Inflation and its effect on diesel prices may be dominating the financial news for rodeo folks in the first half of 2022, but there is also some good news on the income side of the ProRodeo balance sheet for Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racers this year.
For barrel racers competing in ProRodeo, the bottom end of their top 10 rodeos list is an impressive $45,000 in committee added purse. There are 41 more rodeos on the schedule with at least $10,000 added. Clearly, the rodeo business has bounced back well from COVID.
It’s important to note that this list only includes regular season rodeos. Excluded are championship events such as the NFR Open powered by RAM to be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado in July and the NFR Playoff in Puyallup, Washington in September. The NFR Open is open to the top circuit competitors from 2021, while the NFR Playoff is based on those standings.
Every rodeo inside the top 10 is a stop on the NFR Playoff Series in 2022 with the lone exception of the Ponoka Stampede.
9/10. San Angelo, Texas, sanangelorodeo.com
Date: 4/1/2022 to 4/15/2022
Added Money: $45,000
The west Texas cowtown of San Angelo has hosted a professional rodeo since 1935 and their livestock show is the fourth largest in the nation by entries. The festivities bring 150,000 spectators to town each year.
The San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo is one of the last “old school” rodeos employing a traditional format instead of the more pervasive tournament style. Along with Cheyenne, it is also the only other rodeo in the top 10 which does not limit entries, making it a favorite of the barrel racers.
The rodeo is one round in the Spur Arena, next door to Foster Communications Coliseum. Annually getting more than 200 contestants, the first go is often one of the toughest rounds of pro barrel racing of the year. The top 120 from that round move over to the Coliseum for the 10 performances, held over the course of three weeks, before the top 12 in the average advance to the short round.
Thanks to the unlimited entries, San Angelo is a big windfall to the winner every year. In 2022, Dona Kay Rule earned the title, picking up a whopping $20,358 for her three runs.
[Read More: Spring Thaw: San Angelo Barrel Racing Sizzles]
9/10. Austin, Texas, rodeoaustin.com
Date: 3/12/2022 to 3/26/2022
Added Money: $45,000
Another stop on the major winter rodeo run in Texas, RodeoAustin is part of a fair that began in 1938 with just 16 animals being shown; today it’s part of a month-long experience with 15 rodeo performances. Like its peers, Austin raises funds for scholarships, a total of $8.7 million during its history.
Austin is a hybrid tournament type event: the 88 contestants all get one run in a qualifying round with the fastest 24 advancing to a Playoff round. From there, the top eight advance to the Finals for the sudden death championship.
Destri Devenport claimed the RodeoAustin championship in 2022, earning $13,239 for her three runs in the capital city.
8. Denver, Colorado, nationalwestern.com
Date: 1/13/2022 to 1/23/2022
Added Money: $53,875
The National Western Stock Show & Rodeo boasts more than two weeks of rodeo, bull riding, horse shows and, of course, livestock shows. More than 700,000 people attend the events at the National Western Complex each January.
For its rodeo, Denver is similar to Austin in format except the 80 entries each get two runs inside the Denver Coliseum to advance to the Semi-Finals rounds. The 24 Semi-Finalists run in one of three perfs on the final Saturday with the top 4 from each perf moving on to the Finals on Sunday to run for the title.
As the first major rodeo of the season, the National Western is always one to watch as everyone sets out with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on their goal list. Success in Denver can often set a contestant up for the year.
Perhaps no one has had more success on Denver’s notorious “tipped” barrel pattern than World Champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi. She claimed her fifth title, on a third horse, in 2022 when she and “Birdie,” Babe On The Chase, took the win worth $11,847.
7. Ponoka, Alberta Canada, ponokastampede.com
Date: 6/27/2022 to 7/3/2022
Added Money: $55,000
Eights are key in Ponoka in 2022—80,000 fans a year, $800,000 prize money, 800 volunteers for the 86th anniversary of the Ponoka Stampede.
Returning after a two-year COVID hiatus, Ponoka has eight total performances. In addition to traditional rodeo events, there are chuckwagon races, kids’ wild pony racing and women’s ranch bronc riding. The Stampede was the first Canadian rodeo to win the PRCA’s Remuda Award, given for having the best and most consistent set of broncs. They won the award in 2012. The Stampede has also been the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association Committee of the Year 13 times.
Ponoka is a barrel-hunting horse’s paradise — barrels are placed out in the middle of the huge arena without a fence in sight.
In the barrel racing, the rodeo is limited to 96 competitors and each lady gets one run with the 12 fastest advancing to the Finals on July 3 in a matinee. After the champions are crowned based on the two-head average, the four best are given a chance at the night show—the Showdown which pays $7,500 to the winner.
6. Reno, Nevada, renorodeo.com
Date: 6/17/22 to 6/25/22
Added Money: $62,500
The Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West makes the cut once again. Hosting its 103rd rodeo in 2022, the Reno Rodeo is the one that unofficially kicks off summer in most rodeo contestants’ minds. It’s just a fun rodeo for competitors—nine nightly performances in front of huge, usually quite raucous crowds, along with a huge purse and position just ahead of the Fourth of July run keep Reno high on everyone’s list.
