If you caught yourself wondering where the slender blonde with enviable core strength flexing split reins and flying two-handed through the turns at major events like Fort Worth, Austin, and others came from, well, wonder no more.
Bayleigh Choate, of Fort Worth, Texas, has taken a commanding lead in the 2022 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Resistol Rookie of the Year standings. Her $27,225 in WPRA earnings has her sitting 16th in the world standings as of May 23, with a realistic shot at being among the top 15 come December.
By mid-April, Choate was ranked 28th in the WPRA standings, but says the goal of making the National Finals Rodeo hasn’t been at the forefront of her mind, rather it is the Resistol Rookie crown that she’s after. Nonetheless, Choate continues to ascend the rankings.
“I’m trying to win the (Resistol Rookie Title) and I would say it’s a realistic goal to win the rookie, and maybe more of an unrealistic goal to make the Finals, but not entirely out of reach either, but yeah, the rookie is definitely my goal,” she said.
When asked about the highlight thus far of her 2022 season, Choate says winning the semifinals at Rodeo Austin in March with her horse Boozer was special—special to the tune of $11,581. Turns out Choate was just getting warmed up in Austin. She’s notched first-place pro rodeo wins the past couple of weeks in Mineral Wells, Texas ($1,749), Kansas City, Missouri ($2,970), and Vernon, Texas ($1,705), in addition to numerous placings.
2022 WPRA Resistol Rookie Standings (May 23, 2022)
|Rank||Name||Hometown||Money Won||Rodeos Attended|
|1||Bayleigh Choate (R)||Fort Worth, TX||$27,225.27||36|
|2||Kailee Murdock (R)||Litchfield Park, AZ||$17,420.17||14|
|3||Presley Smith (R)||Denham Springs, LA||$16,847.25||26|
|4||Taycie Matthews (R)||Wynne, AR||$14,833.98||25|
|5||Jamie Olsen (R)||Brock, TX||$11,844.19||35|
|6||Bugg Beeler (R)||Terrell, TX||$7,219.65||28|
|7||Jordan Driver (R)||Garden City, TX||$6,052.25||24|
|8||Laura Mote (R)||Llano, TX||$5,413.66||11|
|9||Katie Chism (R)||Tiskilwa, IL||$3,917.96||7|
|10||Hannah Forsythe (R)||Natchitoches, LA||$3,621.57||7|
TJR Stinson Blue, “Boozer,” has been Choate’s main partner lately. The 5-year-old bay roan bred by Cody and Luann Johnson’s Twisted J Ranch, Dublin, Texas, is by leading sire of barrel horses, Eddie Stinson, and out of the Pat Cowan daughter YO Threatnin Frost.
“Right now, I have two main horses I’m running, Boozer, and LK Heza Fame (Preacher), he’s 9. I’ve only had him a few weeks, but I’ve placed at all the rodeos I’ve taken him to. I’ve got my mare, but we have to pick and choose where I go with her. Her name is Miss JB 1214 and she is 10,” said Choate. “My mom’s horse that I won a lot on two years ago has been out since 2020 and is coming back now—Hail To Be Famous, he’s 6.”
Choate says her mom Mandy Ralston is also a barrel racer and travels with her to the rodeos, as well as her dad, Mike Ralston, who goes when he can.
“We never rodeoed like this until last year so we’re all learning,” said Choate. “You just have to keep going to the next one. Junior rodeos are nothing like this, and they sure don’t pay anything like this. That wasn’t really my thing. But the level of competition at these pro rodeos is my favorite aspect. I love going and it being really tough; it’s like that everywhere!”
Choate says she opted to skip a lot of youth rodeos in the years leading up to her professional debut and instead focused her attention on chances to run at more lucrative payouts. Just like Choate, the youngest horse in her string, Boozer, has taken to rodeo like a duck to water.
