, 16.62, $1,457
8. tie Jane Melby, Docs Frosty Blue Bar, 16.65, $850
9. tie Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 16.65, $850
10. Kim Schulze, Holy Moly Im Famous, 16.67, $486
1. Schuster, 16.45, $3,778
2. Rix, 16.57, $2,833
3. Grimes, 16.58, $1,889
4. Taylor, 16.62, $944
Average on Three
1. Taylor, 49.61, $7,650
2. Grimes, 49.83, $6,557
3. Schuster, 49.92, $5,464
4. Cayla Small, Shameon U, 49.95, $4,736
5. Forrest, 50.00, $3,643
6. Rix, 50.13, $2,914
7. Jane Melby, Docs Frosty Blue Bar, 50.19, $2,186
8. Wall, 50.20, $1,457
9. Amberleigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 50.22, $1,093
10. Kelly Yates, Fiestanozshezfamous, 50.39, $729
Total Money Won
Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, $5,100
Jane Bean, Dashing Klee, $3,643
Melby, $3,036 Wall, $2,914
Sydni Blanchard, $1,457
Tammy Fischer, LK Sheza Hayday, $971
Meghan Johnson, Flyin Frenchman, $607
Michele McLeod, Apt to Be Special, $607
Courtesy of WPRA