EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the March edition of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication for the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
Shortly after her final run at the Ram Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo, Pamela Capper had a moment.
Just outside the arena at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center’s Hooker Creek Event Center, Capper reflected on the terrific 2011 season she’d had with her horse, Sheza Smooth Flight, a 10-year-old brown mare she calls Jesse.
“I’ve been to the circuit finals several years, not thinking I could ever win it,” said Capper, of Cheney, Wash. “Then to win the average … I just started crying over that. It was huge. It was great to accomplish that and to win the year-end title.”
Capper’s sweep of the barrel racing titles in her home region secures her first qualification to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. Capper will do battle with 23 other cowgirls who represent their circuits at ProRodeo’s national championship.
The field will be filled with top-rated barrel racing tandems, like fellow Columbia River Circuit qualifier Brenda Mays, who finished second in the year-end standings. Whether it’s RNCFR champions like Tammy Bruso of the Southeastern Circuit or world champions like Brittany Pozzi (Texas) and Sherry Cervi (Turquoise), there will elite cowgirls and awesome horses.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit of an NFR with the names that I’ve seen that are going to be competing,” said Pozzi, a two-time world champion from Victoria, Texas.
Besides Mays, Cervi and Pozzi, other RNCFR qualifiers who have been part of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo field include Lisa Lockhart, Christina Richman, Jeanne Anderson, Carlee Pierce and Shelley Morgan; in fact, all but Morgan competed in Las Vegas this past December.
“I really wanted to win the circuit on Stingray,” Cervi said of the great horse that helped her to her third world championship in 2010. “This is our first circuit title. I think it’s cool. We have a really good circuit.
“One of my goals was to try to get back to Oklahoma City, because it’s a good rodeo and there’s quite a bit of money added.”
The format will feature two go-rounds, with the top eight cowgirls in the average advancing to a clean-slate semifinals, where the previous rounds are thrown out and will only be used in the event of a tie-breaker. The top four semifinal times then advance to the clean-slate finals, where the fastest of the four runs will be crowned national champion.
“It’s just a great honor to win my circuit,” said Theresa Walter of Billings, Mont., who won the year-end and finals average titles in the Montana Circuit. “I had a really good friend that was a calf roper who was killed a few years ago, and he told me then that to win the circuit was a big deal to him.
“It felt that way both the times I won it.”
This will be Walter’s fourth qualification to the national circuit finals; she ran last year in the championship’s inaugural run in Oklahoma City, and she competed twice when it took place in Pocatello, Idaho, where Walter earned the national title a few seasons ago.
Of course, it helps to have a great horse like Fames Licorice Kiss, a 10-year-old black mare she calls Licorice.
“From the time she was a futurity colt, I’ve been really fortunate that she’s been that consistent,” Walter said of Licorice, out of Bouncing Bonnie by Dash Ta Fame. “It makes my job really easy. I don’t have to worry about her at all.”
When it comes to horsepower, Capper is pretty confident in Jesse, a horse she has raised.
“She has a really good mind,” Capper said. “When she was born, I could tell she was going to be athletic. That combination really does help make a barrel horse. She didn’t put up a fight with anything I showed her.
“She took to barrels really easily. It was finally putting the speed to the pattern, and that’s when she really started taking off this last year. I think she really does enjoy it. I don’t have much of a bridle on her. I think it’s just the mind and the athletic ability, and she enjoys it.”
So does Capper, who got a late start to the 2011 season. Still she but made up ground quickly.
“I started the year out just hoping to make the circuit finals,” said Capper, who had qualified for the Ram Columbia River Circuit Finals before. “I didn’t get started until after the Fourth of July weekend.”
But Capper went on a tear in August, including big paydays in Hermiston, Ore.; Omak, Wash.; and Kennewick, Wash. In fact, she and Jesse sprinted to the finish of the ProRodeo season, passing Mays and her great horse, Jethro, along the way. That’s why the emotions flowed easily when she finished the circuit finale in Redmond.
Now she will try her hand on the national stage.
“You know all the girls that you’re up against are all the top girls from each circuit,” said Capper, who receives quite a bit of help on the rodeo trail from her boyfriend, Clyde Coker. “It is beyond my aspirations. It’s such a great opportunity and such a prestigious rodeo that I’m very excited.”