Amanda Welsh and Frenchmans Firefly “Firefly,” were first gunners in the finals at Rodeo Austin on March 25 but managed to survive the onslaught of tough horses and riders to emerge with the victory and a totaled $13,522 over three runs.
Welsh didn’t show up to Austin oozing confidence within herself, but a divine source gave her the courage she needed to make a calculated game plan.
“Firefly was about half a second off in Mercedes, Texas,” Welsh (34) said. “Then, I had to go to Austin. At that point I could have let the doubt and the negative take over, but I didn’t. I believe in God and his plan, so I asked for God’s peace and for help trusting in His plan and what that means for Firefly and I.”
When she pulled in the gates, Welsh locked her eyes on the prize.
“I’d never been to Austin before, so I watched a lot of girls run before my first round,” Welsh said. “Setting horses up for that first barrel is so crucial, so I was looking for clues in the other girls’ runs to see how they set their horses up. I hung to the left of the alley and then let him angle in—if he gets too straight, he’s so big that he has to pass the barrel to get around it—but I just set him up and let him do the rest.”
Welsh noted that her 16.1-hand gelding struggled with confidence in his first run, where he turned in a 15.08-second run and split eighth. In his second round, he picked up momentum and finished No. 4 with a 14.97, worth $2,797, but the magic happened in the finals for Firefly.
“He was pumped up,” Welsh noted with a laugh.
Firefly smoked the second fastest time of all three rounds with a 14.88-second trip and banked $9,870 for the aggregate title, bringing Stephenville resident to a $13,522 total for the event.
Welsh’s father, Bob Welsh trained the now 12-year-old Firefly, and sent him to Amanda as a 5-year-old, just as he was getting ready to enter. The duo enjoyed great success, multiple Badlands Circuit Finals qualifications and accolades and went all the way to the National Finals Rodeo in 2021.
However, in 2022 Welsh found herself sidelined, seemingly at the peak of Firefly’s career. He suffered a cracked cartilage injury to his stifle in January 2022 and was officially out until Welsh began legging him back up in the fall of 2022.
“I took three months just to leg him back up,” Welsh said. “Now I’m being so selective about where I run him. He’s always been cautious on different ground, but now it’s like if he doesn’t feel safe, he’ll make a really pretty run and not clock up.”
Welsh is hopeful that Austin represents a turning point for the gelding and that he’ll have another opportunity to take her back to the Thomas & Mack.
“He’s not old, but he’s getting older and I think he deserves to make another trip to the NFR,” Welsh said. “So, I really want to get him there. We’re going to just take it one run at a time this year, but this money from Austin is going to help so much.”
Firefly’s sire, LL Frenchmans Spike is one that young Welsh had success on at rodeos, and his dam, Elegant Conquest is also a staple of Bob Welsh’s breeding program. Welsh noted that her dad has other maternal and three-quarter siblings to Firefly and is competing on them in the Northwest barrel racing scene.
About Amanda Welsh
Amanda Welsh was born in Wisconsin and moved to Wyoming at the age of six. Her dad, Bob Welsh used to compete in bull riding on the ProRodeo trail and now trains barrel horses and operates B-P Quarter horses with his wife, Peggy. Amanda’s siblings are all involved in rodeo and her eldest brother, Bobby, has made the NFR multiple times in the bull riding. Amanda, now 34, resides in Stephenville, Texas, with her two kids, Ronnie (5) and Raelyn (5) and is engaged.
Along with Firefly, she plans to bring out a full sibling to CC Rosa Cantina owned by Alan Woodbury on the ProRodeo trail in 2023 once she feels the horse is prepared to enter at rodeos.
Rodeo Austin Barrel Racing Results
1. Kassie Mowry, 14.94 seconds, $4,063; 2. BryAnna Haluptzok, 14.97, $3,635; 3. Latricia Mundorf, 14.98, $3,208; 4. Sharin Hall, 15.00, $2,780; 5. Tarryn Lee, 15.01, $2,352; 6. Taycie Matthews, 15.02, $1,925; 7. Jordon Briggs, 15.05, $1,497; 8. (tie) Leslie Smalygo and Amanda Welsh, 15.08, $855 each; 10. Cierra Erickson, 15.09, $214
1. Jordon Briggs, 14.78 seconds, $4,594; 2. Jessica Routier, 14.93, $3,995; 3. Presley Smith, 14.95, $3,396; 4. Amanda Welsh, 14.97, $2,797; 5. Rachelle Riggers, 15.00, $2,197; 6. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 15.01, $1,598; 7. Stephanie Fryar, 15.02, $999; 8. (tie) BryAnna Haluptzok and Tiany Schuster, 15.07, $200 each
1. Amanda Welsh, 14.88 seconds, $9,870; 2. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 14.96, $7,520; 3. Presley Smith, 14.97, $5,250; 4. Jessica Routier, 14.98, $2,350.