Cowgirl Bloodlines: Meet the Mother-Daughter NFR Barrel Racing Qualifiers

Meet the full list of mother and daughter duos who have made trips to the National Finals Rodeo in the barrel racing.
Wendy Potter and Sherry Cervi
Wendy Potter and Sherry Cervi competing at the NFR in the 1970's and 2010's, respectively.

Meet the complete list of not only mother and daughter NFR qualifying duos, but the barrel racers who have created multi-generational dynasties in the sport of barrel racing.

In the 75-year history of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, several sisters have qualified for the National Finals Rodeo, but a relatively small number of mothers and daughters have accomplished the same feat. 

Marion Gramith & Cindy Smith

Marion Gramith and Cindy (Witcher) Smith were the first mother-daughter duo to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, and they’ve been the only pair since to qualify in the same year.

top 15 NFR barrel racers at the 1976 National Finals Rodeo.
The top 15 barrel racers at the 1976 NFR, including mother and daughter duo Marion Gramith and Cindy Smith. Back row left to right: Renee Sutherland, Dottye Goodspeed, Cindy Witcher, Marilyn Camarillo, Pam Ross, Colette Graves, Lila Glade, Marion Gramith. Front row left to right:  Darla Higgins, Lorraine Alexander, Dammy Johnson, Kay Vamvoras, Gail Petska, Connie Combs, Jimmie Gibbs. Image courtesy WPRA by Springer Photography.

“Better find some wood to knock on it,” laughed Cindy, the current Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo Champion. “I tell mom all the time, you’ve got new shoulders, new knees, new hips…why not? I’ve got two horses…well, two (sound) horses most of the time!”

Marion first qualified in 1971 and then again in 1972 aboard Vegas Go Way (“Salty”). Then in 1976, Cindy qualified for the NFR on Salty while Marion made it on his half-brother. 

“I almost made it the year prior but I got to trying too hard,” recalled Cindy, who was just 12 when she first started riding Salty. “We didn’t go much the next spring and when we got to Jackson (Mississippi) my mother asked me, ‘Have you got it figured out?’ I said, ‘Yes ma’am!’ She said, ‘Alright, I won’t sell him.’ Sally Young was going to try my horse! I learned a valuable lesson the year before!”

Cindy, now a Gold Card Member, still competes today. Marion, long retired from competing, got out of raising horses a couple of years ago and now resides in Missouri.

Cindy Smith barrel racing at Ellensburg Rodeo
Cindy Smith competing in Ellensburg, Washington, in 2019. Image by Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

Thay Lewis & Terry Lewis-Himes

With Thay Lewis and Terry Lewis-Himes is the mother following to daughter to the NFR. Terry first qualified for the NFR in 1970 at age 16. She later made it two straight years in 1972 and 1973. 

Terri Lewis barrel racing
Terri Lewis competing at the NFR. Image courtesy Heritage Museum of Big Spring.

Her mother Thay followed in 1975. 

“My mom never rode until after I went to the NFR the first time,” said Terry of her late mother. “When I was a kid she never would ride horses. I had a really good horse that I had moved up from and my dad told her, ‘Get on that horse and go!’ She did and within a year, she was rolling on. She was very athletic and played basketball in high school.”

Thay didn’t stay hooked on barrel racing like her daughter, who was hauling broodmares for her daughter Jana Himes when she shared her story. Terry’s brother was just a toddler at the time so Thay devoted her energies to raising him, while Terry kept barrel racing. 

Wanda Bush & Shanna Bush

The lore of the Bush family grew in 1984 when Shanna Bush joined her legendary mother Wanda Bush as an NFR qualifier. 

Wanda Bush competes in barrel racing
Wanda Bush competes at Rodeo of the Ozarks in 1984. Image courtesy WPRA by Springer Photography.

Wanda, a charter member of the Girls Rodeo Association as the WPRA was initially known, won back-to-back world titles in 1952 and 1953. She was also amongst the GRA’s best in 1958.

When barrel racing was added to the “National Finals” events—it was first held separately from the other events with the steer roping in Clayton, New Mexico in 1959, Wanda was a qualifier. She qualified again in 1959-1960, 1962-1965. 

In 1967, the NFR as it is known today was born as barrel racing was held in the same arena as the other timed and roughstock events in the Jim Norick Coliseum in Oklahoma City, where Wanda made her last NFR appearance in 1974. 

