EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the November issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is being used here with the approval of the magazine.
Kim Couch had a very basic plan when she arrived at the RAM Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo for the Oct. 15-17 championship.
“We came into the circuit knowing we just needed three clean runs,” said Couch of Rattan, Okla. “We were just wanting to keep barrels up all three nights and just make some safe runs, and that’s just what we did.”
It paid off for the cowgirl, who placed in two go-rounds, finished third in the average and pocketed $3,128 in Duncan, Okla., slamming shut the door for her first Prairie Circuit year-end championship. She finished the 2015 regional campaign with $16,718, more than $5,000 ahead of the runner-up, Emily Miller of Weatherford, Okla.
“Our first goal was to make the circuit finals,” said Couch, who placed at 13 of the 17 circuit rodeos in which she competed. “By the first of August, we were leading the circuit. At that point, the decision was made that we wanted to win the circuit finals to get into Florida and hopefully get into Calgary, so that’s our goal for next summer.”
She did the heavy lifting on Easy French Alibi, a 7-year-old palomino she calls Fancy, a Frenchmans Guy mare out of Easy Mag. Couch secured the circuit’s year-end qualification to the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla., where she will be joined by the average champ, Mary Burger, the 2006 world champion.
“We enjoy the circuit rodeos along with going to the NFR and all that travel,” said Burger, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “I’ve got a nice horse. It’s just a matter of whether everything falls into place.”
It did in Duncan. Burger split second in the opening round with a 16.32, just two-hundreds of a second behind round-winner Shy-Anne Jarrett of Comanche, Okla. Burger also placed fourth in the final round, completing the three runs in a cumulative time of 49.18 seconds to claim the buckle. In all, she earned $4,245.
Now she’ll carry it with her toward Walt Disney World, quite a change from most of her trips to the then-Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho.
“It’s a real big deal now,” Burger said. “Everything seems to be getting bigger and more money. It’s an honor.”
It’s also an honor to ride Sadiesfamouslastwords, a 6-year-old gelding she calls Mo by Sadies Frosty Drift out of Porky and Bess, a Dash Ta Fame mare.
“He went through two derby years,” she said. “This will be his last derby year, then it’s big boy time. I like his disposition and his ability. He can cruise across the ground and shut the clock off. I think that’s very important these days; barrel racing is so tough that you have to have a real special horse to pull it off.
“He’s just 6, and he still makes his own little mistakes.”
Mo didn’t make too many during the circuit finale. He and Burger finished 12-hundredths of a second ahead of average runner-up Lauren Magdeburg of Roland, Okla. Tracy Nowlin of Nowata, Okla., finished fourth overall.
While Burger and Couch claimed the biggest prizes in the region, round victories were split over three cowgirls: Jarrett in the first round, Ari-Anna Flynn of Charleston, Ark., in the second and Miller in the third.
“It’s a great feeling, especially for me being on my backup horse,” Flynn said of Toby’s Poco Misterio, a gelding she calls Toby. “He hasn’t been on the barrels for about a year.”
Jarrett, who was raised just miles from Stephens County Arena, kick-started the finale with her win on Cuatro Snow, an 11-year-old bay/brown gelding she calls Cuatro. Even though she still lives close to the host arena, the tandem hadn’t been inside the playing field all that often together.
“I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I just went at it,” said Jarrett, the wife of 2005 PRCA all-around world champion cowboy Ryan Jarrett. “My goal was to try to win first every night.”
That didn’t happen, but that was the case for many of the top regional cowgirls. Still, nine qualifiers earned checks in Duncan, which says a lot about the competition.
“There are some very tough girls,” Jarrett said. “You could take any of these horses to any rodeo anywhere, and they have a chance to win.”
While there was a lot going on over three days of the finale, the 2015 campaign was a highlight reel for Couch. She competed at 21 WPRA rodeos and earned nearly $20,000. Knowing full well she has something special in Fancy, she’s going to see what happens in 2016.
“She comes in and makes a solid run every run,” Couch said. “We may not win the round, but she’s going to come in and place.
“She’s got a lot of heart. As a matter of fact, as she’s gotten older and more seasoned, she’s developed more heart. She’s got more grit to her than she had as a 5- and 6-year-old.”
That could make all the difference in the world.