EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the March edition of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA.
Through the rigors of the 2013 ProRodeo season, Nikki Yost and Taylor Young made a pact to qualify together for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“I couldn’t be going with someone better than Nikki,” said Young, of Carlisle, Pa. “I think we had two of the best horses in our circuit.”
They did, and they came out as the top two cowgirls in the First Frontier Circuit and will represent their region at ProRodeo’s national championship, set for April 10-12 at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie, Okla.
Young went to the First Frontier finale in Harrisburg, Pa., as the No. 1 cowgirl in the standings. During the three-round championship, Yost and Redhot Peso placed time and won the average. That $4,069 served as a slingshot for Yost to surpass her good friend for the year-end championship.
“My whole game plan when I came to the finals was to win the average so I could go to Guthrie, Okla.,” said Yost, who lives with her header husband, Justin Yost, in Mt. Morris, Pa. “That was my goal all season to make it to the (Ram) Finals.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. I just wanted to go in there and make clean runs and ask my horse for everything he had. He actually didn’t have the prettiest barrels, but it worked.”
Yes, it did. Yost and Peso, an 11-year-old sorrel gelding by Redhot Pursuit out of Indian Passion, placed second in the first and third rounds and added a fourth-place finish in the middle round. Their 44.14-second cumulative total earned the tandem the average title.
“I’ve been having trouble just riding my horse and keeping three rodeos in a row clean, so that was my goal for the circuit finals,” she said. “I was just trying to stay away from the barrels, and he succeeded on that.”
Yost wasn’t the only one to make three clean runs. Jennifer Oberg of Piles Grove, N.J., placed second in the average with a cumulative time of 44.35 seconds, while Allison Serio of Kennett Square, Pa., (45.18) and Rogena Richard of Middleburg, Pa., (45.30) rounded out the top four.
“I try not to look at the standings when I go into stuff like this,” Yost said. “I’m just going to try let the chips fall the way they’re supposed to fall.
“Winning the (year-end) really hasn’t set in. It was just amazing. My husband gave me a big old hug. I was just worried about Taylor getting in.”
So was Young, who found the roses among the thorns that came with her run at the circuit finals. Riding Kissmyskooter, a 14-year-old sorrel gelding out of Bubbling Idiot by Elans Playboy, Young tipped a barrel in both the first and third rounds. Meanwhile, her 14.15-second, second-round winning run set an arena record. Plus, with Yost winning both the year-end and average titles, it allowed Young the automatic qualification to the RNCFR by finishing second in the year-end standings.
“I had a great finals, but I didn’t have my fairytale ending,” Young said. “When the third round ended, Nikki came up to me and said she was so sorry. I said, ‘What do you mean? You saved my butt.’ ”
At least it secured the pact that Yost and Young had established several months ago. The two Pennsylvanians didn’t actually know one another until a year ago, when Yost was living in Texas. She noticed that Young was scheduled to compete in Fort Worth, Texas, so she contacted her fellow East Coast cowgirl.
“I just said, ‘If you need a place to stay, you’re welcome here,’ ” said Yost, a Connecticut transplant who lived in Texas for nearly seven years before returning to the East Coast. “I was just trying to be a friendly face for someone from up north previously. From that day on, we’ve been great friends.
“Before she runs, I cheer her on, and when I run, she cheers for me. Even when she creams me, I always root for her.”
The 2013 season marked Yost’s inaugural run in the First Frontier Circuit. Although she had grown up in Connecticut, she and her husband quickly made their home in Texas while he tried to chase his gold buckle dreams in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“Justin was trying to make his career heading,” Yost said. “With his partners in the rig all the time, Peso and my backup horse had to sit at home all summer long. He’s a header, so when his good horse got hurt, we just came home. He wanted to learn his dad’s business and get some more head horses gathered up.
“Since we were moving back East, my horse has proven himself consistently, placing with some of the big girls. I couldn’t see myself selling him, so I decided to see about making a name for ourselves on the East Coast. One of my goals was to win the circuit finals average, and I succeeded at that; my next goal was to make the RNCFR.”
Mission accomplished. Of course, goals are always adjusted; so are plans.
“I would love to make the run for the NFR, but I don’t know when I’m going to be able to do that,” Yost said. “I don’t know if I’m going to get that opportunity on Peso, but I have high expectations for his full brother. I will probably try on him.”
Bently is a 2-year-old sorrel stud. Will he turn out to be as solid as his big brother? That remains to be seen, but Yost is willing to see what happens. Of course, she’s following her dreams in a special way.
“If I could ride about 20 head of horses and ride all day, that’s where you can find me,” she said. “I’m blessed with my job of taking care of horses.”
That’s what it means to be a cowgirl, and nobody understands that as much as Young, who was raised around horses in central Pennsylvania.
“God had a plan, because when I set a goal this year that I wanted to make the Ram finals, I didn’t know if it was going to happen,” said the young cowgirl, who is attending a private college online and is preparing for a move to southern Oklahoma. “This was my second year in the WPRA and my second year making the circuit finals. I think one of the cool things was that I tied the arena record last year, then I beat the arena record this year.”
It all points to many things, most of which concerning the brightness that resides in barrel racing’s future. It’s nice to know she has something great in Skooter.
“He’s such a diva,” Young said. “He’s laid back, and he knows it, too. He’s easy. He’s my one in a million. He’s pretty cool. My second go-round, I told the girls, ‘I’m coming for you.’ After tipping a barrel in the first round, I was coming back with a vengeance.”
She did, and that $1,252 round-winning paycheck came at the right place and the right time. She visited with her ailing grandfather after that and presented him with the championship buckle. Young said she has great family support and that she’s been able to take between 18 and 20 hours a semester while competing on the rodeo trail because of her drive to succeed and the family’s status as her greatest support system.
“Rodeo is a way of life, and it’s not easy,” she said. “I have a lot of people that make my dreams possible.”
All that’s left is chasing those dreams, but that’s what cowgirls do best.