Ten years later, her daughter Shanna competed at the very last NFR held in the Myriad Arena in Oklahoma City as it was moving to Las Vegas in 1985. 

Bush family poses with great barrel racing horse.
(Left to right) Stanley, Wanda and Shanna Bush with their great horse, Bartender at the 1984 NFR. Image courtesy WPRA by Springer Photography.

Florence Youree & Renee Ward


Renee Ward & Janae Massey & Kylie Weast

A year after the Bush family feat, another pioneering family—the Youree-Ward—started their dynasty of NFR qualifiers. 

Cowgirl competes in barrel racing at 1974 rodeo.
Florence Youree competing in 1974. Image courtesy WPRA.

Family matriarch Florence only competed at one full-fledged NFR in 1967, but her previous four top 15 finishes were in 1960 through 1962 and again in 1966. She also served as the association’s president for five years from 1960 to 1964. 

The First Family of Futurities, Remembering the Impact of Family Patriarch Dale Youree 

Florence and her husband Dale’s daughter Renee Ward continued the family legacy by qualifying for the first Las Vegas NFR in 1985. 

Janae Ward competes in barrel racing at the NFR.
Janae Ward in 2003 at the NFR. Image courtesy WPRA.

Renee furthered the family’s place in barrel racing history when she and husband James’ oldest daughter Janae Massey qualified for the NFR from 2001 to 2003, ultimately winning the World and NFR Championship in 2003. In 2018, daughter Kylie Weast went to the NFR on yet another family raised and trained horse.

Renee Ward and Kylie Weast pose with horse.
Renee Ward and Kylie Weast at the 2018 NFR. Image courtesy WPRA.

Wendy Potter & Sherry Cervi         

Sherry Cervi’s iconic mare MP Meter My Hay (“Stingray”) may wear her father Mel Potter’s initials, but she followed in her mother Wendy Potter’s footsteps as an NFR barrel racer. 

Wendy competed in Oklahoma City at the NFR three times. She qualified in 1970 and 1972 and went in 1971 as a replacement after finishing 16th in the world standings. 

Wendy Potter barrel racing at the NFR.
Wendy Potter competes at the 1975 NFR. Image courtesy WPRA by Al Long.

Sherry was just a teenager when she qualified for her first NFR in 1994 and she qualified eight straight years until 2001. She won two world titles during those years. Her first in 1995 came mainly aboard Sir Double Delight (“Troubles”) and Jet Royal Speed (“Hawk”) did most of her winning for the 1999 world title. 

In 2003, Sherry returned to the NFR and she put another string of qualifications together in 2005 and 2006. 

When Stingray was rodeo ready, Sherry qualified for nine more NFRs, from 2009 to 2017. She and Stingray won two world titles, one in 2009 and another in 2013. 

Sherry said some of her fondest memories are of when she and her mother hauled together.

“I loved being able to have both of us compete and I miss that,” she said. “I wanted to be like her when I was growing up and make the NFR like she did. My mom gave me opportunities to learn and ride with several different people growing up, but I always fell back on her knowledge to help me and still do. She has impacted my career more than she will know, and I will forever be grateful for everything she has done for me.”

Sherry Cervi barrel racing on Stingray at the 2013 NFR.
Sherry Cervi and MP Meter My Hay “Stingray,” en route to a world championship at the 2013 NFR. Image by Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

Gail Petska & Tye Petska-Green

Gail Petska won back-to-back world championships in 1972 and 1973 in her first two appearances at the NFR. She was also the first NFR Champion in the family, winning the 1972 barrel racing average. Her husband Paul, a master bit maker, did so in 1986.

Gail was leading the standings in 1974 when she found out daughter Tye was on the way. After Tye was born, Gail went to three more NFRs from 1975 to 1977. 

Twenty years after Gail’s skipped NFR, Tye Petska-Green added her name to the list of Petska family NFR qualifiers in 1994. 

To make it a complete family affair, Tye’s brother Cory is the 2017 PRCA World Champion Heeler and husband of four-time WPRA World Champion Sherry Cervi.

Gail Petska and Dobie barrel racing.
Gail Petska and her great horse, Dobie, whom Petska rode to two world championships aboard in 1972 and 1973. Image courtesy WPRA by Al Long.

Lynne Mays & Brenda Mays

In 1975, Lynne Mays won the coveted Rookie of the Year title en route to an NFR qualification. She was a key hauling partner and confident several years later for her daughter Brenda’s six straight qualifications. 

