EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written for the October issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is reprinted here with permission from the editor.
Even though she has just a handful of runs inside the Pendleton (Ore) Round-Up Stadium, Kimmie Wall knows that’s her favorite rodeo.
She further cemented that fact in mid-September, the only cowgirl to post two times in less than 29 seconds to clinch the Round-Up title and add $10,563 to her annual earnings. It moved her from 27th firmly into the top 20. Just as importantly, it provided her with a grand opportunity to cash in with her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification as she began the final week of the 2015 regular season.
“I’m kind of speechless about it,” said Wall, who lives near Roosevelt, Utah. “It’s a bucket-list kind of rodeo to win, and you don’t know if it’s gone to happen. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was excited to be there just to compete, let alone to win the whole rodeo.”
Wall and her mount, TKW Bullys Famous Fox, won the opening round with a 28.59-second run, more than three-tenths of a second ahead of the runner-up, Tobi Richardson. Then the tandem followed that with a 28.74 in the Sept. 19 championship round, good enough for second place in the short round and the top spot in the two-run aggregate.
All this was in just the second year in which she’s competed on the famous grass in Pendleton, both on Foxy, a 7-year-old bay mare by Bullys Bullion and out of Gateway Ta Love, a Dash Ta Fame mare. Wall and Foxy also made the short round in 2014, where they finished fifth.
“For me, it’s strategy the whole time,” she said. “It’s a horse race. You’ve got to ride hard and never weaken. I keep Foxy in really good shape, even on the road. I didn’t have the opportunity to do anything special with her to get her ready, but I always keep her in good shape.”
It showed. In fact, it marked the first time in four years that the victor wasn’t Christy Loflin, who has utilized the long, grassy pattern en route to three straight Wrangler NFR qualifications.
“Movin is such an amazing animal,” Wall said of Loflin’s horse, Sheza Blazin Move. “Horses like Movin and Foxy love that pen there. It’s so much fun to let our horses do what they love.”
The Pendleton cloverleaf is the largest pattern in ProRodeo. The barrels are set up on the track that surrounds a grass infield, but the horses spend most of their time on the grass.
“I was excited to make it to the finals last year, and this year I was very excited to go back,” Wall said. “The atmosphere there is different than anywhere else. It’s really laid back. Everybody’s just on the grass, and they’re having a good time. It’s even more fun when it’s the end of the year and the tensions are high.
“I truly believe Pendleton is a make-it-or-break-it rodeo for those of us on the bubble. It can put you in there or take you out of it. I think now it’s a reality for me to jump up there (in the standing) and hopefully at least have a chance.”
She still had the final week of rodeos to make that last-minute push to reach the top 15 to head to the Nevada desert in December.
“I’m just so proud of my horse,” she said. “I’ve trained and raised a horse that can win in all types of pens.”
Even though she’s a “barrel racing diva,” Foxy has all the ingredients to be a special mare. Though Wall and her husband, Travis, raised and trained her, there’s something in her blood that helps Foxy excel on the barrel pattern.
“She was born from barrel racing royalty,” Wall said. “Sometimes with these great horses, we don’t train them; they were born to do this.
“My children were as much a part of this as my husband and me. Foxy’s been a huge blessing to my family. She’s allowed us to live our dreams. It’s so great to have such a great athlete in our family. Our world really revolves around her right now.”
Foxy is ornery, Wall said, adding that the mare knows who she is and what she is. But the family deals with it because they know there’s a winner beating inside that heart.
“Foxy runs hard, and she turns hard,” she said. “She runs just as hard into the first barrel as she runs out of the pen. She turns barrels just as fast as she runs into the pen. I had a little bobble on my second barrel (in the Pendleton short round); I think we were running just entirely too fast going into that second barrel.
“She’s not a very big horse, but she can run as fast as those big horses. A lot of people think she’s a bigger horse than she is because she has such a big stride.”
That long stride made up ground in a hurry around the longest cloverleaf pattern in the WPRA ProRodeo season. But Foxy’s heart may be more telling.
“She runs 110 percent when she comes through that alleyway,” Wall said. “She’s also still young, so sometimes we get into situations with that. She always tries hard, no matter what. You don’t come across those kind every day.”
No, you don’t. The Walls know they have something special in Foxy. Now they’re capitalizing on it.