FireWaterFrenchFame, better known as Apollo, captured the hearts of rodeo fans across the country with his rider, Summer Kosel throughout the 2023 ProRodeo season, and he took it one step farther by being awarded the 2023 WPRA Rising Star award in Las Vegas before his first run at the National Finals Rodeo.
The Rising Star Award, given in memory of Scoti Flit Bar, was created by past NFR qualifier Lana Merrick as a way of recognizing the year-long achievements of a horse that is making its first appearance at the NFR. This award is voted on by the top 15 barrel racers prior to the NFR.
Apollo recorded the first 16-second time at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in recorded history, carried South Dakota’s Kosel to her first NFR in 2023 and has earned over $200,000 in three years of his barrel racing career. But none of those are the reasons Kosel believes in her heart that her fellow top 15 barrel racers voted him to receive the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star Award.
Kosel learned about the award while standing on stage with the other 14 barrel racers at the WPRA Star Celebration luncheon on Thursday, Dec. 7.
“It caught me off guard to be honest,” Kosel said after an emotional acceptance of the award. “It’s pretty special to have other people recognize how special your horse is.”
It’s not about luck.
With tears streaming down her face and her voice choked with emotion, Kosel accepted Apollo’s Rising Star Award on Thursday. The realization may have hit that he was joining the likes of horses Famous Ladies Man, Ima Famous Babe, DM Sissy Hayday, Fame Fling and Bling, Slick By Design, RC Back In Black, Firewater Fiesta and Dash Ta Vanilla as a recipient. She made a powerful statement that isn’t just a fun quote, it’s a life motto for this professional barrel racer, wife and mother.
“I don’t believe in luck. Anybody who knows me knows that. You rarely hear me tell somebody ‘Good luck,’ before they run. I usually say ‘Have fun!’ or ‘Go get ’em!’ or something like that. I don’t believe in superstitions—I didn’t even know yellow was bad luck until Jordon Briggs mentioned it once last year—that’s all mind games you play with yourself.”
Getting Technical: Apollo’s style
“He never stops moving when he turns a barrel,” Kosel explained. “He’s not really round like other horses, but he has this cow horse style that allows him to stand up in arenas where a lot of horses can’t. He also just has such a willing attitude and wants to please all the time.”
The 2024 gelding by Aint Seen Nothing Yet and out of Fire Water Flyer by Fire Water Flit was originally started as a tie-down roping horse before a friend of Kosel’s set the gelding on a barrel racing path. She purchased Apollo about 90 days after his start on the barrel pattern. Kosel is a cowgirl when she’s at home as well as on the rodeo road, so Apollo still gets plenty of exposure on her family’s ranch with cattle.
A testament to his athleticism and consistency, Apollo broke the longstanding Cheyenne Frontier Days arena record in 2022, then returned in 2023 to break that record and clock the first recorded sub 17-second time in Cheyenne. Although he’s excelled in larger, outdoor arenas, Kosel didn’t have full confidence in Apollo’s ability in small, indoor setups well into 2023, but Apollo put any uncertainty to bed at the Cinch Playoffs Governor’s Cup in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with a top-eight finish in the last week of the season.
Due to Apollo’s light responses, Kosel frequently slow works and exercises the gelding in a halter. Stay tuned for a full story on Kosel’s philosophy behind halter work.