Behind the Win: Jackie Ganter Describes Mental Hurdles en Route to FWSSR Championship

Jackie Ganter spills on what was going on in her head behind-the-scenes on the way to her $24,000 week at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo Tournament.
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.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo ProRodeo tournament concluded on February 04, 2023, and the world watched as NFR Qualifying barrel racer and 2015 Resistol Rookie of the Year Jackie Ganter and Howes a Tycoon got the win in a celebrated outcome.

What the Fans Saw

Ganter and Tycoon were the story of the FWSSR ProRodeo Tournament. He’s the gelding that has overcome the odds and diagnoses to be able to compete with the best in the world. She was the standout NFR-qualifying teenage competitor who fought through personal and professional loss after her time in the spotlight, but worked to claw her way back into the consistent winner’s circle. They both fought through a dramatic series of rounds to amass $25,760 in Fort Worth, effortlessly winning each time they ran into Dickies Arena.

How it Really Went Down: The Semifinals

“I have to be the only person to win second in the Fort Worth Semifinals and go back to their stall and start crying.”

That’s what Jackie Ganter (26) thought to herself on Friday, February 03 after her run at FWSSR in the Semifinals.

For context, Ganter had showed out in her bracket as an ice storm brought most North Texas activities to a screeching halt by winning the first round with a 16.54. In the second round, a nasty stumble kept her out of the money and sent her to the Wild Card round the following day. She won the Wild Card Round and earned her spot back in the tournament, then ran again during the Semifinals on Thursday, where she tied for the No. 2 position and advanced to the Finals after her fourth run in four days. 

The win statistics weren’t what was on Ganter’s mind. 

“I felt like (Tycoon) was tired warming up,” Ganter explained. “And I’m so proud of the run we made, but he was definitely tired. I’ve never ran him that many days in a row. So, when I knew he was tired and he came out of his run, I just unraveled.” 

Luckily for Ganter, legendary barrel racing photographer and family friend, Kenneth Springer was close by with a hug and words of encouragement. He and Ganter’s mother, Angela, assured her that if Tycoon didn’t feel up to it, he wouldn’t be eagerly surging down the alley each night. These were words she needed to hear.

“I did want (Tycoon) to have his chance,” Ganter said. “I think that horses know when they win, or when it means a lot. I think he knew that he was winning and he wanted it, too.”

After Ganter spent Friday pampering Tycoon in the warmer weather, she turned her attention to getting her mind ready for the Finals. As it turned out, caring for Tycoon’s needs would prove to be the lighter lifting.

“I stayed up all night before the short round. I was nervous and searching for the confidence I needed. I still have it pulled up in my phone search: ‘Bible verses for confidence.’ I was just reading, screenshotting, praying for God to give me the confidence to do my job on Saturday.'”

Jackie Ganter

Short Round Saturday

“The morning of the short round, I was obsessively, compulsively re-watching my run from the Wild Card Round,” Ganter said. “I’d watch, watch it again, slow it down, rewind. I was beating it into my head that I had to ride that same, exact way.”

As Ganter rewatched her run, her messages were blowing up with family, friends and fans wanting to discuss her success or wish Ganter good luck. Ganter was rapid-fire replying, keeping her nose in her phone the bulk of the morning. Luckily for Ganter, her close friend, Hannah Hammond, was close by to pull her out of her anxiety-filled bubble. 

“She said, ‘I think you need to put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and let’s just go hang out for a little bit,’” Ganter said. 

All calls were deferred to Angela, and Ganter spent the ramainder of her afternoon staying as busy as possible before it was time for short round preparation. That’s when the doubt crept back up.

Jackie Ganter Reflects on Record-Breaking Rookie Season and Lessons Learned

“I looked at the short round draw and thought, ‘Wow. All of these girls have been to the NFR before,” Ganter said. “Then I remembered—I’ve been to the NFR. I would have been so intimidated a year ago by the women in that set. It was the toughest short go I’ve ever ran on and I was so honored just to be competing there.I just kept reminding myself that I earned my place there and that I did belong.” 

“When I first made the finals, everybody would say ‘Jackie has ice water in her veins.’ I was 18 years old—I was unshakeable. I was also a kid. I’d run with wild abandonment and have fun and was just being young. I remember the first night of my first NFR in 2015—I was sitting in the alley in the Thomas & Mack and my mom looked at me and asked,  ‘Are you nervous?’ I honestly wasn’t.”

Jackie Ganter

Ganter had her doubts, but once she settled into the saddle, her mood shifted. Tycoon felt stellar and Ganter knew he would be firing. It came down to her actions at that point.

“I told myself like a million times while I was warming up that I was going for first,” Ganter said. “I said ‘They’re only going to pay four, and this isn’t an average. If you hit a barrel trying to win first, that’s part of the process.”

Ganter didn’t hit a barrel, although she did rub red paint off on her jeans going around the second barrel. Her 16.30 solidly sat her in front of reigning world champion, Hailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday and secured the title and the $20,000 check.

Shock, joy and a million independent emotions flashed across the Abilene native’s face as she rode out of the arena after the run.

After Emily Beisel, the final cowgirl exited the arena, she high-fived Ganter and congratulated her as the win was confirmed. Ganter was rushed back to the arena for interviews as contestants and FWSSR staff clapped and cheered from the sidelines. Angela and Tycoon went back to the warm-up pen for some much deserved rolling and relaxing, and the next few hours were a tidal wave of media obligations, family congratulations and all the photos Tycoon.

Ganter’s carrying her momentum straight into the rest of the winter rodeos and wide-eyed for the 2023 season. She’s not the same fearless, carefree youth that made the NFR right after her high school graduation, but she’s hitting the trail with a renewed appreciation for her horsepower, her competition and the sport as a whole that might just make her a conversation starter all season long.