New Team, Same Dreams: Wenda Johnson and Highpoint Barrel Horses Team Up

Wenda Johnson and Highpoint barrel horses have teamed up to become one of the most deadly teams at the National Finals Rodeo in 2022.
Wenda Johnson barrel racing at the 2022 National Finals Rodeo
Wenda Johnson and "Mo," in round 1 of the 2022 NFR. Image by Ric Andersen/CBarC Photography

Wenda Johnson is a mother, doctor, and three-time NFR qualifier.

So, she didn’t have time to live on the ProRodeo trail this year. Johnson punched her NFR ticket in just 31 rodeos and earned $121,594.27 in the ProRodeo regular season.

Mounted on geldings who spent their early years in Quarter Horse racing—Steal Money “Mo,” and MacGyver Moonflash “Mac,”— Johnson has perfected her rodeo routine. 

Maximizing Rodeo Opportunites

“From the beginning of riding these geldings, I saw the importance of utilizing each run they make and [I] am consciences not to over-run them,” Johnson said. “My goal is to do my best at each event I compete and take it a run at a time. At no point do I worry about the end result of the year. If we make the (NFR) that’s exciting.”

Johnson may not be a psychiatrist by professional trade—she’s a Nurse Practitioner—but her mindset may just earn her a gold buckle in Las Vegas. Johnson finished in the No. 1 position in the opening round of the 2022 NFR and in the third-place slot in the second round, earning $46,168.65 in just two days in Las Vegas. Her No. 1 position in the early aggregate race is shaping up to allow her to challenge reigning world champion, Jordon Briggs, for the 2022 gold buckle.

For the Love of the Horse: Wenda Johnson Wins Round 1 of the 2022 NFR

Johnson got into the rodeo game at the bidding of Tres Mesa Horses after a 10-year hiatus off from the rodeo circuit. They asked if she would enter the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo aboard one of their geldings, and she obliged.

Johnson worked her way up from earning around $8,000 in 2019, to blasting her way to the Thomas & Mack three times and boasting well over $300,000 in ProRodeo earnings. Mac has been on Johnson’s team for all three NFR appearances, but Mo joined the team in 2021.

5 Questions with WPRA World Standings Leader and Fort Worth Barrel Racing Champ Wenda Johnson

“Both geldings were originally purchased by Tres Mesa Horses off the track,” Johnson said. “Their barn manager, Luis Hernandez, trained them and I jockey them.”

HighPoint has Entered the Chat

Johnson’s success led to the attention of one of the major owners in the ProRodeo game: Highpoint Barrel Horses. In August of 2022, owners Charlie Cole and Jason Martin finalized the purchase of Mo and Mac, but things didn’t change much for Johnson or the geldings.

“Highpoint kept our entire team in place; nothing really changed,” Johnson said. “I really admire that they came in with an attitude of ‘What you’re doing is working. What can we do to help you be successful?”

Highpoint’s interest in Johnson and her gelding stemmed from Johnson’s relentless commitments inside and outside the arena.

“I’ve watched her since she started rodeoing five years ago,” Cole said. “She does a very impressive job and she’s known for having the fastest horses. Those are two of the fastest horses I’ve ever seen.” 

As geldings, the two don’t provide obvious benefits to Highpoint’s successful breeding program—usually stallions and mares are their pick. However, Cole and Martin are playing the long game. While breeding is important to Highpoint’s mission, the NFR has its own allure.

“We love the experience of the NFR,” Cole said. “(Wenda) can win a lot of money and we know our investment can be won back, but, mostly we’re here to enjoy the ride, build relationships and just have fun.” 

Mental Mindfulness  

With a workload such as Johnson’s there are a lot of opportunities to become overwhelmed. Luckily, the 41-year-old’s experience as a mother to two girls, as well as advice from her own mother, has put things into perspective. 

“It is so important to be tuned into what the horses need, and build their confidence and love for running,” Johnson said. “As a rider, mental game is essential and keeping a quiet, focused mind can assist in helping your horse. Life is always a balancing act, and it is important to balance all aspects of life. Every day, I work towards prioritizing what needs to be done first and go from there.”