Jordon Briggs and Famous Lil Jet “Rollo,” have earned the $50,000 event championship not once, but two years in a row at RodeoHouston—and their tournament-style rodeo success doesn’t happen by accident.
Briggs and her 2021 WPRA AQHA Horse of the Year, Rollo, were already fresh off a reserve finish at The American Rodeo the week prior to the RodeoHouston finals. They claimed her second consecutive RodeoHouston Championship, keeping their momentum after The American and rodeos like the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.
Briggs, who is also the 2021 WPRA world champion barrel racer and 2022 reserve world champion, has become a lethal name not only on the ProRodeo trail or inside the Thomas & Mack, but she’s also known for being an ultra-consistent force inside the tournament-style winter rodeos in Texas.
After winning one round of her Super Series and placing in another, winning her Semifinals and the Championship Shootout round in Houston and banking $58,000, Briggs is sharing the top seven things she’s learned while playing the tournament-style rodeo games with the highest stakes, and some things she’s actively working on in her own mental and physical training to stay on top.
No. 1: Take advantage of practice times.
Jordon Briggs: Always go to barrel practice. Yeah, it might be 5 A.M., but you’ll feel good about it and it gives you confidence for the day to know that you’ve done all you can do for the day. It also gives your horse some exercise so they aren’t stiff for your runs.
Sometimes the ground isn’t perfect. Like at Houston, they had concerts on the arena every night, so the ground was sometimes hard or pretty rough in the mornings. It’s still worth it to go, even if you’re just walking or trotting around.
No. 2: Know your patterns.
JB: I get goosebumps every time I walk into NRG Stadium at RodeoHouston. Unless you’ve been there in person, you can’t imagine how big it is. And the barrel pattern is so hard.
You come out of the alleyway and the first barrel’s around the corner with no boundaries. If you get going too fast for the second and third barrel, you’ll slice them and get out of wack, but you have to have confidence on one that they’re going to turn at all.
This year, they bought new ground at Houston—and yes, you’ve got to get educated on the footing at these rodeos especially. We were basically the guinea pigs in the first Super Series and it was rough, but the crew worked hard and it was a lot better by the Championship rounds.
No. 3: Don’t get too proud.
JB: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—you can’t get too proud of your horse. I made that mistake at the NFR this year. I was so confident in Rollo that I backed off and didn’t keep him sharp. If you’ve got a great horse underneath you, there’s a reason they became great. Just because things are going well doesn’t mean you can stop doing those things.
In the sets, you can win a lot of money, and you’ve also got room to make mistakes. After winning the first night of my Super Series, hit a barrel in my second run. That could have been the end of it for me, but I recovered the next night and won enough to advance out of my set.
I made six runs at Houston, I’ve got hopefully another run at Rodeo Austin this weekend and then boom, San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo starts. Make too many mistakes or let off the throttle and you knock yourself out of these tournaments in the beginning. You have to go at every round like its own separate rodeo and show up for yourself and your horse every time.
No. 4: Run your own race.
JB: Sometimes I’ll find yourself watching the performances in person or on TV and I’ll get somebody else’s run—good or bad—stuck in my head. That can be pretty negative, so I’ll go and watch a few of my runs on repeat before I’m up. It’s important to find positives and keep that image in your head so that you’re only focused on your horse and your riding.
I really try to keep things positive. Even if I don’t have a great run from that arena, I’ll watch a good run from somewhere similar.
No. 5: Trust your horse.
JB: It’s important to trust your horse, too. You might see somebody slip ahead of you, but the second you let that affect your run you’ve already lost. You need to keep yourself and your horse safe, of course, but there’s six girls behind you who are going to go for it.
At Houston I was in Championship Round with Jessica Routier and Molly Otto. Jessica’s on (Fiery Miss West) Missy, and that mare would probably stand up on dust sprinkled over concrete, she’s talented.. Molly had already won checks at the bottom of her set in Houston, so you know (Teasin Dat Guy) Chewy can go for it. When you’re running against girls and horses like that, you may have to adjust your riding, or minor details—and you can get away with more in your sets, because those can sometimes go really well or be sort of rough. But when it comes down to the Finals and the big checks are on the line, you’ve already lost if you’re not going for it.
I know Rollo, he’s like a computer. He’s going to adjust and know what to do on any footing better than I do, so I have to trust him to do his job and not get in his way.
No. 6: Enter up if you want to—but be smart about it.
Entering is hard around the winter rodeos. RodeoHouston was partially over The American, Rodeo Austin and RodeoHouton overlapped, and if you were somebody that wanted to enter up more, there was Mercedes, Belton and other rodeos going on during Houston.
I choose to balance how many runs I want to make on Rollo while still setting myself up to get what I want when I enter. I can usually do that without many conflicts. Luckily, I haven’t had to leave the state of Texas, so I can’t complain very much about traveling, either. For some people, that’s much more of an issue because of the downtime between runs.
No. 7: Live—and ride—in the moment.
JB: In these sets at the winter rodeos, it’s easy to get caught up thinking about the next run. I’ve been telling myself, usually in the alley or one horse before I run that I need to be present in this moment. I need to be present in every step that I take with Rollo so that I can make another great run and get through each round. It’s helped me tremendously also, just to be present in life in every step I take.