Like Fine Wine: These Barrel Horses Just Keep Getting Better

Meet some of the teenage horses still making waves in ProRodeo and Open barrel racing events across the country.
Collage of aging barrel racing horses.

With the huge payouts in the industry in the past few years, much of which is focused on aged event competitions and the incentives tied to them, it’s no wonder that so many young horses are stealing the headlines in the sport.

But make no mistake—there are plenty of been-there, done-that, got the trophy, horses still winning at all levels of barrel racing today. Even the 2023 National Finals Rodeo saw a few teenagers inside the Thomas & Mack (13 year olds Chongo (Emily Beisel) and Thriller (Ilyssa Riley) as well as the Jess Routier’s Horse with the Most Heart, 12-year old Missy).

2018 NFR qualifier Tracy Nowlin made a triumphant comeback in 2023 with her own senior girl, the incomparable DJG Madison, aka Dolly. At 17 years old, Dolly carried Nowlin to the average title at the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo and into the top 50 of the WPRA World Standings.

Tracy Nowlin barrel racing
Tracy Nowlin and Dolly Jo at the 2023 PCFR. | Dale Hirschman Photography

Meanwhile, veteran Dona Kay Rule almost returned to Vegas with High Valor, the two-time WPRA/AQHA Horse of the Year who is 15 in 2024 and young Kalli McCall claimed the WPRA Rookie of the Year thanks to her dynamic duo of veterans, Dr Nicks Cash, a 2007 model, and the 14-year old Moons Dyna.

And don’t forget the ultimate Energizer bunny, Cuatro Fame, aka Truck. At sixteen years young, Truck earned nearly $70,000 at the ProRodeos with Stevi Hillman in just over two dozen rodeos.

So, what’s the secret?

Efficiency is the trademark of tending toward geriatric equines who are still able to compete with their much younger counterparts.

Kricket Gintner barrel racing
Kricket Gintner and “Jax,” in 2023. Phil Kitts/Avid Visual Imagery.

Honestly, we really pick and choose where we run,Kricket Gintner said. Gintner is a three-time Great Lakes Circuit Champ (2019, 2021-22) and all of her titles have come aboard Dial A Little Fame, better known as Jax, who is now 18.

Noting she tried to ride her young horses more last year, Gintner still won nearly $30,000 in 2023 in the WPRA, including a round win at RodeoHouston. 

Gintner finished fourth in her circuit, ironically, behind 2023 Great Lakes Champ, another senior player, RR Meradas Real Deal, Lacinda Rose’s home grown NFR qualifier who is now 16 years old. Real Deal carried Rose to the average win in Louisville and the finals at Cheyenne Frontier Days last summer.

Lacinda Rose barrel racing
Lacinda Rose and Real Deal at the 2023 Great Lakes Circuit Finals. Phil Kitts/Avid Visual Imagery.

Gintner’s Jax was raised a few hours from her Eau Claire, Wisconsin home by the Gunderson family who had been using the horse for NBHA jackpots. 

“We got him in to sell when he was seven or eight,” Gintner recalled. “My sister, Brandy, and my mom (Great Lakes Champ Tammy Whyte) rode him at first. He was really scared of cattle and my sister did the back work to get him better about that.”

Once Gintner took the reins, the duo became a force within the circuit. She ventured beyond the circuit borders occasionally, always scoring well at Houston and making several trips to The American.

“There were a few summers that we went some but I think it would definitely be a different story for him if we’d hauled harder, like trying for the NFR,” Gintner said of Jax’s longevity. Still, Gintner managed four seasons inside the WPRA’s top fifty while attending just over two dozen rodeos a year.

“We just always tried to listen to him, what he needed, and not do too much,” she said.

Gintner is keeping Jax in shape for the 2024 season, but since she didn’t qualify to big events like Houston this year, she’ll probably be on her young horses more.

Stevi Hillman and Cuatro Fame barrel racing
Stevi Hillman and Cuatro Fame. Phil Kitts/Avid Visual Imagery

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s a few more teams that are heading into 2024 on winning streaks.

Bug Jet Can Dance, 2006 gelding — a finalist at Cheyenne in 2023 and multiple rodeo and jackpot money winner for Sharon Harrell

KK Cash Colours, 2006 mare — go round winner at 2017 College Finals with KL Spratt, significant ProRodeo earnings under at least four riders, a 2023 The American West Contender qualifier and year end champion in the Turquoise Circuit Divisional Standings with Julie Pluemer

Chicks Keen O PocoPoo, 2007 mare — former NFR qualifier, carried Brittney Sporer to Montana Circuit Finals and 58th in WPRA World Standings

Brittney Barnett and the horse she calls Paint won all three rounds and the average at the 2022 Montana Circuit Finals for $11,213, which moved her to No. 1 in the year-end standings.

Alive N Smashing, 2008 gelding — former Calgary champ nearly qualified for the 2023 Canadian Finals with Bertina Olafson, finishing 19th in the CPRA

Bogies French Trick, 2008 gelding —a former winner of the ultra tough The American buyback round, this year a champion of All American Youth in Jackson (with Lizzie Broussard) and reserve champ at the inaugural The Texan race with Alishea Broussard

Howes A Tycoon, 2008 gelding — champion 2023 Fort Worth Stock Show with Jackie Ganter, helping Ganter finish 24th in the WPRA World Standings

Jackie Ganter barrel racing on her horse Tycoon in Fort Worth.
Jackie Ganter wins the 2023 FWSSR with a 16.30-second run on Howes A Tycoon. FWSSR photo by James Phifer.

Im A Sharp Frost, 2008 mare —the 2022 College National Finals champ and Prairie Circuit Finals qualifier, who also carried Sadie Wolaver to numerous ProRodeo wins

Sadie Wolaver barrel racing at college national finals rodeo
Sadie Wolaver, 2022 College National Finals Rodeo Champion. Jackie Jensen photography.

Mr. Tew Judge, 2008 gelding — scored big divisional race wins particularly on the Xtreme Million tour with Lindsay Schulz

VF Bright N Famous, 2008 gelding — carried Keira Simonson to a Reserve Championship at the 2023 Indian National Finals Rodeo

Guys R A Mystery, 2009 gelding — former NFR qualifier with Hillman, and Canadian Finals qualifier with Toni Dixon, won a go round at California CFR with Shelby Bates

Dineromademefamous, 2009 gelding — champion of the average and year end in the California Circuit for Kathy Petska

Sadiesaceinthehole, 2009 gelding —a finalist at Cheyenne in 2023, winner of St Paul Rodeo who carried Tarryn Lee to 29th in the WPRA World Standings

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