Three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier (2009, 2020-21) Shelley Morgan, Eustace, Texas, says she isn’t likely to miss entering the Greeley Stampede in 2023. Morgan is officially back-to-back Greeley champ after winning second in both preliminary go rounds, first in the finals and first in the aggregate.
“I don’t know exactly what it is about Greeley for me, but I can tell you I’ll back next year,” said Morgan. “I won it first on Short Go (My Playboy Champ) in 2009, then on Radar (Will Merada) in 2014, and twice on Kiss (HR FameKissAndTell 2021, 2022).”
Morgan arrived in Greeley ranked 13th in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Standings as of June 28 with $34,988. She added $14,079 to that total after successfully defending her 2021 crown. In addition to the cash, Morgan also won a beautiful trophy saddle commemorating Greeley’s 100th anniversary, as well as a trophy buckle and bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey.
“Wins like this are so humbling,” said Morgan. “Especially the older you get, every win means a lot, you don’t take anything for granted. I was sitting on my couch this morning and I had tears in my eyes just thinking about what it means to have a horse like this and how grateful I am to have Kiss. Wins like this are super cool and it’s something I never take for granted.”
Morgan says she was pleasantly surprised when Kiss stopped the clock in 16.49 seconds to place second behind Taycie Matthews and Heavenly Firewater in round one with their rapid 16.47.
“I didn’t think it felt like she was firing quite as hard,” said Morgan, “but she must have to place second.”
During slack on Monday, June 27, Morgan drew No. 55, which was fortuitous considering that the barrel race was stopped by officials at 50 in order to rip and rework the ground to ensure the safety of the barrel racers.
“I was grateful to have drawn into the next set following the decision to stop the barrel race after 50,” Morgan said. “I’m glad they made it right and I’m glad for the draw I had because I’m not sure I would have taken the option of a re-run had I been in the first 50. I also appreciate them taking time for a tractor drag midway through in the performances. Shoutout to the Greeley Stampede committee for making the effort and taking the time.”
Morgan and Kiss posted a 16.51 in round two for second behind Lisa Lockhart and Rosas Cantina CC, who posted the fastest time of the rodeo with their 16.28. By the time the finals arrived on the evening of Thursday, June 30, Kiss was ready to roll according to Morgan.
“She was feeling herself in the warm-up, she was pretty frisky,” said Morgan. “In the run she was really firing on all cylinders, I felt like she skimmed her barrels, but watching the video back it wasn’t as close as it felt like [to the barrels in the turns],” said Morgan, whose time of 16.39 edged out second-place Jordon Briggs and Famous Lil Jet’s 16.54 and cinched the all-important aggregate with a total on three of 49.39 seconds.
Bound for the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, Morgan says she planned to give Kiss the morning off on July 2 and run her back-up Phoebe, a 7-year-old mare registered as Kinda Heavenly (JL Dash Ta Heaven x KindaBugginMe x Bug In My Frosty) in the slack. After Belle Fourche, Morgan’s rig is bound for Mandan Rodeo Days in North Dakota to run on the evening of July 2, then to the Cody Stampede perf on July 3, and after that, tentatively St. Paul on the Fourth of July.
“We’ve entered St. Paul for the past three or four years now and always seem to turn out, so Rex says, ‘this year we’re going,’” Morgan exclaimed.
Whether they make the trek to St. Paul or not, Morgan says she has entered rodeos in Elko, Nevada; Vernal, Utah, and Estes Park, Colorado, in the week following the Fourth and will attend the upcoming NFR Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado, rather than the Calgary Stampede. She’ll go to the California Rodeo in Salinas this July and miss Cheyenne Frontier Days.
“We wanted to go home and rest a little the end of July and go to the Northwest—it’s nice and cool and there’s so much money available up there, but we’ll enter and make that decision a little later,” Morgan said.
Kiss and Run
Bred by Elizabeth Hays, HR FameKissAndTell is by CEO and out of the Dash Ta Fame daughter Fames Fiery Kiss. She came into Morgan’s life at a time when Will Merada (Radar) was experiencing some soundness issues in his feet.
“I literally had nothing to run, but my brother-in-law Dale knew a man in Louisiana who had two 3-year-olds, so he put me in contact with Mike and Liz Hays in Arcadia, Louisiana,” said Morgan. “I got Kiss and her half-brother to ride. They were started by a Brazilian named Marco, but the plan was for me to just take them on and do more pattern work and get them going. Two weeks after we picked them up, I told my husband Rex that Kiss felt the most like Short Go (My Playboy Champ, Morgan’s first NFR qualifying mount) of anything I’d felt, just the most naturally inclined to take to the barrels. Personality-wise they were opposites, but as far as just taking to the barrels, she did. By December of her 3-year-old year I’d bought her.”
Since those early day, Morgan and the 2014 mare have notched numerous victories together, among them the $100,000 American Rodeo title in March.
Morgan appreciates the sponsors who help her get up and down the road: Rock N Roll Denim and Panhandle Slim, 5 Star Equine, Eagle Security Systems, the Muffler Shop in Canton, Texas, Bluebonnet Feeds and Stride Animal Health.