Florida’s Margo Crowther Closes on First NFR Qualification in Puyallup

Margo Crowther is unofficially headed to her first NFR in 2022. Here's how her season shaped up.
Margo Crowther professional barrel racer
Rod Conner Photography

With a nearly $16,000 weekend in Puyallup, Washington, at the NFR Playoff Series Finale, Margo Crowther can finally breathe a sigh of relief—she’s unofficially Vegas bound now. 

“I woke up this morning and jumped out of bed and almost forgot that I didn’t have to haul until the bitter end,” Crowther said. “It didn’t even set in last night. I was still overwhelmed and put my focus on making sure Sissy (Shes Packin Fame) was okay. I didn’t even do the math beforehand as to exactly what I had to do. I knew I needed to do well, but I didn’t put pressure on myself to win it.”

Crowther may not have done the math, but her second-place finish in round one, and $13,000 win in the final four earned her $15,700, which boosted her from No. 13 in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world standings to No. 8 with $96,871 won. She was aboard Shes Packin Fame, or “Sissy,” her 10-year-old mare.

The thrill in Crowther’s voice was evident as she described the best part—she’s going home. 

Lone Wolf

This North Fort Myers, Florida, resident has been gone since the end of May, and she’s ready to be reunited with her family. Crowther is a mother of three, and she’s had to fight the mom guilt that comes with chasing her dreams while Sawyer (12), Stella (10) and Saylor (3) are back in Florida. Sure, the kiddos have been out for parts of the summer run, along with Crowther’s mother, but she’s ultimately been at it alone. Crowther chose to travel without a hauling partner so that she could fully ensure she was making the best choices for herself and Sissy.

“I like hauling by myself,” Crowther said. “It’s hard to be with one person that long, and I want to do what’s best for myself and Sissy, which you can’t always do with another person along.

Crowther demonstrated this by turning out of Pendleton, Oregon, and turning her rig towards home after resting up for a night in Puyallup. She noted that Sissy was getting tired, especially after the set that Crowther drew up in had to make four runs within 24 hours in Puyallup–both qualifying rounds on Saturday with a few hours of rest in between, and back-to-back runs on Sunday with the eight to four-man format in the semifinals and finals—a concern that other barrel racers shared when they saw their draws. 

“I was disappointed initially when I got my draw,” Crowther said. “But, I knew that’s what it was and there’s nothing I could change. I try not to waste any energy on things I can’t control. I just told myself, ‘Sissy can do it—she had five days of rest, she’s tough and she wants to give me her all.’ I knew she could do it and be okay.”

Crowther’s year on the road was a long time coming. She noted that it is important that barrel racers looking to make a ProRodeo run understand that in many cases, it takes years to become an “overnight success,” out on the road. 

Margo Crowther barrel racing
NFR Playoff Series Finale Barrel Racing Champion Margo Crowther and Shes Packin Fame.

From Circuit Rodeo Standout to NFR Qualifier

Even at the start of 2022, Crowther wasn’t sure an NFR qualification was in her plans. She’s been a dominating force in the Southeastern United States for many years, but her Southeastern Circuit Finals qualification, super show wins and futurity championships seemed like a whole different world than full-time rodeo life out west. She had gone on the road in the past and always ended up coming home, so she formulated a different game plan.

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Crowther set her eyes on winning the Southeastern Circuit and started out strong in 2022. She won three out of six of the first rodeos she entered (Bonifay, Florida; Dothan, Alabama, and Homestead, Florida) and placed at most of the circuit rodeos she attended. 

Crowther may not have had her eyes initially on making it to the Thomas and Mack Center arena, but it seems that her team had other plans. Not only was Sissy firing stronger than ever, Ann Thompson, who has handled Crowther’s entering for many years and has been a crucial part of Crowther’s team, was entering Crowther up whether she was ready or not. 

“I got a text confirmation for my entry into San Angelo, and I told Ann she was crazy because I wasn’t going to get in.”

Well, she did. When Crowther did get a callback for San Angelo (Texas), she had less than two days’ notice to make the trip to Texas from South Florida—just under 1,500 miles. The trip ended up being worth it, because Crowther banked $13,670 and helped make her first leap into the top 15. 

Once Crowther realized she had a chance at an NFR bid, she returned to Florida to continue to circuit rodeo and start planning. Crowther noted that she sat down with valued family members and friends to help formulate her summer run for an entire month before finally pulling out of the driveway. 

Despite leaving the Southeast multiple months ago, Crowther is still leading the Southeastern circuit with $15,730 in earnings–nearly $1,000 ahead of Resistol Rookie contender Presley Smith. 

Read: Slaying It In The Circuits

Crowther and Sissy in Puyallup

Finding Her Foothold

Transitioning from Florida and East Coast ground conditions to states in the Western USA meant that Crowther had to make some adjustments. Around the start of the summer run, Sissy and Crowther were in a slump.

“(Sissy) wasn’t confident running, not leaving the turns hard,” Crowther said. “She would get to her spot and her rear end would just keep going. Then, she started getting nervous and rushing her turns, then shortening her stride.” 

Crowther sent videos to her farrier and asked for his opinion. He had a friend near Bozeman, Montana, where Crowther was staying prior to Cowboy Christmas who was confident that he could help her problem. 

Sissy’s shoes were perfect for South Florida’s deep sand and the groomed coliseum ground, but they didn’t have the traction needed for the large, rough and slick outdoor pens of the West. As Crowther said, the mare was “literally running scared,” during rodeos.

After fitting her with a concave hind shoe to provide improved traction, the mare started running strong again and as her confidence returned, checks started rolling in once again for the team. 

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Crowther also had to learn to adjust her riding to the varying conditions. Sissy is a free-running horse who likes to turn on the speed, and Crowther also taught herself to help Sissy rein in her energy to maintain her positioning and safety in any setup. 

Looking Ahead

The reality that her first NFR is on the horizon may still seem surreal to Crowther, but her team has already done the math.

“When Ann Thompson called about three or four hours after (the Puyallup Final round), I was wrapping Sissy’s legs and she said, ‘Congrats, you just punched your ticket to your first NFR!’ We both got teary-eyed. I said, ‘I’m going?’ I was blown away. That was so exciting.” 

She shared some advice for those at home.

“When it’s your time, you can’t stop it from happening. My journey with Sissy started seven or eight years ago, but this year she was ready and wanted it as bad as I did. Sure, you’ve got to be mentally tough, but it isn’t this terrifying, intimidating world that some people might want you to think it is out here. It’s hard, but not impossible.”

Margo Crowther