ALTUS, Okla. – Jenna Hoffman has been waiting for a moment like she experienced this past weekend.
Hoffman, a freshman at Western Oklahoma State College, has hoped to get in unison with her barrel racing horse, Cooper. After a year of working together, it happened at the Garden City (Kan.) Community College rodeo.
“It was a pretty good weekend,” said Hoffman of Sheridan, Wyo. “When I went into the first round, I had a goal to not tip any barrels and have a nice, clean run. Fortunately, we got into the short-go. Once I got there, I wanted to run a 14.8- (second) run, and I was 14.7.”
It was the first time all season she had earned a short-round spot in barrel racing, and her 14.76-second run on the final day pushed her to a third-place finish inn the round and fourth place overall.
“I had a lot of confidence, and I knew my horse was feeling good,” she said of Cooper, an 11-year-old buckskin gelding she acquired a year ago. “We didn’t have a very good first semester. I was dealing with a lot of health issues with him and couldn’t run him, but I think this is a very good indicator that he’s feeling good and back to where he was before.”
Of course, it helped to have a little help from coach Jess Tierney, a lifelong cowboy who has excelled in roping events. Being a solid horseman came in handy for Hoffman.
“For the past couple of weeks, Jess has been helping me tune up my barrel horse,” she said. “He actually got on Cooper and got him to listening better to what we needed to do.”
It paid off, but Hoffman was always expecting it to happen.
“We had an OK season my senior year of high school,” Hoffman said. “We didn’t fully click right away. When I got down here, we went to some open rodeos and started clicking pretty good before he had the health issues.
“When you send him into the arena, the harder you push him, the harder he is going to turn. Knowing his is going to go in and do his job makes it to where I don’t have to worry about his runs and just have to focus on riding well.”
Hoffman wasn’t the only Western athlete to find success in southwest Kansas. She was joined by a trio of tie-down ropers, led by Shane Smith of Wimborne, Alberta, who parlayed a 9.1-second first run (second in the round) and an 8.5-second short-round run (first) to win the average.
He was followed by Colton Kofoed of Evanston, Wyo., who won the opening round with an 8.5, was fourth in the short with a 9.5 and finished second overall. Teammate J.T. Adamson of Cody, Neb., was third in the opener, fifth in the finale and fourth overall.
It’s performances like that that helped each athlete realize just why they are attending college in Altus.
“To me, it just seemed like a good fit,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t meet Jess before I came down here, but I’m very happy I came down here. It’s been a great experience so far.”
That’s just what every student-athlete hopes for when they get to college.