Ranger, Georgia, resident Julie Thomas won $6,222 over four rounds at IFR 52 as she fought to maintain her No. 1 position in the year-end standings. Thomas finished the 2021 season with $33,676 in earnings and her second consecutive International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) World Championship gold buckle.
Going into IFR 52, Thomas was seated in the No. 1 position with a lead of around $3,000. Knowing that all four rounds at IFR 52 offered a payout of $,1779, and the aggregate would pay double that amount, her position was not going to be safe if she didn’t perform well.
“My game plan was to take one run at a time, one barrel at a time. I wanted to make four consistent, clean runs,” said Thomas, a three-time IFR qualifier.
Her plan served her well. Thomas, the first barrel racer to run, captured the first round with a 17.377-second run. Thomas came out of her first run frustrated, before realizing a key change had been made since past IFR’s at the Lazy E Arena.
“I thought, where did I lose my time? The year before we ran in the upper 16’s,” Thomas said. “Then, I remembered that they changed the pattern.”
She managed to keep all the barrels standing to place in the second and fourth rounds, with a 17.546-second run, and a 17.337-second run, respectively. A close call during round three nearly cost Thomas her spot in the aggregate, but she recovered to turn in a time of 17.621 seconds. The save paid off. Thomas finished second in the aggregate with a time of 69.881 seconds, just behind Wendy Chesnut’s impressive time of 69.726 seconds over four runs.
Thomas rode The Cool Zippy Zevi, a 2006 sorrel gelding by Zippy Zevi Dasher and out of The Cool Shadow, a champion mare that Linda Gail-Stewart jockeyed. “Amos,” as the gelding is known, is the same horse that captured Thomas’ first IPRA World Championship a year ago.
Amos had a reputation for being a problem child when Thomas purchased him nearly a decade ago. Thomas spent the first year of their partnership ensuring that Amos had the proper nutrition, exercise, and care regimen, and she built up a relationship with the gelding that helped him overcome his past demons. Once the duo hit the rodeo road, they never looked back.
“I started rodeoing on Amos about the time he turned 8. He likes it a lot better than barrel races,” Thomas explained. “He feeds off the energy and likes a loud rodeo with a lot of excitement.”
Winning the IPRA World wasn’t on Thomas’ mind at the start of 2021. Her Ranger, Georgia, zip code is a prime location to attend IPRA events throughout the year.
“We’re lucky where I live. There’s a lot of IPRA rodeos and co-sanctioned IPRA rodeos, so I didn’t have to travel that much,” Thomas explained. “It may sound like a lot, but besides the World Champions Rodeo Alliance Major in Corpus Christi, Texas, I never had to go further than four or five hours.”
Despite the distance, Corpus Christi, Texas, proved to be Thomas’ favorite rodeo of 2021. A mother of two sons who are avid ropers, Thomas loves that the IPRA gives her the opportunity to compete alongside Logan (18) and Tate (20). Tate is a student at Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas, and Thomas had the opportunity to compete alongside Tate, who qualified in the tie-down roping, in 2021 at Rodeo Corpus Christi.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Rodeo Corpus Christi. It was a bucket list rodeo for me,” she said. “To have that experience with my son at the same time was great.”
Growing up on her family’s ranch in Western Texas and being involved with rodeo her entire life gave Thomas a deep appreciation and love for the sport at an early age, but now it has become even more important thanks to her high-stress career. Thomas is an assistant principal at a primary school, and she noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has created new obstacles and stress for those in education.
“When I leave work, I’m ready to just decompress. Being able to go to the barn and just exercise and care for my horses gives me an outlet to relax, refresh, and come back strong.”
A past champion of the Southeastern Circuit Finals, Thomas plans to attend both circuit rodeos and IPRA events around her work schedule in 2022. Many may notice an unfamiliar face alongside Amos, as Thomas has a mare she will be hauling in order to ease Amos’ workload as the mare learns the ropes of the rodeo trail.
IFR 52-Guthrie, Oklahoma
1. Julie Thomas, 17.377-second run, worth $1,777.78
2. Wendy Chesnut, 17.490-second run, worth $1,333.33
3. Stephanie Joyner, 17.633-second run, worth $888.89
4. Lauren Smith 17.643-second run, worth $444.44
1. Alex Dollar 17.365-second run, worth $1,777.78
2. Stephanie Joyner 17.493-second run, worth $1,333.33
3. Julie Thomas 17.546-second run, worth $888.89
4. Wendy Chesnut 17.553-second run, worth $444.44
1. Jessica Hopkins, 17.283-second run, worth $1,777.78
2. Kindyl Scruggs 17.313-second run, worth $1,333.33
3. Wendy Chesnut 17.349-second run, worth $888.89
4. Stephanie Joyner 17.547-second run, worth $444.44
1. Kindyl Scruggs, 17.313-second run, worth $1,777.78
2. Wendy Chesnut 17.334-second run, worth $1,333.33
3. Julie Thomas 17.337-second run, worth $888.89
4. Danielle Bowser 17.433-second run, worth $444.44
- Wendy Chesnut, 69.726 seconds on four, worth $3,555.56
- Julie Thomas, 69.881 seconds on four, worth $2,666.67
- Kindyl Scruggs, 69.938 seconds on four, worth $1,777.78
- Stephanie Joyner, 70.125 seconds on four, worth $888.89