EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a recap of the Fort Smith, Ark., rodeo that appears in the July 2011 issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News.
There was something magical in the air surrounding Kay Rogers Park’s Harper Stadium on May 31, the second night of the Old Fort Days Rodeo.
The Fort Smith, Ark., rodeo is a regular stop for the top barrel racers in the business, and it has hosted its fair share of phenomenal horseraces over the years. But on that Tuesday night, it got really good.
Benette Barrington, fresh off her first trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, blistered the cloverleaf pattern in 16.59 seconds. Better yet was that she was the 11th out of 12 girls to run.
But Barrington had nothing on Carlee Pierce, the final lady to run that night, also posted a 16.59. Better yet, nobody passed the duo over the course of the six-performance rodeo. Each woman pocketed $2,763 for their work in western Arkansas. But that’s just a small part of the story.
That Dillon is Rare
Rare Dillon helped Annesa Self to circuit titles and a qualification to the 2008 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Now Pierce is hopes the 11-year-old buckskin gelding can lead her to the same green pastures. Since the two have teamed together, they’ve found their way to the pay window often – not bad for a relationship that’s just a few weeks old.
“I was at a rodeo in Longview, Texas, and Annesa approached me after I ran and asked if I was interested in looking for more horses,” said Pierce, of Woodward, Okla. “I’m always looking for something nice. She said, ‘I’ve been watching you; I’m going to sell Dillon, but it’s going to be hand-picked.’ ”
It seems Self saw something magical in Pierce, and several days after their meeting, the two cowgirls gathered together for a test drive, of sorts.
“I rode him, and I loved him,” Pierce said. “He was not advertised. She decided she needed to stay closer to home and work more of the circuit rodeos.”
Self, a regular in the top 45 in the world standings who won the Dodge Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo this past January, has decided to spend more time with family and less time on the rodeo trail. But she knew Dillon was too good to stay with her.
“I fit him really, really well,” Pierce said.
Their first rodeo together was in Corpus Christi, Texas, on April 22, where they posted a 13.05-second run for second place and $4,001.
“It’s been a match ever since,” she said. “We went to Guymon, where I hit a barrel in the first go to win it and finished third in the second-go.”
Pierce and Dillon have reached the pay window quite often. Just a few days before their sprint to the finish in western Arkansas, the pair earned the title in Claremore, Okla., with a 16.96 – the only run of the weekend that was less than 17 seconds. With every run, every turn, Pierce shares it all with Self, just as it should be.
“Neesa’s still a huge part of his life and my life,” said Pierce, who is married to Steve Pierce, owner of Jack’s Casing Crew in Woodward; they have three children, a son, Kale, 13; and daughters Makala, 13, and Jacy, 5. “We usually talk every second or third day, at least every rodeo. She’s a proud mom to him.”
Winning on the fly
Barrington spent a lot of time in Canada the end of May and early June. In fact, she flew back to the Oklahoma-Arkansas region just to make her run in Fort Smith.
“It’s a big win for me right now,” said Barrington, who, on March 29, married Jud Little. “It was darn sure a confidence booster.”
Barrington has her top horse, Smooth My Credit – a 7-year-old sorrel mare by PESI Stallion Cash Not Credit out of Smooth My Feathers – but she rode JL Dash Ta Heaven to the split victory in Fort Smith. The latter is a 6-year-old sorrel stallion by PESI Stallion Dash To Fame out of Dyna’s Plain Special, the athletic mare Janae Ward rode to the 2003 world championship.
“I took him on the road and seasoned him a little bit, and that helped me make the NFR last year,” Barrington said. “We had some good wins on him, but I hadn’t been on him since last fall.”
Dash Ta Heaven has breeding obligations to uphold, so he won’t be back in the competition arena for several weeks. Still, Barrington plans to work hard in an effort to return to the Wrangler NFR and the Canadian Finals Rodeo. She knows it’s going to take everything she and the horses have if they’re going to make it.
“At this point, the horses that I’m riding are young, so I have to just go,” she said. “I don’t have that hard-knocking horse that you can pick your 30 to 40 rodeos and win on, so I just have to be on the road and see where it leads.”