EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appeared in the May 2011 issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News.
Uncertainty crept into Tana Renick’s mind on the final day of the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
It’s not that she didn’t believe in herself or in her partner, a 13-year-old bay mare named XV Wildchild; Teddy helped Renick win the 2010 Prairie Circuit year-end title, earning the Kingston, Okla., cowgirl a trip to the national championship in Jim Norick Arena in Oklahoma City, just two hours from the Renick home.
“I still can’t believe I won it,” Renick said a week after the biggest win of her career. “I have so much faith in Teddy, but with that back-to-back format on the last day and runner her 45 minutes to an hour later, I was never sure what she would do.
“She was actually faster that run than she was her semifinal run.”
The DNCFR’s format featured two full go-rounds. The top eight cowgirls in the two-run average qualified for the semifinals, and all previous times were erased. The top four based on semifinal times advanced to the sudden death finals, where the cowgirl with the fastest time was crowned national champion.
“I can’t believe I outran Sherry in the sudden death deal,” Renick said, referring to three-time and reigning world champion Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz.
Renick and Teddy posted a 15.30-second run in that finale, 11-100ths of a second faster than Cervi. Renick earned $17,687, the most of the 24 barrel racers in the field. Cervi, who won the semifinal, finished with $15,973.
“I’m still overwhelmed and happy,” Renick said. “It took me a few days to sleep at night.”
Round by round
Early on, Lisa Lockhart proved why she’s been a mainstay at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. She and Oakie With Cash won the opening go-round, posting a 15.24-second run on opening night.
Louie’s time held up for the fastest of the four-day, five-performance rodeo, which is pretty phenomenal. But that’s Louie, an 8-year-old buckskin gelding by Biebers Oakie out of Lady Kaweah Cash.
“Louie felt great,” said Lockhart of Oelrichs, S.D. “I think it’s a great pen to run in. It’s not too small, but it’s not too big either.”
The 25th anniversary of the DNCFR has found a new home at Oklahoma City’s State Fairgrounds after 24 years in Pocatello, Idaho. The change of venue brings a championship-caliber ProRodeo event back to the longtime home of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – that event took place in Jim Norick Arena from 1965-78, then was in the Myriad Arena in downtown Oklahoma City until 1984.
“I hope it works well here,” Lockhart said. “I love Pocatello, but this is such an outstanding facility that it works well to have it here.”
Renick and Teddy posted a 15.26, the second-fastest run of the weekend, good enough for second place in the go-round. Their speedy time also came near the bottom of the ground on the second night of the competition.
“She got to stay in the pasture at home until 1 o’clock this afternoon,” said Renick, who was competing at the DNCFR for the first time in her career. “I didn’t really have any idea what it would be like when I got here.”
Hindsight tells an interesting tale. Take Nancy Hunter, who won the second go-round after knocking over a barrel in the first. Hunter and Flit N Fizz rounded the pattern in 15.31, just 1-100th of a second ahead of Cervi and Bobbie Jo Bohlman. Still, that was good enough for a $4,525 payday.
But that was after dealing with the frustration of downing the second barrel for the fifth straight time. In the early-morning hours before most folks had awakened at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, Fred Hunter had Fuzz in the practice pen.
“I’m so lucky to have a husband to fix my horse,” said Nancy, a representative from of the Wilderness Circuit. “Hopefully I can stay in there in the round just to make a little money to pay for the fuel home.”
Lockhart and Renick won the two-run average and led the field of eight into the semifinals. That’s where Cervi and MP Meter My Hay shined with their 15.29. Everybody in the building expected it, too.
After all, Stingray had guided Cervi to paychecks in both rounds and a third-place finish in the average. Plus the two have been solid at just about every venue they’ve been to over the past few seasons, winning the Wrangler NFR average in 2009 and finishing second in 2010, when they won the world title, Cervi’s third.
When Renick posted the 15.30 to win the final round, only she was surprised. Those who know the game saw talent in the cowgirl and Teddy.
“There was just so much going on that it was kind of a blur,” said Renick, who tried to take care of her horse and other chores, only to be ushered off to handle post-event pomp and circumstance. “I can’t thank Lisa Lockhart enough, because I was trying to get everything taken care of and get my horse cooled down, and she came running to me to help me out. She asked what all she needed to do, then said she’d handle it and that I needed to go. That was so sweet of her to do that for me.”
Where to go from here
No matter where she is in the standings – ninth in the WPRA ProRodeo Standings the week after the DNCFR – Tana Renick has her priorities in order.
“The biggest thing I am is a mom first,” she said, referring to Taycee, her daughter with her husband, Henry. “But I know I’m in a position that I need to go.”
That’s not easy, and she knows it. She doesn’t want to leave her family behind, but she’s hoping to make it pay off with her first qualification to the Wrangler NFR. That means hitting the road.
“I’ve been able to go up north a couple times,” Renick said. “Last year I went up there, and my generator quit. I had to put $1,200 bucks on my rig, and I had to come home to make money.
“That money I won at the DNCFR, I’ve spent some of it getting things done to the barn and fences. But I’m planning to use that money so that I can go up north. What I’ve noticed is if I get broke or get in a slump, I have to come home and make some money. If you’re able to stick it out and keep going, that’s how you need to do it.”
Ah, the life on the rodeo trail.
Renick didn’t do much the first week after the national championship. Her backup horse, Sees Red Rocket, became sick, so Renick has been caring for the 4-year-old gelding because she knows his importance when she hits the road.
“He’s a futurity horse, a colt, but he fits me,” Renick said. “I’ve had him since he was a yearling, and he’s just my style. I think the bigger, the more wide open the pattern, the better he works.”
It’s a tremendous benefit to have Teddy, one of the top horses and barrel racing, and allowing a little seasoning on Rocket.
“I never realized until the last few years how important your confidence is,” Renick said. “Once you figure out you have a horse that’s talented enough and you’re talented enough of a rider, you can do it.
“You’ve got to learn to control the jitters. Anytime I can go back and watch video, I’ve never been disappointed if someone outran me, but I’d sure get disappointed if I make a mistake. The reality is stuff is going to happen. I used to be extremely hard on myself no matter what I did. The thing I’m most proud of is learning that you can make a mistake, and that it’s alright.”
It’s a lesson she carried on her back as she sprinted into Jim Norick Arena, something she thought about as she drove home from competition to Teddy could enjoy a little time at home in the pasture during the grueling days of work, where they ran four times in three days.
“Teddy has never really fired in that arena before,” Renick said. “I was a little surprised and even more proud of her than ever because she clocked well there that weekend.
“I noticed on my video she seemed to pop her tail a little more. I have no idea what she thought, but it was pretty neat to see.”