Lynne Mays with her 1975 barrel racing rookie of the year trophy saddle
Lynne Mays with her 1975 Rookie of the Year saddle. Image courtesy Tanya Randall by Springer Photography.

Brenda, the 2012 NFR Champion, qualified from 2007 to 2012 aboard Judge Buy Cash, a Judge Cash gelding that won her mom and dad Frank AQHA Horse of the Year honors in 2010.

“She was with me on the road when I made the NFR, as was her sister,” recalled Lynne. “(Brenda) was 6 at the time and after the 1975 NFR, she wanted to make it too. Thirty-two years later, she realized that dream.

I don’t think it was ever a question if I was going to travel with her. I grew up in the rodeo world and that’s where my passion has been, as is hers. (We’re still hoping for more trips, but the right horse will have to come along. We have some young ones with lots of potential and breeding behind them, but you never know till you haul them if they have what it takes to be on the road. When Jethro came along, we knew everything was there to be that caliber when he was 3. We just had to see how he took to the road, and the rest is history! He thrived on it!”

Brenda Mays at the NFR barrel racing
Brenda Mays and Judge Bay Cash at the 2010 NFR. Image by Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

Rachael Myllymaki & Judy Myllymaki

In the case of the Myllymaki family, it was the mother following the daughter to the NFR. Rachael was the youngest contestant to ever compete at the NFR at age 11 in 1988.

11-year-old barrel racer turns a barrel at the National Finals Rodeo.
Rachael Myllamaki, just 11 years old at the time, competes in her first National Finals Rodeo. Image courtesy WPRA by Springer Photography.

Learn how Judy Myllamaki influenced decorated trainer, Mark Bugni.

Note: The late Ann Lewis at 9 was the youngest qualifier and world champion but lost her life in a car accident shortly before the 1968 NFR. Her title was awarded posthumously.

Racheal qualified for the NFR again in 1990 and 1994. It was her mother Judy’s turn in 1998. Rachael then put a string of qualifications together from 1999 to 2002. For the late 1990s qualifications on into the early 2000s, mother and daughter shared the same horses—namely a grade gelding named Mr Wonderful, who ran into his 20s, and Easy Does It Doc.

young Rachael Myllymaki at her first NFR in 1988.
Rachael Myllymaki at age 11 at the NFR. Image courtesy WPRA.

Fun Fact: Easy Does It Doc’s sister Easy April Lena produced Streakin Easy April, who made multiple trips to the Thomas & Mack: first with Carlee Otero, and later, Kellie Collier.

Kristie Peterson & Jordon Briggs

When Kristie Peterson put her string of eight straight NFR qualifications together she had her youngest daughter, Jordon, in tow. Today, Kristie and her daughter Jordon Briggs are the only mother-daughter duo to win WPRA World Championships.

Kristie qualified from 1993 to 2000 on her legendary mount French Flash Hawk (“Bozo”). They won world championships in 1994 and then from 1996 to 1998. They won the NFR Championship five times from 1994 to 1998 and placed in all 10 consecutive rounds twice, back-to-back, in 1996 and 1997. 

In 2009, Jordon followed in her mother’s footsteps to the NFR on a similarly bred horse Frenchmans Jester, a son of Frenchmans Guy, a three-quarters sibling to Bozo. After a 12 year hiatus from fulltime rodeo competition, Jordon qualified for second NFR in 2021 and made history by winning the world championship. Jordon qualified again in 2022, taking the reserve championship, and currently leads the 2023 world standings.

Jordon Briggs at the 2021 NFR
Jordon Briggs and Famous Lil Jet at the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Image by Phil Kitts.

Jane Melby & Cayla Melby Small

An International Pro Rodeo Association and NBHA World Champion Jane Melby qualified for the NFR twice in 2011 and 2013. Just three years later, her daughter Cayla Melby won the 2016 Rookie of the Year title en route to the NFR.

Jane Melby barrel racing
Jane Melby at the 2013 NFR. Image by Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

“I guess we both had the same dream,” said Cayla. “When I was 3, I told my mom I was going to make the NFR when I turn 18 and then she made the NFR a couple of times before I turned 18.”

Today, Jane and Cayla are winning on the offspring of Jane’s first NFR horse RC Back In Black. 

Cayla Small at the 2016 NFR barrel racing.
Cayla Melby Small at the 2016 NFR. Image by Hubbell Rodeo Photos.