A calm came over Andrea Busby as she made her way coolly down the alley aboard Blazing With My Dude (Tito) on Sunday July 31 at the 126th Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD), held July 23-31.
“It was the calmest I’ve been through all the rounds,” said the Lusk, Wyoming native who currently lives in Brock, Texas, where she and husband Jeff operate their state-of-the-art Busby Quarter Horses. “You’ve got nothing left to be nervous about, win lose or draw, you just go out there and do the best that you can. It was pretty peaceful actually, there’s nothing left to be worried about now.”
Turning in a spectacular 17.13 from the bottom of the draw, Busby’s best enabled her to achieve her lifelong goal of being the CFD champion barrel racer. Even better, husband Jeff was right there by her side in the alley.
“We’ve been together from the get-go,” Busby said. “He’s the most supportive person on the planet. He’s 110 percent all-in. I wish he could be up here doing it because he’s put as much into it as I have. He’s my best friend, he’s my business partner, he’s my husband. I kind of got the trifecta, I got pretty lucky. He’s thrilled.”
Round by Round
While a calm mindset pervaded in the short go, getting through the early rounds, particularly the first which runs entirely in slack, wasn’t stress-free for Busby.
“I’m always so nervous for the first round,” she said. “You’ve got to get through—there’s 200 barrel racers and so much can happen.”
While she didn’t place during the slack on Wednesday, July 20, Busby and “Tito” posted a very respectable 17.68, easily qualifying for the progressive round held during the performances.
Making their second run during the rodeo’s fourth perf, Tito clocked one of the fastest times of the rodeo, a 17.20 to top their set of 12 and earn Busby $2,354. Handily advancing, Busby ran a 17.57 in the mud for third in Semifinals 1 and another $3,354.
“I knew the harder she runs up into the hole, the harder she turns,” said Busby. “I was probably a little hesitant the other day in the mud and was trying to set her up for the turns and keep her standing up, because it was a little slick.”
Running 12th in the finals, Busby knew she’d have to go for it. Five previous runners had been faster than a 17.3, and it was clear that Tito would need to outrun Leslie Smalygo and JustaHeartBeatToFame (Gus), who went to the top with their 17.21 two runners before Busby’s name was called.
“I woke up this morning and looked at my draw and you know, you don’t want to get negative or down,” said Busby of being last out. “If the committee didn’t drag at six there’s no way that I could’ve had a chance to win it from the bottom.”
Running first Resistol Rookie contender Presley Smith set a hot pace with her 17.25. No one weakened, and by the time the drag at six occurred there were two more .2’s on the board with all finalists running sub-18’s.
“They were throwing down some runs, so there was no holding back,” said Busby. “I just tried to get her as far up into the first one as I could before I dropped to let her turn. She smoked it, then running across to second, I kind of screwed her up right there. I thought I was going to hit it and I pushed my hand up there. She’s so incredibly broke, I pushed my hand up and of course she took another step and I kind of thought, ‘Oh, I just screwed myself up there.’”
Such was not the case, however, and Busby had one left to turn, albeit the wide-open third with acres of space in which potential mistakes can and do happen.
“The third barrel’s so intimidating there, it’s just out in the middle of nowhere. I kept telling myself, ‘Just leave her alone. She’s been in here four times and she’s fine; she knows where it’s at.’ The minute I touched her she turned.”
For Busby, who grew up on a ranch to the north near Lusk that’s been in her family for more than a century, knowing she’d won Cheyenne was an unforgettable moment that fulfilled her childhood dreams.
“I couldn’t really see [the time] until after I crossed the timer and looked up and…just unbelievable,” Busby relayed emotionally. “She’s so gritty and she runs on top of the ground, I think that helped us here. She’s not very big, but I think her heart might be as big as she is.”
The fact that Busby lost her uncle during this year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days pulled at her heartstrings even more.
“Maybe we had some angel’s wings with us today,” she added.