The barrel race is open to 96 ladies, and everyone competes in a back-to-back format, morning slack to night perf. The top 12 on two head make the Finals on Saturday night, June 25 and the winner gets a pair of silver spurs along with a great momentum boost for the long month of July on the rodeo trail.
5. Cheyenne, Wyoming, cfdrodeo.com
Date: 7/22/22 to 7/31/22
Added Money: $67,000
Known as the Daddy of ‘Em All, Cheyenne Frontier Days often marks the decision point for many rodeo athletes . . . keep on the road and trying for the Wrangler NFR or head home to regroup for the next year?
The big Cheyenne payout is a large reason this decision happens after the legendary rodeo. Contestants can take home a sizable chunk of money if they score big in Cheyenne, like 2021 Champ Hailey Kinsel who earned $17,009.
With nine days of action, Cheyenne is unlimited to all takers—about 250 in a normal year. There is a qualifying round to make the performances. Seventy-two ladies move on and then the tournament format kicks in. Four from each of six perfs move on to the Semi-Finals and six from each Semi-Finals go on to the Finals. The fastest time in the Finals gets to etch their name in the record books, picking up the famous prize package which includes a saddle and buckle.
4. Fort Worth, Texas, fwssr.com
Date: 1/21/2022 to 2/5/2022
Added Money: $125,600
The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show is one of the oldest rodeos on the schedule with the tagline, This Thing is Legendary!® because, well, it is. From becoming the World’s Original Indoor Rodeo in 1918 when the rodeo began in Cowtown Coliseum, to many years in Will Rogers Coliseum to its new home, Dickies Arena, likely the only modern stadium built for rodeo first, Fort Worth has always been a big darn deal.
Eighteen of the show’s 25 performances are dedicated to the PRCA/WPRA rodeo with 56 contestants working through the seven preliminary brackets. Following two rounds, the top two in money won advance to the Semi-Finals while third place goes to the Wild Card round. The Non-Qualifier pool gives one more shot at the Wild Card to everyone who places fourth in each bracket.
Two advance from the Wild Card to the Semi-Finals and five from each group of Semi-Finalists work their way to the Finals, which is sudden death for the title.
In 2022 Wenda Johnson set a pair of new arena records en route to a $24,520 payday and the championship.
3. San Antonio, Texas, sarodeo.com
Date: 2/10/2022 to 2/26/2022
Added Money: $180,000
The big winter money continues from Denver to Fort Worth right into San Antonio, the third big stock show rodeo in a row for rodeo athletes to begin the season. There are no entry fees at San Antonio and the hospitality is famous, just a few of the reasons that contestants have voted the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo the Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year for the PRCA a record 14 times.
With 19 performances, San Antonio is also a tournament rodeo, with 50 contestants who work their way through three rounds in brackets, a Semi-Finals, and the Finals. The champion is determined based on total money won throughout the rodeo and with the final round paying $15,000, the champ is usually (but not always) the Final round winner.
Three-time WPRA World Champion Hailey Kinsel (check out Hailey’s podcast on The Money Barrel!) earned her third San Antonio title in 2022. She won a total of $24,000 during the rodeo.
[Read More: San Antonio Spurs Kinsel to No. 1]
2. Houston, Texas, rodeohouston.com
Date: 2/28/2022 to 3/19/2022
Added Money: $218,500
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has long been near the top of the list of the WPRA’s most lucrative events, ever since 2022 ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee Ardith Bruce won the first, then-GRA barrel race there in 1966. Bruce won $798 for her five go rounds of work that year.
Today, RodeoHouston is a tournament rodeo limited to the 40 WPRA barrel racers. Athletes compete in preliminary, three-run Super Series contests with the top four money winners moving on to the Semi-Finals. There’s a Wild Card as a last ditch to making the Championship and the final day is two rounds for a $50,000 payoff.
Reigning WPRA World Champ Jordon Briggs claimed her first RodeoHouston title in 2022, winning $60,000 to climb to number one in the 2022 WPRA World standings with a lead of nearly $30,000.
1. Calgary, Alberta Canada, calgarystampede.com
Date: 7/8/2022 to 7/17/2022
Added Money: $244,000
The Calgary Stampede returns with a WPRA-sanctioned barrel race in 2022 after the show went on without sanctioning a year ago. The 2021 rodeo was one of the first in Canada to happen with crowds post COVID, welcoming over half a million visitors. Canadian cowgirl Bertina Olafson claimed the title, the first Canadian to do so since Lindsay Sears in 2008.
[Read More: Barrel Racing with Lindsay Sears and Martha]
\In 2022 the Stampede features 22 WPRA barrel racers with four earning the right to play in Calgary’s huge arena through a CS Qualifier—meaning anyone can race their way to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth to challenge the champs for the $100,000 Showdown purse, half of which counts toward the WPRA World standings.
Competitors are divided into two pools; each group runs four times with the top four money earners advancing straight to the Semi-Finals while the rest go to the Wild Card for one last shot at making the final day.
The last day consists of a round of 10 with the top four moving into the Showdown Round for the title. Unique to the Stampede, if there is a tie in the final round, up to two more rounds will be contested until a champ is decided, something that’s only happened once in the barrels since the tournament format. That year, 2006, Joleen Seitz beat June Holeman in a runoff after the pair tied in the Showdown.