Hailey Kinsel just had a storied week in Fort Worth, Texas, winning the Women’s Rodeo World Championship, and $63,400 in three short days. She turned and burned on a palomino mare—DH Jess Stellar, or “Jules,” as the 9-year-old mare is known. Heads turned when she not only dominated the WRWC, but on her last run, shattered the Cowtown Coliseum arena record with a 13.384-second run before picking up her $60,000 check.
Jules, who is by Mighty Jess and out of PC Frosted Stellar, by Sun Frost, was raised and is owned by Hodges Farms, and had a successful futurity career with Janna Beam Brown before being placed with Kinsel in 2020. According to Kinsel, there are a few things that the world needs to know about Jules, outside of the shadow of her barn mate, DM Sissy Hayday, known far and wide as “Sister.”
Here are the things Kinsel wants barrel racing fans to know about Jules, and what she has learned from their journey together.
Don’t assume you know her story.
Hailey Kinsel: “Jules’ whole story is really cool. Everybody hears ‘Hodges Farms owns her and raised her, and Janna Beam Brown futuritied and trained her, and she had success.’ Everybody has their ups and downs, but there’s a lot of ups and downs in her story.
“Was she always easy? No. She wasn’t easy to train. Janna will tell you that she was a handful. She’s still a handful.”
She’s All Business.
HK: “She’s a very tough, businesslike horse. People don’t know that when they see her in the arena. She has so many quirks that aren’t normal horse quirks. She’s a very intense horse. She thinks everybody’s out to get her; we don’t really know why.
“I just moved into my house, but until recently, I lived in a barn apartment for the last few years that’s just like a shoebox size, one bedroom. I spent 24/7 with my horses. The one window in that apartment looked out into Sis’s pen. When I came out, I was looking into Jules’ pen. When you get to traveling with them, you’re all they know and they’re all you know. You’re the only thing constant to them, except maybe a buddy or something, but it’s just you and them. So, in thinking about getting ready to rodeo with her, the last couple years it was hard for me to think this was gonna work because she was so standoffish in some ways.”
Jules has trust issues…
HK: She’s hard to develop a relationship with. She’s not like most horses. Some horses will be like, ‘thanks for coming in,’ some want you to scratch their butt. Jules is somewhere in the middle. It’s almost like she went through abuse. But we know her history, there’s never been abuse.
“Even though she’s been at my place for two years now, she still has this hang up. Jules is a lot harder to develop a relationship with in a lot of ways than other horses I’ve run and I’ve had to learn to adjust how I approach her. Sometimes it’s just convincing myself going down the alley that this is going to work, that she’s going to trust me.”
…And Hailey had to learn how to trust her.
HK: “Then, I have to turn around and be like, ‘okay, I do trust her.’ Maybe I can’t read her as well as another horse, but I trust her. I have to let her know that I’m all in too. You’ve got me, and I’ve got you.
“Getting on that level with her, yeah it hasn’t been easy, and I’m sure it’s going to continue to be this up and down. Maybe it’s just her, so I’ve accepted that. Now we have a method, we have a way of doing it that works. I know she is healthy, happy and does like me, in her own way.
“In terms of competition, I have to believe that she’ll trust me. I must go in fully convinced that she’s on my team and I’m on hers, even if she doesn’t act like it outwardly.”
Hailey has two rules for Jules.
Rule One: Don’t take it personal.
HK: “I used to get personally hurt about it—that she couldn’t just accept me completely. I had to tell myself, don’t take this personal. It’s not you.
Rule Two: Approach her differently than any other horse.
HK: “I’m very conscious of when I feed her and being around her when I saddle her that the way you do it with Jules is different than with any other horse. I make sure I’m composed before I go in her pen. I can’t be angry, frustrated, or thinking about something else. You have to take a deep breath and not take it personal. If you give her a second, she’ll think. Most horses think first, she just reacts first. She’s better towards me now than in the beginning.”
Warm-up pens? That’s a no.
HK: “She hates warm-up pens. If horses are circling and coming at her, she thinks everybody is out to get her. Cowtown Coliseum may be one of her favorites, but it’s a very tough setup for me to get her ready. It’s (unofficially) the tiniest warm-up pen on planet Earth. I try to be really relaxed— I’m not going to jump in the loping circle with everybody.
“It kind of rattles her a little bit. Sure, she will come down from that rattle and focus on her run, but I feel like it’s unnecessary stress. I just have to get off in my corner, do small circles and then lope when there’s an opportunity to and take my time. The whole warm-up situation just has to be flexible with her so that she stays comfortable. I think she would work either way, but I feel like it’s more fair to her to let her be as happy as possible.”
Pairing a winning horse with a World Champion rider does not mean success is guaranteed.
HK: “She’s a great example of having a great horse and a good rider, and that doesn’t mean it’s just gonna work. We’ve persevered through a lot. For example, we found an old injury that was really bothering her when I went to hauling her in 2020. She’s a tough horse and doesn’t show you her feelings. We just had to dig and see what was going on. Then, I dealt with this guilt of not knowing and riding through it. Then, I’m thinking how can she possibly trust me? We worked through that; we’ve worked through a lot of things.
“She’s a different style and she’s so strong. I’ve had to adjust my natural tendencies of how to ride a horse to fit her style. People see that and assume it should come easy. People are really hard on themselves when it doesn’t come easy or fast. I’m here to encourage you. It doesn’t come easy. It’s not supposed to happen fast, and it doesn’t for everyone.
“To everybody else, it looked like Jules and I hit it off from the start. The first couple runs we made, we couldn’t help but win at the barrel races and the first couple rodeos. Then we went through kind of a drop-down period, and it wasn’t so easy. I think people forget that it’s a process.”
When you get your Jules, you’ve got to trust the process—for both of you.
HK: “We’re two years into this, and now people are hearing about Hailey and Jules. You just have to give yourself some grace and the horse some room, then let yourselves grow together. She’s changed to fit me, and I’ve changed to fit her. That’s what we had to do.
“It’s been fun. I will tell you, there were some days that were not fun, but today is fun.”