Football Field or Basketball Court: Stevi Hillman and Sand In My Socks Prove Versatility with NFR Round Win

Stevi Hillman rode Sandi to victory on an electric night of NFR barrel racing during Round 2.
Stevi Hillman NFR barrel racing
Stevi Hillman and Sandi won Round 2 of the 2023 NFR. Ric Andersen Photography.

Sand in My Socks topped an incredibly tight night of barrel racing during Round 2 of the National Finals Rodeo with Stevi Hillman after a downed barrel in Round 1.

Hillman bested Summer Kosel’s 13.63 by just .01 to earn the $30,706,41 win in the No. 10 position on the ground. The victory marks Hillman’s first since 2021, when she topped two rounds on Famous Lemon Drop at the Granbury, Texas, cowgirl’s eighth NFR.

“Every year brings its challenges—last year was hard for us—this year was tough to (qualify). There were ups and downs—everybody has them. It makes it mentally tough, but then it makes it sweet to be here, go down this alley,. Last night I hit a barrel but still came out with a huge smile on my face. I’m just grateful to be here.”

Stevi Hillman

After barely knocking the first barrel coming out of the turn during Round 1 to clock a 13.87, Hillman came back with a vengeance into her first barrel and rode aggressively through all three turns, executing her pre-determined game plan flawlessly.

“(Sandi) has grown up a bunch,” Hillman said. “My leg got in the way last night, so tonight my job was to ride her square and let her do her job. It was fun to have her all year long, get to know her better and bring her back again this year.”

The 2023 NFR marks the first Hillman has had the opportunity to ride the same main horse two consecutive years. Hillman sang nothing but praises for the small, red mare, who won the Pendleton Round-Up in September to clinch Hillman’s NFR qualification in an impressive display of raw speed. Just over two months later, Sandi proved that she can find the balance between controlled turns and her wicked speed on the basketball court covered in dirt that is the Thomas & Mack.


2023 NFR countdown: Entering No. 12 is Stevi Hillman. Hometown: Granbury, Texas 2023 Earnings: $109,022.49 NFR Horses: Sand In My Socks, “Sandi,” RV Brijett, Morning Traffic “Martini.” Hillman will enter her seventh #NFR in the barrel racing in 2023. She rode the bubble during the tail end of the 2023 ProRodeo regular season, then turned in this smoking 28.23-second run at the #PendletonRoundup to earn the $1,860 short round win and $5,709 aggregate victory with a time of 56.90 seconds on two head, which helped clinch her NFR qualification. Hillman is a beloved fixture inside the Thomas & Mack and is known for her unique, aggressive jockeying style. and @the.moneybarrel are your home for all things 2023 NFR barrel racing, thanks to @Equinety. #BarrelRacing #Cowgirl #SteviHillman #Rodeo #ProRodeo

♬ Can’t Stop Me Now – The Score

“She’s amazing,” Hillman said. “I know she’s super fast. To go win Pendleton like that and then come into these little pens and still do great, it just speaks volumes to that horse’s talent. She’s amazing and I’m super grateful to be her jockey.”

Hillman made more than riding adjustments in the past year—she changed up from her faithful Kathy James two-piece that she’s used to take five horses to the top at NFR appearances.

“It’s bit that fit my hands,” Hillman explained. “I rode (Slick By Design, MCM ImASharpGuy, Cuatro Fame, Famous Lemon Drop) in it at the NFR. I didn’t know (Sandi) extremely well yet (at last year’s NFR) and I fought the next few months with it. It felt okay, but like there was something better for her. I played with bits for a while. I don’t even like a combination bit usually, but she likes it and does well—I think she likes to push her nose into it—so we do what works for her. I don’t even like combination bits but she lieks it, does well—I think she likes to push her nose into it—we do what works for her.”

“She’s an intense mare, she tries really hard. She never gets riled up, she’s just aggressive.”

Stevi Hillman

Go-round breakdown

“I was tenth out and kept hearing the times get faster,” Hillman said. “It was fun to get fired up before I ran. I knew the ground must have been good and I could trust my horse’s feet.”

The times were definitely tight together and wicked fast in the Saturday evening show. After multiple cowgirls struggled with the ground in Round 1, the WPRA, barrel racers and Randy Spraggins worked closely together to fix things up on Round 2, which saw consistent times clocked through the entire set of 15. Round 1 winner, Sissy Winn was the only one to knock a barrel over in the pack, and there was less than .30 between No. 1 and 14 in the pack.

1Stevi Hillman13.62$30,706.41
2Summer Kosel13.63$24,267.97
3Lisa Lockhart13.67$18,324.97
4Emily Beisel13.7$12,876.88
5Jessica Routier13.71$6,438.44
6Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi13.71$6,438.44
7Wenda Johnson13.73
8Kassie Mowry13.74
9Jordon Briggs13.76
10Paige Jones13.79
11Taycie Matthews13.81
12Sue Smith13.82
13Hailey Kinsel13.83
14Ilyssa Riley13.91
15Sissy Winn23.71