Game Changer: Emily Beisel Weighs in on Unconventional Headgear and Warm-Up

No stranger to unconventional methods, Emily Beisel gives insight into her slow work and headgear choices that are making social media waves at the 2022 NFR.
Emily Beisel and Chongo at the 2022 NFR barrel racing
Emily Beisel and Chongo placing in the first round of the 2022 National Finals Rodeo. Image by Ric Andersen/CBarC Photography.

Emily Beisel’s commitment to thinking outside the box—and doing whatever it takes to keep her horses working and feeling great–has led her to four consecutive National Finals Rodeo appearances.

First, riding horses that were Hancock bred divided fans at the 2019 NFR. Then, it was the “Beisel Bands,” as fans called her rubber bands that lightly bound her hands close to her horse’s neck at the 2020 NFR, followed by her athletic leg lifts and headgear choices in 2021. In short, Beisel’s barrel racing style sticks out as much as her fiery red hair.

At the 2022 NFR, Beisel hasn’t given up on any of her methods. She’s still using the Dennis Moreland Game Changer Headsetter on Namgis D 33, aka “Chongo.” In warm-up, Beisel employed a sliding gag paired with it but, for the round, she picked a bit she’s had previous success in.

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Beisel’s Bit Choices

“He’s in a Professional Choice Derby,” Beisel said. “I’ve had it on him since August. It’s what I rode on him most of the 2020 NFR in Arlington. It provides a little more lift than the other two bits I primarily ride on him.”

Of note, Beisel sets the Game Changer with the browband piece behind Chongo’s ears, as opposed to the traditional style of placing it in front of the ears.

“I put it behind the ears because (the Game Changer) pinches them if it’s in front, especially if I have his ears plugged,” Beisel said.

Emily Beisel and Chongo at the 2022 NFR.
Beisel’s bit of choice to start the 2022 NFR was a Derby by Professional Choice paired with a Dennis Moreland Game Changer Headsetter. Image by Ric Anderson.

Beisel made it clear that she’s not out to set a trend. She’s making personal choices that work for herself and her horses, which means that others may not agree. Others, though, may think they should adopt those same methods because of her success.

“I bounced back and forth between a bonnet and tie-down with him for years and this is a nice balance of both,” Beisel said. “It’s not for every horse, but I haven’t ran him with anything else since we tried it.”

Slow-Work Strategy

In the first barrel practice, Beisel calmly walked up the alleyway, into the arena and straight to the third barrel. The following pattern may have appeared random to the naked eye, but Beisel knew her plan and worked it.

“The way I work Chongo is 100% based on what I feel on him in that moment, combined with past experiences we have in a setup,” Beisel said. “I tend to cheat the first barrel with my body—hence the need for “Beisel Bands,” from time to time—so, while practicing, we combat that issue by overemphasizing straight lines and going up the pen. I am trying to keep his stride full and body square. He’s smart and can make up for my mistakes.”

Beisel switches up for plan for the second and third turns.

“The left hand turns are almost the opposite for us,” Beisel said. “I tend to override him past a barrel, so I need him to be shaped up and ready to engage that hip, especially as quick as it comes at the Thomas & Mack.”

Beisel’s efforts paid off in the first round of the NFR on Dec. 1. She finished in the No. 5 position with a 13.82-second run and earned $7,461.60. As the week progresses, Beisel will have her chance to be closer to the top of the ground and fans will be eagerly watching to see if she calmly holds her horses down the alleyway with any new curiosities on board each evening.