A mainstay in the barrel racing industry, the Busby Quarter Horses backstory would take many pages to tell, but suffice it to say, the leading breeders took their program to the next level in 2013 when Jeff and Andrea acquired their cornerstone stallion Blazin Jetolena. A National Finals Rodeo qualifier in 2005 with Melanie Southard and sire of multiple NFR qualifiers since, Blazin Jetolena is a $5.5 million-dollar sire (QData).
Bred by Busby Quarter Horses, Tito’s talent is a product of impeccable genetics with her sire being Blazin Jetolena and her dam Dasher Dude (LTE $570,000-plus).
“Both her mom and dad have been to the NFR. Her mom is Britany (Fleck) Diaz’s horse Rootie,” said Busby.
Dasher Dude (Rootie) carried Britany (Fleck) Diaz to the Badlands Circuit championship in 2009, nine trips to the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo and major wins in venues like the Greeley Stampede and the San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo. Riding Rootie, Diaz became the first North Dakota barrel racer to qualify for the NFR, which she did in 2011. Diaz and Rootie returned to the NFR in 2014 where they finished their season ranked fourth in the world standings.
The Busby’s got an embryo out of Rootie, as did Diaz whose futurity-aged stallion A Blazin Dude is Tito’s full sibling.
“Britany’s always sending me texts and cheering us on, so it’s pretty fun,” added Busby.
Tito’s special connections transcend lineage and branch into the 7-year-old standout’s training. Tito was successful as a futurity horse under the expert guidance of Sue Smith. Ironically, Smith and Jeff Busby battled serious illnesses during the same timeframe, making the Busby/Smith, owner/trainer bond inseparably close.
“That mare [Tito] is really special to us. Sue Smith and Jeff both went through throat cancer at the same time. She’s family, we’re best friends and then to do this on a horse she trained is just so special,” Busby said tearfully.
Busby is quick to credit Smith for the rock-solid foundation that has enabled Tito to excel in her blossoming rodeo career.
“I think anybody could ride behind Sue,” Busby said. “I mean she does a complete job for every situation. She gets them broke all the way around. They just follow your hand around the turn. She really deserves a lot of credit for this one. She worked really hard. She and Jeff went through cancer at the same time, and here we are. It just makes it all the more special.”
Busby added that Tito has an edge to her, but has gained the maturity it takes to deftly handle tricky setups like the one in Cheyenne.
“She won a decent amount [as a futurity horse],” said Busby. “Honestly, she was a little wasp-y, a little naughty but once she decided to put those quick feet to use running barrels there was never a bad day. She was a little look-y, a little watch-y at first. Once she turned the corner, it was game on. Sue won a couple futurities on her, had a good futurity year with her, and that mare’s just getting better.”
Proving herself as a legit rodeo horse by winning Cheyenne, it’s hard to grasp that the sorrel mare doesn’t have much rodeo experience under her belt. Much to Busby’s pleasure, Tito took to it like a duck to water winning the very first one she hauled her to.
“I ran her at Alamosa (Colorado) in the slack and she won the rodeo,” said Busby, who added that a soundness issue threatened the mare’s potential.
“I think she only has a career still because of Dr. Marty Tanner,” said Busby. “He flexed her knee one day, we were getting ready to go to the Pink Buckle, and she winced. He said, ‘Oh, let’s take an Xray,’ and he found a chip in her knee. That was in October. Dr. Tommy Hays took the chip out, and we did all the rehab.”
After getting the mare back into condition, Busby got back on Tito in June.
“I took her to Pecos, Texas, and that was her first rodeo performance,” said Busby. “She placed, then I went to Santa Fe in a performance and the barrels were about as tight as you can get to the fence, and she won the rodeo. I was like, ‘Okay, I think we have a rodeo horse.’ She just likes it.”
Mountain States Circuit Money
The almost $16,000 Busby won at CFD will propel her to a top spot in the Mountain States Circuit standings currently led by pal and traveling partner Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi. Busby says her main motivation this summer has been seasoning her aged event horses to the trail.
“I’ve been traveling with Brittany, she’s one of my best friends,” said Busby. “She’s obviously trying to make the Finals and I’m just like, ‘Hey, I need to season all my colts,’ because we’ve got derby horses now that were really nice futurity horses that haven’t been to rodeos. I’m just taking it one day at a time. Ideally, if we could into the winter rodeos that would be great, but I’m not going to tear my horses up so what comes, comes and we’ll be happy with it. This definitely takes a little sweat off making my circuit finals!”
