It’s little wonder that Bayleigh Choate, of Fort Worth, Texas, is pinching herself lately.
“I don’t think it’s really set in yet that I’ve made the Finals because every time I tell myself that—or even that I won (WPRA Resistol) Rookie of the Year—it doesn’t feel real,” she confessed.
Just a short year ago Choate’s name was not one that was familiar to rodeo fans. That all changed quickly, despite the odds. Choate says she started her season without a road weathered rodeo horse on her team. Choate accidentally filled her permit at the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo in Denton, Texas, August 20-22, 2021, with no intention of turning right around and purchasing her card at the end of last year.
“I got the call that I had won Denton,” explained Choate. “Well, Denton was a qualifier to the Fort Worth Stock Show. So, I filled my permit in one run and now I had to buy my card to even go to Fort Worth!”
Choate’s unconventional path to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the stuff of dreams, even though her breakthrough season was somewhat by chance.
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” said Choate. “I was scared because I was like, ‘I’m gonna ruin my rookie year because I don’t have a rodeo horse. When people ask, ‘Describe your rookie year.’ I always say, ‘I’m a rookie on a rookie because the horses I have are rookies, they don’t know what they’re doing, we’re all learning together.’”
Fast forward to the end of rodeo’s regular season and Choate finished 2022 ranked No. 11 in the world with $90,470 to her credit thanks to her string of rookie winners—TJR Stinson Blue (“Boozer”), LK Heza Fame (“Preacher”) and Hail To Be Famous (“Dash”).
“[The horses] tried their guts out and gave 100 percent pretty much every trip,” said Choate. “Everyone wants to say congratulations to me, but I’ve been telling them congratulations because without these horses, we are nothing … They were warriors. You get so close to your horses, and you learn them like you never learned them before. And you learn how to keep going when you don’t want to keep going.
“I’ll tell you the first six months it was terrible. It was showing up that I was a rookie and that my horses were rookies,” said Choate, who persisted through all the tough lessons out there on the road.
Choate’s steady climb to the top of the WPRA Resistol Rookie of the Year standings demanded notice, especially when she topped every round at the Ponoka Stampede in Alberta with Hail To Be Famous, then placed at Williams Lake, British Columbia, and Raymond and Airdrie, Alberta, to be the high Fourth of July money winner of 2022 with $26,267. Choate’s successful summer catapulted her into the top 15, and she never relinquished her spot.
To hear more about the trial and tribulations of her season as well as more about Choate’s valued support system and the unique personalities of her equine partners, check out her full interview on The Money Barrel podcast.