If there’s one thing that The Badland Circuit’s Jessica Routier and Fiery Miss West have figured out, it’s how to absolutely dominate a barrel racing competition on any type of ground conditions, and that paid off in a big victory at the 2023 Pikes Peak or Bust NFR Open in Colorado Springs.
Thanks to her $18,887 in total NFR Open earnings and $5,333 earned at the Calgary Stampede, Routier rocketed to No. 10 in the WPRA world standings as of July 18, 2023 with $67,465.32 in total earnings across just 25 rodeos.
NFR Open play-by-play
Routier was rock solid through the first two rounds of competition, showing up in 17.34 seconds, worth $3,091 in the first round and earning $2,060 for a fourth-place finish in the second round in 17.36 seconds.
“It was dry when we ran our first two runs,” Routier explained. “But it was very hard. I got kind of nominated to go discuss it with the tractor driver, who was awesome to work with. They went in and ripped it and worked hard to make it good for us.”
What the athletes and ground crew didn’t anticipate, however, was the downpour that hit the arena on Friday evening after they worked the dirt.
“It kind of always looks like it’s going to rain at Colorado Springs, but it usually gets cloudy and goes away,” Routier explained. “This did not. It downpoured. I still think the ground being ripped up helped, though, because it seemed to hold horses better in the mud than it did dry. It’s not as fast after that much water, but it’s safe.”
Routier went on to add that the Pikes Peak or Bust Committee was outstanding, but he bar is truly being raised for ground conditions on the ProRodeo trail across the board in 2023.
One of Missy’s claims to fame is her ability to handle the muddiest of arenas and fly on top of the ground, but there was another team in the pack that also favored inclimate weather—and they also happen to have a gold buckle.
“You’re never guaranteed a win in the mud when Nellie (Miller) and Sister are entered,” Routier said
Routier cleared the pack in the eight-man with a 17.69-second run, amassing $6,868 and punching her ticket to the four-man shootout. Behind her, Miller, Abigail Knight and Ilyssa Riley also qualified through to the final round.
In the final four, Routier once again turned in a 17.69 and banked an additional $6,868 to clinch the win.
Pro Tips: Mud Runs and The Money Barrel
Here’s the truth–mud runs are hard. Spare the footing around the barrels, there’s a ton of variables to consider: to use leg gear or not? How to keep your horse dry? How to get the mud off?
“There’s been a lot of mud runs this summer,” Routier said. “Sometimes it feels like you run in mud, then drive all night, unload your horses and run in the mud again in the morning.”
Routier broke down her top tips from the NFR Open and other rodeos on the summer run to give fans an idea of what goes on behind-the-scenes into pulling off great trips in the mud.
1. Keep them dry
This one may seem obvious, but when there’s inclimate weather on the ProRodeo trail, it can be hard to keep your horse safe and dry. Routier isn’t normally one to get stalls at arenas—she sets up a small enclosure for her two horses—but she opted for a stall when the rainstorm hit in Colorado Springs and laid down extra shavings to keep Missy comfortable. However, sometimes there’s no sheltering options at the rodeo grounds and nowhere close by when a storm hits on the rodeo trail.
2. Get creative
With just an hour in between the final two rounds in Colorado Springs, Routier had to improvise on a way to keep Missy clean and dried off in between runs. Not only did she bring an extra saddle, pad and set of polo wraps (she opts to go without bell boots in deep mud) Routier went the extra mile to ensure Missy was feeling fresh.
3. Make adjustments for your horse
Routier’s first barrel turns were wicked at Colorado Springs, and she lends a large part of Missy’s success to her setup for the turn, which she’s adjusted over the past year in specific arenas.
4. …But let them work.
This one’s pretty self explanatory.
What’s next for Jessica Routier?
The morning after the NFR Open finals, Routier was en route to Gillette, Wyoming, to watch her son cut at the National High School Finals Rodeo. The plan’s to let Missy have a break in the pasture at a family member’s home close by, then she’s back to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the slack on Wednesday.
“A win like this takes a lot of the pressure off,” Routier said. “That means I get to stay close to home when the kids are back in school and not haul as much. The circuit system works out great for our family because I don’t like to travel as much and I like the rodeos in our circuit anyway.”