“The reason I am rodeoing this year like I am is I entered the rodeo at Denton, Texas, on Boozer, and I won it, and that got me into the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo,” Choate said. “How it came about that I did the pro rodeos with Boozer is because the two open horses I had got hurt.”
The rookie barrel racer and her young horse are truly becoming seasoned pros together.
“I’ve had him since April of his 3-year-old year. He was my first futurity horse. Last year we won the Barrel Futurities of America Junior Futurity, he was the Better Barrel Races Futurity Horse of the Year, we were second at the Breeders Challenge in the Amateur Futurity. He did great, but he didn’t really love it, he loves to rodeo. He was born to be a rodeo horse. He absolutely loves the crowds. The first time I took him to a rodeo was at Northside, and I thought he’d be scared, but no, he wins it.”
In fact, Choate says part of her pre-game routine consists of playing music outside her horse trailer to get Boozer amped up.
“We play music to get him excited for slack,” she said. “He is like Mr. Ed, he is so funny. If someone else besides me tries to get on him he cow- kicks. He chews his lead ropes in half. Before he runs, he dances, not a hop, it’s like a real dance. He rocks back and forth. You have to walk him like a dog so he can pee on grass, or he’ll untie himself and go find grass. He is so smart, and he’s my best friend too. I feel like he can understand English sometimes. He’s like a person.”
In fact, Choate says the only instance Boozer has really struggled recently is with the ground at the Rookie Roundup in April. “He hit the first barrel he has hit all year there; he’s just been amazing the whole time.”
Choate is looking forward to riding the momentum she’s got going and attributes entering guru and three-time NFR qualifier Ann (Bateson) Thompson for keeping her rodeo schedule on point.
“She’s always on it, I have no clue,” laughed Choate. “When I first started coming out to these rodeos, I felt like a little fish in a pool of sharks. Carlee Otero has helped me too. There’s a lot to learn so I appreciate Miss Ann for taking care of me. I give a huge thanks to my parents because without them none of this is possible. They’ve sacrificed so much for me to even be able to do this. I don’t think a lot of people recognize how much their families give up for this. I’m the one in the spotlight, but it is truly the people behind me making it all possible. My parents are the two people most important to making this all happen.”
Choate, the only rodeo kid in her family, has a younger brother who favors baseball, football and basketball.
Two Handed to the Pay Window
Choate isn’t running Boozer in split reins because she loves it, rather she’s had to adapt her riding to what best suits her horse.
“I had always ridden him in split reins every day, and I didn’t think about it. But when I’d go to run him in regular barrel reins, I would automatically drop and go one handed and he would float out on me. It took me months to figure out that changing reins changed the feel for him in a run. For me mentally, I cannot do that (stay two handed) with a regular roping rein, but using the split reins, it made me stay two-handed, it forced me. Running in split reins helps him because he likes to be run two handed. I had to learn to sit that turn and have nothing to balance on. I went to the gym. I got my core really strong. I can tell if I haven’t made a run on him in a while, I’ll get out of sync. We’re so in sync right now from making a high number of consecutive runs.”
Choate has figured out that Boozer also has specific taste in headgear.
“He’s weird about bit mouthpieces, for Boozer it has to be a slow twist with a lifesaver. I run in a few different shanks, but it has to be that mouthpiece. I’m currently running him in The Bogie with a square twist lifesaver by Kerry Kelley, and split reins.”
Choate thanks the following businesses for their support of her successful rookie season.
Outlaw Equine Hospital and Rehab Center According to Choate, “Outlaw Equine, the vets and the entire staff there, they for sure help me and my horses so much. Josh (Harvey) is amazing. When I worry about Boozer, he says, ‘I know him better than I know my own body.’”
Delicious Horse Treats “The Kiwi stars, Boozer would die without them,” said Choate.
Kimmie’s Cocktail, which is an all-natural product with a rice bran base that is designed to support weight gain, joint and hoof health. “They love it and will eat it out of your hand,” said Choate.