EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the August 2011 of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to contribute regularly to the magazine.
TR Dashing Badger just wasn’t herself. Jill Moody felt that in every ride, in every turn. She got through Reno, Nev., then she felt some problems in Greeley, Colo.
Moody wasn’t very far into her Fourth of July run when she realized things had to change in a hurry, so she and her top-rated horse packed up and hauled home to Letcher, S.D.
“Over the Fourth of July, I turned out of a bunch of stuff because my horse wasn’t feeling right,” said Moody, less than seven months off her record-breaking average win at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “We were having some issues, so we just went home and worked on a few things, changed some things up.”
That’s a pretty big change for Moody and Dolly, the 11-year-old gray mare by Mr. Illuminator out of Easy Cash Bar. Typically, she said, the pair earns between $12,000 and $15,000 during the lucrative run of rodeos around the July 4 holiday. This year, it was zip.
That’s why her Wyoming run of Casper and Sheridan from July 12-16 was such a nice change of pace from Moody’s recent past. At the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo in Casper, she placed in both go-rounds and finished third in the average. But it was her one-head run at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo that helped build confidence.
“When we went back out, we got in the mud in Colorado Springs, so I wasn’t sure what was going on with Dolly,” she said. “But by the time I got to Casper and Sheridan, I knew we were on the right track.”
In Sheridan, Moody and Dolly rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 17.20, just a 100th of a second faster than Kim Schulze. But it helped pad the pocket for $4,465, a nice sum of cash for the cowgirl itching to return to the bright lights of Las Vegas this December and defend her average title.
“Obviously the ultimate goal is to make the finals,” she said. “That was a $7,500 weekend last weekend, so hopefully that will help set me up.
“I try not to enter everything, because I only have one horse. You can do it, but it’s awfully hard on the horses.”
So is running them when they’re not in top form. It’s one thing for a cowgirl to suck it up and compete despite illness or frustration. It’s much different on animal athletes like Dolly.
“Things just started falling apart at Greeley,” Moody said. “I don’t think it was so much me, but I had to take care of my horse. I was entered in Calgary, but I knew we weren’t going to be able to do much.
“I know my horse well enough to know that it won’t do any good running her that way, so we went home and did a few things and changed a few things. Whatever we did, it worked. I don’t want to be like a spoiled brat and say that if I can’t win, I’m just going to go home. But something was up, and I just needed time to figure it out.”
It’s about knowing your partner; in this case, Moody’s partner is one of the best mares in the world of barrel racing. Dolly has been so for many years, but last December, she lit the rodeo world on fire during one of the greatest barrel races in the history of the Wrangler NFR.
Better yet, Moody and Dolly sprinted around the cloverleaf pattern inside the Thomas & Mack Center 10 times, finishing in 138.26 seconds. With it, they broke the long established record set in 1986 by Charmayne James and Scamper.
“Winning the average last year was a pretty good feeling for me because I felt that Dolly hadn’t been getting the recognition she deserved,” Moody said. “The girls had voted her the horse with the most heart, but breaking that record was a huge deal. Even if it only lasts one year, she’ll be the horse that broke Scamper’s record.”
That’s an incredible feat, and in order for Moody to have another shot at that mark, she’ll have to make the most of her opportunities for the rest of the season.
“Probably the best thing about what I do is having Dolly has allowed me to make some choices and do some things I wouldn’t be able to do with out her,” Moody said. “I’m able to pick and choose what rodeos I go to. She allows me to stay out of the snow in the wintertime and out of the heat in the summertime.
“For the rest of the year, I’m going to play it by ear. I’m entered up, but I’ll probably turn out of as many rodeos as I run in. If she stays strong, I’ll stay at the big rodeos and turn out at all the little rodeos, but if she gets a little weak, then I’ll go to the littler rodeos and try to work my way through there and turn out of all the big ones. Hopefully she’ll stay strong.”
That’s what most have come to expect out of Dolly.