The 126th Cheyenne Frontier Days was deemed a huge success by organizers, thanks to the efforts of the 3,000 volunteers. The rodeo which is the centerpiece of CFD boasted 1,650 contestants and a record purse of $1,080,813. This was an increase from 1,403 contestants in 2021.
All branches of the military were again honored on Military Monday with active personnel and veterans receiving free admission, where the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force (USAF) was also celebrated. A special opening featured military personnel and families bringing in a huge American Flag. The USAF Thunderbirds attended the rodeo on Tuesday and performed during Wings Over Warren. An estimated 8,800 people attended the exhibition and many more watched throughout the city. This year’s celebration saw an unprecedented involvement by various military groups throughout the 10 days.
2022 Cheyenne Frontier Days Barrel Racing Results
Qualifier: 1. Summer Kosel, 17.02 seconds, $7,415; 2. Kassie Mowry, 17.28, $6,356; 3. (tie) Cindy Smith and Shali Lord, 17.39, $4,943 each; 5. Cheyenne Wimberley, 17.44, $3,531; 6. Ivy Saebens, 17.48, $2,825; 7. Tarryn Lee, 17.52, $2,229; 8. Katie Chism, 17.55, $1,412; 9. Sarah Rose Waguespack, 17.58, $1,059; 10. Megan McLeod-Sprague, 17.61, $706.
First Performance: 1. Leslie Smalygo, 17.38 seconds, $2,354; 2. Paige Jones, 17.50, $1765; 3. Lisa Lockhart, 17.67, $1,177; 4. Michelle Merrick, 17.82, $588.
Second Performance: 1. Taycie Matthews, 17.65 seconds, $2,354; 2. Jessica Routier, 17.82, $1,765; 3. Shephanie Fryar, 18.04, $1,177; 4. Shy-Anne Jarrett, 18.07, $588.
Third Performance: 1. Emily Beisel, 17.49 seconds, $2,354; 2. Suzanne Brooks, 17.63, $1,765; 3. Rachelle Riggers, 17.64, $1,177; 4. Presley Smith, 17.72, $588.
Fourth Performance: 1. Andrea Busby, 17.20 seconds, $2,354; 2. Jamie Chaffin, 17.57, $1,765; 3. Cheyenne Wimberley, 17.59, $1,177; 4. Sarah Rose Waguespack, 17.70, $588.
Fifth Performance: 1. Jamie Olson, 17.47 seconds, $2,354; 2. Jimmie Smith, 17.69, $1,765; 3. Cindy Smith, 17.76, $1,177; 4. Katie Pascoe, 17.77, $588.
Sixth Performance: 1. Tarryn Lee, 17.56 seconds, $2,354; 2. Megan McLeod-Sprague, 17.93, $1,765; 3. Summer Kosel, 18.0, $1,177; 4. Kelly Yates, 18.08, $588.
First Semifinal: 1. Summer Kosel, 17.34 seconds, $5,120; 2. Cindy Smith, 17.53, $4,237; 3. Andrea Busby, 17.57, $3,354; 4. (tie) Jamie Chaffin, Cheyenne Wimberley and Katie Pascoe, 17.65, $1,648 each.
Second Semifinal: 1. Leslie Smalygo, 17.16 seconds, $5,120; 2. Taycie Matthews, 17.28, $4,237; 3. Jessica Routier, 17.36, $3,354; 4. Rachelle Riggers, 17.47, $2,472; 5. Presley Smith, 17.50, $1,589; 6. Lisa Lockhart, 17.67, $883.
Finals: 1. Andrea Busby, 17.13 seconds, $10,240; 2. Leslie Smalygo, 17.21, $8,474; 3. Jessica Routier, 17.24, $6,709; 4. Presley Smith, 17.25, $4,943; 5. Katie Pascoe, 17.26, $3,178; 6. Taycie Matthews, 17.29, $1,765.