3 Horses Help Secure 2 Montana Circuit Titles for 1 Tayla Moeykens

A trio of horses helped Tayla Moeykens clinch her first Montana Circuit titles in 2023.
Tayla Moeykens barrel racing Montana Circuit Finals.
Tayla Moeykens winning the Mountain States Circuit Finals on "Blue." Clay Guardipee Photography

Just under one year ago, Tayla Moeykens thought her chances at a 2023 Montana Circuit barrel racing win were slim, but she rallied back with a diverse lineup of horses to snag both the year-end and Montana Circuit Finals aggregate win.

When 21-year-old Moeykens’ faithful mare, Dash Of Blue Sky, “Blue,” collided with a fence last February, Moeykens knew it would be a long road to recovery for the horse that won her a College National Finals Rodeo championship in 2021. Fast forward 11 months, and Moeykens and Blue made the trek home from their third Montana Circuit Finals in Great Falls with $11,826 in Moeykens’ pockets after the team swept all three rounds of competition and the aggregate.

Tayla Moeykens barrel racer
Tayla Moeykens, her parents and Blue pose with Moeykens’ Montana Circuit Champion awards.

“The plan was to be smooth,” Moeykens (21) said.

The business major from Montana State University entered the circuit finals in the No. 1 position from the regular season with earned, and was quick to give credit to the two horses who stepped up to make her season spectacular in Blue’s absence.

The first to get the call in Blue’s absence was a mare owned by the Moeykens most of her life, JM PocketsDoubleDash “Lizard.” However, when a small injury sidelined Lizard just before Moeyken’s first collegiate rodeo of the season, a close friend stepped in and offered KN Fames Best Yet “Yeti,” to Moeykens. The two clicked well, so well that the Moeykens eventually purchased the 5-year-old.

After punching her ticket to the 2023 CNFR and finishing as the reserve Collegiate National Champion on Lizard and Yeti, Moeykens set out to circuit rodeo with a simple gameplan.

“But I didn’t have any huge, solid goals because I really wanted to just season Yeti and get in a groove with Lizard with Blue being out,” Moeykens said. “They really just exceeded my expectations. I looked up at the end of the season and it was kind of a nice surprise that I was leading it.”

With Blue finally sound, fit and running like her old self at the close of the 2023 regular season, Moeykens made the decision to call upon the veteran mare for the unique setup in Great Falls. The small coliseum is set with the barrels centered to a gate on the far right-hand side of the arena, making the approach to the first barrel critical and the run to the third barrel into a corner of the pen. Moeykens had a clean sweep of a circuit finals thanks to her mastery of finding the sweet spot in that pen. See one of Moeykens’ runs here.

“We’ve figured out in that arena, it’s best to come up the right side of the alley and then angle across the alley,” Moeykens said. “That gives you as much of an arc to your first as possible. The first year I went, I tried going up the left side to give myself more space, but that actually makes it harder to get that extra step that you need to give your horse more room.”

But the perfect plan can’t be one-sided—Moeykens was quick to add that Blue’s best qualities shine in difficult situations.

“She’s just an honest girl,” Moeykens said of the 18-year-old. “She’s the queen around here and she knows it. But she’s earned it.”

Moeykens, who is obtaining a degree in the business realm with an entrepeneurial focus in hopes of finding a career to compliment her goals as a professional barrel racer after she finishes her final semester of college this spring, is elated at the prospect of going to Colorado Springs for the NFR Open in July.

“I’m so excited,” Moeykens said. “I’ve heard so many great things about that rodeo and feel like it’s kind of a bucket list one.”

Tayla Moeykens Montana State University
Tayla Moeykens and “Lizard,” leading the Montana State University football team at a home game. Image courtesy Moeykens.

The young cowgirl also pointed out her gratitude to the Montana Circuit rodeo committees for taking great care of barrel racers in 2023.

“Our committees are awesome,” Moeykens said. “They were so considerate of ground conditions and worked to improve them this year and (barrel racers) really appreciated that effort. They raked halfway through at some, and multiple rodeos around the Fourth of July changed their ground. A lot of them just really tried to make things good for us.”

With Moeykens securing both titles within the Montana Circuit, Ashley Day will unofficially take the second NFR Open position from the circuit thanks to her reserve finish in the circuit.

Montana Circuit Finals Results

First round: 1. Tayla Moeykens, 12.86 seconds, $2,628; 2. Abigail Knight, 13.13, $1,971; 3. Tammy Carpenter, 13.23, $1,314; 4. (tie) Heather Crowley and Brittney Sporer, 13.24, $329 each

Second round: 1. Tayla Moeykens, 13.02 seconds, $2,628; 2. Bailee Murnion, 13.17, $1,971; 3. Ashley Day, 13.21, $1,314; 4. Heather Crowley, 13.23, $657

Third round: 1. Tayla Moeykens, 12.93 seconds, $2,628; 2. Brittney Sporer, 13.01, $1,971; 3. Tia Murphy, 13.02, $1,314; 4. Hailey Garrison, 13.13, $657

Average: 1. Tayla Moeykens, 38.81 seconds on three head, $3,942; 2. Heather Crowley, 39.65, $2,957; 3. Bailee Murnion, 40.53, $1,971; 4. Tia Murphy, 44.39, $986

Final 2023 Montana Circuit Barrel Racing Standings

1Tayla MoeykensThree Forks, MT$17,447.5025
2Ashley DayVolborg, MT$16,591.6619
3Hailey GarrisonGlen, MT$16,545.5025
4Abby KnightCharlo, MT$13,544.7223
5Heather CrowleyPoplar, MT$11,937.2424
6Brittney SporerStephenville, TX$11,914.8422
7Tammy CarpenterKalispell, MT$11,194.5024
8Hannah SharonDillon, MT$11,125.4420
9Allie NovotnyHelena, MT$8,188.2417
10Bailee MurnionKinsey, MT$5,911.2719
11Tia MurphyLewiston, MT$5,624.7821
12Tisha LarsenForsyth, MT$5,490.3018