WPRA Barrel Racer Hailey Kinsel heading to her First National Finals Rodeo
After a roller coaster year of highs and lows, Hailey Kinsel finished her 2017 season sitting 7th in the standings with a little over 98,000 won. Read on to learn about her year and what she is looking forward to heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time.
Please tell us about your outstanding year! Talk us through your highs and your lows.
2017 has been an awesome roller coaster. I had 3 goals for the year: to start and end the year with 2 healthy, sound horses, to get into the top 30 in the world standings, and to make the Texas Circuit Finals. I took it easy last fall and placed at the few rodeos we went to. I did pretty well at Denver and San Angelo. In January, we lost one of the best horses I’ve ever had to a rare cancer. Three weeks later, we won The American. A week after that, we lost the older half-sister to my yellow mare — an awesome mare that was the reason we bought “Sister” in the first place and the reason for her name — to another illness we could not control. Those two losses were heavy to go through during a very hectic time in my life, which made that win even more overwhelming. It required me to trust God’s plan and rely on Him completely. I spent the next few months focused on doing well at the college rodeos, and getting through school so I could graduate from Texas A&M in May. The Texas circuit rodeos had to take a backseat and I didn’t have a whole lot of luck at those. I finished up my final exams and went to Guymon to see how Sister would do in a big, outdoor arena before making our summer plans. She was awesome, so I knew I should go out this summer and try for my top 30 goal. I left for a handful of rodeos that began with Fort Smith, and we didn’t win a check anywhere, which was disheartening. We regrouped in Casper before the CNFR, and I was able to win that on Sister and place at a pro rodeo on TJ that week. Then, winning Pecos on her kicked off my Cowboy Christmas run, and we had a really great week. July rocked along pretty well with little checks here and there. Then Salt Lake happened, and that changed everything. It doubled my earnings up to that point, and overnight, I had made the NFR. Since we had surpassed my top 30 goal, I decided to give Sister a well-deserved break. I was already entered through the next few weeks so my plan was to run TJ until the end of August, and get back on Sis before Puyallup. However, that plan changed when he got sick in Omak, WA. We made the tough decision to turn out of the rest of the northwest rodeos and drive all the way home to south Texas, because we believed that was best for the horses. I finally got TJ back to his normal self in September, and I had some luck at the last few rodeos of the year on both of them, including getting some much needed circuit money. I’m so very thankful to have been able to accomplish all 3 of the goals that I had set for the year, and top it off with making the NFR!
Please tell us about the horses you will be taking with you to Vegas and what makes them so special?
I will take DM Sissy Hayday, aka Sister. My mom and I bought her as a 2-year-old and trained her. She is 6 this year and has shown her ability to win in all different types of ground and set ups, and handle high pressure situations. She is tough and gritty, and loves to run barrels and eat.
I will also take Thunder Stones, aka TJ, who is 13. We have kind of “been there-done that” together so I know him really well. He’s very big and makes really strong turns, and will make the same run every time if I ride him right. Both of them are awesome in that they never try to hit a barrel, which has helped me out a lot this year.
You will be making 10 runs in 10 days. How will you prepare your horse before the run each night and what will you do to take care of him/her after the run (massage, magnets, liniment, wraps, etc)
My mom, Leslie, will be with the horses at all times. She knows them as well as I do so I know that they will be taken care of. We will massage them and make sure they’re feeling good, and ice their legs after every run. I use poultice, lineaments, cooling sheets, and other remedies. I will probably get back in the arena every morning to keep them calm and relaxed.
What are you most excited about going in to your first NFR and what are you most nervous about?
I am most excited about running down that alley 10 times! I can’t wait. I have dreamed of that my whole life and studied it as much as a person could. I’m thrilled to be able to run barrels there! Honestly, I’m most nervous about walking around in boots all day long! I LOVE wearing tennis shoes and the idea of walking around in boots to all the places we have to go doesn’t sound near as fun.
What advice would you give to someone that is wanting to make their dream of making the NFR come true?
Make sure you have the horse(s) to go on. Give yourself the best chance you have to win by going to the rodeos your horse will do best at. Develop the mental resilience of a Navy Seal, because you will need it. Your horses come first, and you come second, but take care of your body, because you need to be healthy to perform as well. Always be proactive so that when a problem occurs, you’re ready to solve it. Lastly, trust God’s plan and timing, and follow His direction, and you will be successful.
Hailey, we are wishing you a ton of luck in Vegas and thank you so much for talking to On the Rodeo Road!
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All photos provided by Haily Kinsel.