The Sandhills Stock Show & Rodeo, held January 6-8 and 13-15 at the Ector County Coliseum in Odessa, Texas, kicked off the 2022 winter run of building rodeos. The $5,000-added rodeo was also a qualifying event for Rodeo Houston—the richest of winter rodeos—and drew 255 entries.
Five-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Cheyenne Wimberley and Royal Blue Fame (“Chewy”) won the rodeo out of January 10 slack, picking up $5,255 for a run of 14.06.
Recently crowned Turquoise Circuit Champion Shannon McReynolds and her gray mare Minie Gun and leading aged event trainer Janna Brown and Jets Top Gun, owned by Busby Quarter Horses, tied for second with identical runs of 14.18. Each pocketed $3,810, but McReynolds, a nurse from La Luz, New Mexico, earned the right to compete at Rodeo Houston.
Wimberley, who finished 13th in the 2021 WPRA World Standings, already had an automatic invite to Rodeo Houston. McReynolds and Brown were the highest placed members not already qualified. However, the Rodeo Houston invite went to McReynolds as she was ranked higher in the 2021 WPRA World Standings.
A West Texas native, Wimberley has a long history with the Sandhills Stock Show & Rodeo.
“I’m from El Paso and my mom was raised in that Andrews, Odessa area,” said Wimberley, who got her WPRA card when she was just 11 before minimum age-restriction was in place. “Odessa from El Paso was one of our closest rodeos. I’ve been going to Odessa my whole entire life, truly. The arena hasn’t changed, but the pattern sure has. It’s an obstacle course.”
Her beast of a horse, Chewy, excelled on the long run to the first, short run to the second – “about 60 feet,” Wimberley noted—and was able to power through the heavier footing thanks to her second position on the ground.
“He’s a big horse,” she said, describing the gelding who is owned by his breeder Steve Hurlbert, a racetrack veterinarian. “He’s not as tall as you would think, but he’s massive. He’s a big study, powerful horse. The way he turns, he’s the kind of horse that you’ve got to keep up with all the time.”
The Dash Ta Fame gelding, out of the Royal Blue Chew Chew mare Eyes Are Blue, is known for being a handful outside of the arena, so Wimberley has brought him along slowly even though he excelled on the pattern as a futurity horse.
“He turned 8 so maybe he’s going to participate,” Wimberley laughed. “Maybe he’s finally growing up.”
Wimberley got Chewy as a freshly-cut gelding late in his second year. The rambunctious youngster forced her to think outside the box with her training.
“He was big and overruling,” she said. “He’s come a long way, but it’s taken a long time. I’ve appreciated the process. He’s made me learn more horsemanship. He’s made me get out of the box. He’s really been a gift. As hard as he’s been it’s been rewarding in a lot of ways when you do get things conquered and moving in the right direction.”
Chewy, who picked up futurity checks with Wimberley as a 4-year-old and won the AQHA Junior Barrel Racing Reserve World Championship with Lance Graves aboard, contributed to Wimberley’s fourth and fifth NFR appearances in 2020 and 2021. He still makes a lot of his runs in slack and doesn’t have as much indoor experience because of his antics in the warmup and holding areas.
“As hard as he is outside the pen, he’s such a barrel horse inside the pen,” she said. “It’s just getting him used to what’s going on inside there (in the holding and warm-up areas). I think he’ll get used to it. The training side of me says we’ve come a long way, but there’s times when you have to test yourself and trust the process.”
The Training Side
Wimberley, who has her own real estate business CW Horse Properties and shares Cowboy Classic Saddlery with her family, has always trained horses throughout her rodeo career, but the “training side” is rapidly becoming more appealing than full time rodeo, especially with the breeding incentives making aged events—futurities and derbies—so much more lucrative.
“I’ve always trained something,” she said. “I like to train. It just takes me a little bit longer, so I like the 5-year-old futurities better. If you rodeo, you get behind and then have to catch up (with the training).”
Last year, running on a limited schedule, Wimberley guided A Streak Ta The Moon, a daughter of leading barrel horse sire A Streak Of Fling out of her good Dash Ta Fame rodeo mare Dash Ta Suz, to earnings of nearly $60,000 at the futurities.
“I didn’t hardly get to take her, and she won almost as much as I did on the rodeo side,” noted Wimberley, who won $111,299 during the 2021 rodeo season. “I think the way that industry is moving financially, if you want to play the game, that’s what you need to get in because the incentive programs are making it to where you can make money. I think there were five futurity horses that won over $200,000 and Fragile won about $60,000 when I was able to go. That makes you want to reevaluate a little bit.”
Plus, rodeoing year-round has left her a little road foundered.
“I’m getting a little tired of keeping it between the mustard and mayonnaise,” she said, referring to the endless driving. “You get tired of the road.”
In fact, the driving is what made her backoff from rodeo after her first two NFR qualifications in 1997 and 1998. Even though she wants to focus on aged events more, Wimberley still has plans to rodeo within reason, making another NFR is not out of the question.
“Am I going to go to some rodeos? For sure,” she said. “I’ll go to the ones that I think my horses will like and maybe try not to kill myself doing it. If it works, great, but I’m not going to kill myself doing it anymore.”
She said she’d like to stay within the Top 40 to be eligible for future winter rodeos because they’re in her home state, plus she needs somewhere to run her talented older horses.
“When you have older horses the caliber that I have, they’ve got to go somewhere,” she said. “I’m probably not going to stay in the heat of Texas in July and August but that doesn’t mean I’m going to live in my trailer going 50,000 miles a week either!”
Sand Hills Stock Show & Rodeo Barrel Racing Results: 1. Cheyenne Wimberley, 14.06 seconds, $5,255; 2. (tie) Shannon McReynolds and Janna Brown, 14.18, $3,810 each; 4. Gabbie Grothe, 14.19, $2,627; 5. (tie) Loni Lester, Katie Halbert, Amanda Welsh and Halyn Lide, 14.24, $1,544 each; 9. (tie) Taycie Matthews, Karen Little and Ari-Anna Flynn, 14.26, $920 each; 12. Skylar Eisinger, 14.27, $657; 13. Jill Wilson, 14.29, $525; 14. (tie) Carly Taylor and Sonya Dodginghorse, 14.30, $328 each.
For more on Chewy’s story and Wimberley’s journey check out her instructional videos on Barrelracing.com, which are slated for release.