Cheyenne Wimberley was just a kid when she made her first two trips to the National Finals Rodeo in 1997 and 1998 riding April Hemp, a 1983 model by War Hemp and out of Aprils Dream by Mr Weimar Bar. In fact, Wimberley filled her permit in 1986 at age 11, becoming a full Women’s Professional Rodeo Association card member shortly thereafter. It goes without saying that fast horses have been part of Wimberley’s life for most of it. After those first two trips to the Finals, April Hemp was nearing the end of his career, so Wimberley returned to college and developed new business pursuits.
“I got into insurance adjusting and moved to Florida for almost five years doing insurance adjusting,” Wimberley said, adding that she always kept a horse with her. “I never quit riding. Then, when I came back from Florida, I started riding colts again and got back into the futurities.”
Wimberley had a couple of nice futurity horses that she sold—one a Dash Ta Fame that is a full sibling to her NFR mount Dash Ta Suz. Another was by A Streak Of Fling out of a mare Wimberley owns. At the same time as she was riding futurity horses, Wimberley got into the real estate business in Stephenville, Texas, where she has lived since moving there to attend Tarleton State in 1996. Wimberley also sells horse insurance, and her family has a saddle business, Cowboy Classic Saddlery.
“I started some businesses that I felt could help accommodate the riding,” she said. “People always ask me, ‘How did you go back to rodeo?’ I got a horse that was sent to me, Dash Ta Suz, and she wasn’t clocking in the 1D, she was making some mistakes and doing some things. When I got her in the barn, I was trying to figure out, ‘What’s making her do what she’s doing?’ I changed a few things and she started clocking so I entered a few things, entered a few circuit rodeos and she started winning.”
At that point, Wimberley decided she and her mom, Christi, would go on a two-week rodeo trip to test the waters.
“I entered Cheyenne (Wyo.), Ogden and Spanish Fork (Utah). Well, she won like $10,000 in those two weeks. I told my mom, ‘She’s gonna play with them pretty good out here,’” said Wimberley.
Wimberley returned home with the plan to make the Texas Circuit Finals because circuit money counted toward WPRA world standings for the following year, which was 2019.
“I came and made the circuit finals, which was in Waco and not far to travel. The WCRA (World Champions Rodeo Alliance) started about that same time, and I had gotten a mare in to ride that the owner didn’t know if she wanted to sell her or not, and that was Streakin Images. I up and entered the first WCRA, which was at Guthrie, Okla., and she really worked so I made it to Chicago (Ill.). I won Chicago on Streakin Images. I won quite a bit of money, it paid $50,000, and it was like, ‘This rodeoing is pretty good and I’m not really rodeoing that hard.’”
Wimberley had Streakin Images, a horse she considered to be better in the buildings than Dash Ta Suz, so she ran her at the Texas Circuit Finals and won around $7,000, which set her up to qualify for the first bigger building rodeos. Entering those rodeos ended up putting more money in her pocket.
“I got into San Antonio,” said Wimberley. “We’re rocking along there and we’re kind of winning a little bit, so I thought, ‘OK, we’ll go.’”
Wimberley, who is friends with VQ Sucker Punch’s owner Robin Weaver, approached Weaver about riding “Rocco.”
“Rocco was getting done with his derby year and Brandon (Cullins) was going to run him at The American that March,” explained Wimberley. “Well, after that his derby year/career was over with. I’ve got these other two mares, so if I take Rocco I might go a little bit. With Rocco also came Misty (KN Fabs Mist Of Fame), and those are great horses that you just don’t get offered very often.”
Another benefit of Misty being in Stephenville with Wimberley was that it solved some logistical issues for Weaver making the ease of transport to the breeding farm simpler.
“So, I had these four horses sitting here looking at me,” said Wimberley, who figured she had better start entering a bit more heavily. “So, in 2019 we just started entering. It was almost like being a rookie again. We went to places we had been to years ago and we got to see people we hadn’t seen in 20 years. I’m seeing their kids now. We’re back out there.
“The horses did outstanding through the year, which got us back [qualified] into the buildings in 2020,” she continued. “I had run at Houston in my set when COVID hit. And we’re thinking, ‘They’re gonna shut Houston down? There’s no way.’ Things got shaky, and we didn’t do anything for a couple months.”
As committees began working their way out of the pandemic shutdown and trying to put on rodeos, most were being held in outdoor venues.
“I’ve got some great outdoor horses so that got us through 2020,” said Wimberley. “When 2021 came around, I thought ‘I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it.’ I love the competition, I love the comradery, I love the horsepower. The traveling kills me. That’s why I quit the first time. I love my stuff at home, and the older you get, the more stuff you acquire.”
It was the excellent performances her horses were giving her that motivated Wimberley to stick with the grind.
“I crack Streakin Images out and she’s winning, she’s really winning,” said Wimberley. “May comes up and we’re through the buildings and I told mom, ‘We’re going to go through the Fourth and see how the Fourth goes. We’ll come home if I‘m not in the standings.’ Well, we’re in the standings and at that point I start to think, ‘Well, you know what, there’s greater powers at work than you, so just stick it out.”
Wimberley explained that Rocco had been in Pennsylvania with Weaver, whose niece ran him at the NBHA World Show, but being poised to make the NFR, Wimberley had Rocco shipped to Ellensburg to help carry the load.
“I ran him one time at Puyallup (Wash.) and ran him at Salinas (Calif.), so I haven’t had him back that long. That kind of becomes a story of its own,” she said.
“I hear it all the time, people say, ‘Well, you have five horses.’ But those five horses took some work, and those five horses are all different and those five horses are all their own individuals,” said Wimberley.
Her fifth horse is a 7-year-old gray gelding Royal Blue Fame that is a fractious individual who requires a lot of timing and patience from her, but Wimberley appreciates his talent and has won some big checks riding him.
“To keep five horses at that level running is a daily chore around here. I’m blessed to be able to have them and ride them, and I’m fortunate to have the God-given ability to be able to move from one to the other. At the end of the day, I’m blessed I have the parents that guided me in the right direction. My dad was a horse trader, so we rode a lot of horses. Riding a lot of horses was just part of it; that’s really how we ended up here today.
“It’s kind of funny how the horses come into your life, and the people that come into your life with them are always a story within themselves,” Wimberley shared.
A career earner in the WPRA of $456,441, the five-time NFR qualifier won round 1 of the 2021 Wrangler NFR riding VQ Sucker Punch.