When Minco, Oklahoma, barrel racer Dona Kay Rule and her 13-year-old sorrel speedster High Valor (Valiant Hero x Rare High x Rare Form) toured the cloverleaf during the short go at the San Angelo Rodeo on April 15, it was indeed a case of the best having been saved for last. From the bottom of the ground, the three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier kept her strangle-hold on the lead she had established going into the finals with a record run of 13.96. Not only did Rule dominate the $45,000-added barrel racing competition she won more than any other rodeo athlete in any event at San Angelo.
“It was really exciting,” exclaimed Rule. “I didn’t really know what had happened as far as how fast the time was until my husband came out there to the holding area because of course we can’t hear a thing back there. I was just staying busy with my mental preparation and didn’t really think about winning it.”
That same focus and determination had yielded Rule and Valor a 15.48 in round one, the entirety of which took place Monday, March 28, during a slack round at 1st Community Credit Union Spur Arena.
“I like the pen they hold slack in,” commented Rule. “It’s deeper type ground, but it’s good and safe.”
Placing second during slack for $4,948, Rule handily qualified for the Progressive round, which was run from slowest to fastest to position her second go on April 14 in Foster Communications Coliseum. Rule and Valor came back with a rapid 14.28 second run to split fifth with Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion Jordon Briggs and Famous Lil Jet in round 2 for another $2,474. Going into the short go Rule’s total on two of 29.76 was tied with Turquoise Circuit champ Shannon McReynolds for the top spot.
“If you’re confident in your horse and prepared then you hope you put yourself in a position to do well, that’s all you can do,” said Rule.
“Honestly, I think you can talk yourself into or out of winning. So, you have to really stay focused on the positive. Of course, I always pray beforehand. I pray for the safety of the people and the livestock. You have to stay your course and stay where you’re supposed to be.”
Rule’s expert riding and mental clarity yielded a flawless finals performance from Valor and the only sub-14 run during the course of the San Angelo Rodeo. Besting the field of 12 finals qualifiers added $4,276 to Rule’s earnings, while securing the aggregate win with a 43.72 on three banked her $8,660 for a total of $20,358.
“They said the finals run was a record,” said Rule. “I’m less of a statistician or the kind of person who keeps close track of that sort of thing, I guess because I’m focused on wanting them to work and when they do, I’m just so happy but it’s really cool to think about it might be a record.”
➡️ See the run here.
Announced as a new arena record, the run helped catapult Rule to third in the WPRA World Standings as of April 20 with $56,119. The victory didn’t come without its challenges as Rule explained.
“I really had to be extremely correct with my riding. I’ve had some trouble with my left leg recently, and I’ve been protecting it in my riding,” said Rule. “I had to work hard to correct my riding. It was a really cool deal that it worked out as well as it did. Valor acted like he felt really good, which is my focus every day to keep him ready and working and feeling his best.”
Signaling the end of the winter building run, San Angelo Rodeo worked into Rule and her husband John’s schedule well since they were both able to get away from the demands of their ranch and travel together.
“My husband was probably more excited than any person there,” she exclaimed. “We’ve been real busy, we’ve been calving. We branded and got it done to where he was able to get away. We’re 41 years in now so it’s pretty special that he could be there.”
From San Angelo, Rule was bound for rodeos in Lufkin and Athens, Texas, then on to Cheyenne, Oklahoma, but plans to ease around a bit this season.
“I do not have a big summer planned at this time,” said Rule when asked how heavily she’s entered up as spring gives way to summer. “It’s just Valor now so I plan to be very selective about where we run. My other horse Juice it turns out is not going to come back to competition, but the positive is that we still get to look at him every day so that’s a better alternative even though he’s not able to run. I have a young horse, but he’s not close to being ready for that in my opinion so that’s a ways off yet for him.”
Rule is however looking forward to competing north of the border at the Calgary Stampede this July and will work out the remainder of her summer schedule from there.
Via her Facebook page, Rule was incredulous that the fastest run of the rodeo came at the bottom of the ground and credited the committee and ground crew in San Angelo for their hard work: “I would like to say thank you to the committee and ground crew at San Angelo, 12th on the ground, last run of the rodeo, fastest time of the whole rodeo? Yes, they worked hard on it! I had great help too, John Rule even tagged along. Thank you all for all the kind words, you don’t know how much this means to me.”
Rule has a few tack items, including a couple of bits in her arsenal, that help keep Valor tuned up and ready for making record runs.
- “Valor is ridden daily in a Don Dodge three-piece snaffle. The snaffle stays on him ideally until it’s time to run him and then I run him in the Sherry Cervi twist with a short shank,” Rule said.
- “Also, the 5-Star pads, you can count on them every time,” she added. “I use a 7/8-inch thickness for Valor and a 3/4-inch on my other horse, it just depends on what you need with your particular saddle.”
- Fittingly, Rule rides a John Rule Saddlery saddle made by her husband on Valor, and uses Classic Equine protective leg gear.
Rule is appreciative of the roster of sponsors who help her successfully get up and down the road, which include Koolspeed Feed, 5 Star Equine Products, Express Ranches, Classic Equine, Deanna Harrison Essential Oils, Kentucky Equine Research, XLR8 Polyglycan, Jergens Equine, Flair Nasal Strips, Hart Trailers, and Vision Works Camera.
San Angelo Rodeo Results (prorodeo.com):
Barrel racing: First round: 1. Wenda Johnson, 15.47 seconds, $5,773; 2. Dona Kay Rule, 15.48, $4,948; 3. Ericka Nelson, 15.57, $4,124; 4. Margo Crowther, 15.58, $3,574; 5. (tie) Cassidy Champlin, Bayleigh Choate and Lisa Zachoda, 15.60, $2,199 each; 8. Shannon McReynolds, 15.64, $1,100; 9. Ivy Saebens, 15.65, $825; 10. Emily Mangione, 15.66, $550. Second round: 1. Shannon McReynolds, 14.12 seconds, $5,773; 2. Michelle Alley, 14.16, $4,948; 3. Chani Graves, 14.19, $4,124; 4. Kailee Murdock, 14.21, $3,574; 5. (tie) Jordon Briggs and Dona Kay Rule, 14.28, $2,474 each; 7. Sherry Cervi, 14.30, $1,649; 8. (tie) Shelley Morgan and McKenzie Morgan, 14.31, $962 each; 10. Laura Mote, 14.34, $550. Finals: 1. Dona Kay Rule, 13.96 seconds, $4,276; 2. (tie) Margo Crowther and McKenzie Morgan, 14.24, $2,673 each; 4. Ericka Nelson, 14.40, $1,069. Average: 1. Dona Kay Rule, 43.72 seconds on three head, $8,660; 2. Margo Crowther, 44.22, $7,423; 3. Wenda Johnson, 44.26, $6,186; 4. McKenzie Morgan, 44.27, $5,361; 5. Ericka Nelson, 44.36, $4,124; 6. Michelle Alley, 44.41, $3,299; 7. Lisa Zachoda, 44.43, $2,474; 8. Bayleigh Choate, 44.68, $1,649; 9. Shannon McReynolds, 49.15, $1,237; 10. Jordon Briggs, 49.35, $825.