Like a lot of first time RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo Qualifiers, Amanda Welsh was a little anxious making the long (nearly 2,000 mile) drive to Kissimmee, Florida. Then, without much notice, due to COVID-19 concerns, the event was moved to Greeley, Colorado.
That was in 2020.
Fast forward one year and Welsh is once again planning for the big Florida trip. Welsh won the average at the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo for the second straight year, and punched her ticket to Kissimmee. This year all systems are go for Kissimmee, and she and her two small children (Raelyn, 6 and Ronnie, 3) are looking forward to spending some time in sunny Florida.
“I’ve actually never been to Florida before,” said Welsh, from Gillette, Wyoming. “It will be a fun trip to take in the sights. The kids want to see Mickey Mouse and Minnie and all that good stuff.”
Heading into the 2021 RNCFR will be a little sweeter for Welsh who is hot off a record-breaking win at Valley City, North Dakota. The Wyoming cowgirl had been to the 84th Annual North Dakota Winter Show a few times before, and has won money there every time. In 2019 she won the rodeo, in 2020 she pulled a check, and then this year she won it all setting a new arena record in the process. Each time she ran there she was aboard her prized 11-year-old gelding, Frenchmans Firefly, affectionately called “Firefly.”
“He really likes it up there for some reason, so we keep going back,” Welsh said of her prized horse.
During the Saturday night performance this year, Perham, Minnesota cowgirl, Alyssa Gabrielson broke the arena record with a time of 12.23 seconds. Two girls later Welsh was up, and she and FireFly flew through the barrels and set another arena record with a lighting fast time of 12.05.
“That day he was feeling pretty full of himself,” recalled Welsh. “He’s usually pretty good to warm but, but I couldn’t do much more than long trot him around. Then he fired really hard to his first barrel. Normally when he has a really good first barrel I can kind of gauge how the run is going to be. So I knew the way he set himself up, that was going to be good.
“I knew once he turned the third barrel he was going to be fast, but I didn’t know he was going to be that fast.”
Welsh won $1,190 in Valley City and was sitting second at the end of March in the WPRA World Standings with a little over $21,000 won at only seven rodeos competed in. The confidence boosting run was great to keep her momentum staying strong going into Kissimmee.
“Firefly keeps getting a little stronger with each run. I’m pretty excited to see how he’ll work down there,” said Welsh, who is sponsored by Powder River Vet Hospital (Kaycee, WY), NeutraBac PH, Famous Equine, Rocky Mountain CBD, Alpha Acuscope, LLC, and Simply Eden.
Her plans are to compete in slack in San Angelo, Texas, and a few others before the RNCFR, then hopefully make it back to the progressive round in San Angelo.
Welsh looks forward to spending time with her children and her brother and his fiancé, who are planning to fly to Florida with her kids for the RNCFR.
Courtesy of WPRA