Oklahoma cowgirl uses a trio of horses to Cowboy Christmas success
Even under the best of circumstances, Cowboy Christmas is always hectic.
Thousands of miles driven, airport drop-offs and multiple rodeos a day for several days. Emily Miller Beisel has been through it before, and she had hoped to make a schedule that would allow for optimum opportunities to cash in big during one of the most lucrative few days of the regular rodeo season.
“I’m really big on not backtracking,” said Beisel, a two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Weatherford, Oklahoma. “I try not to put extra miles on horses. For the first few rodeos out of the gate, there were already problems. I needed to be up in the beginning at Prescott, but I got put at a (performance) in the middle.
“I couldn’t get traded, because everybody has about the same game plan. I was able to split my horses. I left Beau at Reno (Nevada), so he went from Reno to St. Paul (Oregon), and I picked him up in Cody (Wyoming). Pipewrench and Chongo came from home. I entered the Dakotas just in case, and I placed at two out of three rodeos there.”
All three of her horses won money over the stretch of rodeos wrapped around the Fourth of July holiday. The biggest payday came at the Cody Stampede, which Beisel won on Chongo, the speedy 11-year-old gray gelding. That was worth $10,124 and was the biggest paycheck during her Cowboy Christmas run of $18,913.
She also collected money at three other rodeos: St. Paul, $3,771; Belle Fourche, South Dakota, $2,778; and Mandan, North Dakota, $2,240.
“Splitting the rig was good for me,” she said. “I was tired because I took a flight, but it gave my horses time off. I needed them firing on all cylinders.”
It worked. Beisel’s earnings over the Fourth run was second among all barrel racers, just behind Hailey Kinsel, the reigning three-time world champion.
Beisel grew up in western Kansas, a stone’s throw from Dodge City. She attended Garden City (Kansas) Community College, then earned a degree in dental hygiene from the University of Oklahoma Health and Science Center in Weatherford. Much has changed in recent years, from a full-time job to rodeoing year-round to a fall 2020 wedding.
“Back in 2019, I went from being a full-time hygienist and doing rodeo part time to the opposite,” Beisel said. “I never dreamed I would get to this point. You always hope it does, but the odds of that happening are slim to none. For me, it’s been pretty incredible. The girls at work are pretty understanding, too.
“It’s been nice to get to do this. Those three horses are just incredible. Every year, I’d almost get it all together. I never had it to where all three were dialed in and making it work all the time. This summer, all three are 100 percent. When you have three horses of that caliber, it’s pretty fun.”
Doing something you love is one thing; being successful at it adds a new dimension. As of July 19, she was third in the world standings with just shy of $60,000 in the bank. While the Fourth of July featured a number of lucrative rodeos, there are plenty of others left in the final two months of the regular season. She stands in a great place to return to ProRodeo’s grand championship for the third straight year. Of course, none of that would be happening without help.
She gets that from husband Austin, members of her family and others who might be able to help when time allows. Over the Fourth run, she enlisted Carlie Jones, a student at Kansas State University.
“She has been a great help,” Beisel said of Jones. “Initially I left home and went to Reno with (fellow barrel racer) Ivy Saebens. That rodeo was a progressive round so when Ivy tipped a barrel, we had to change plans.”
Making adjustments on the fly is important in rodeo. She will have multiple plans to be prepared for whatever challenges come her way. With the ProRodeo Tour system in place, that also calls for variables that all competitors must understand in order to make it work.
“I love those Dakota rodeos, but the biggest thing with them is they’re not tour rodeos,” she said. “The tour puts a lot of money in the pot for us, but also the requirements to make the tour finale are steep. You have to make 35 tour rodeos. It dictates a little where I’m going. I’ve never been to Salinas (California, home of the tour finale in 2021), but I also don’t want to be needing to go to Salinas and miss my rodeo count by three.”
While she’s a competitor who has been a contender for that elusive Montana Silversmiths gold buckle, this is also her business. Unlike many women in ProRodeo, Beisel has three genuine threats to help her with horsepower at just about every rodeo in which she enters. Still, it takes some decision-making to figure out which horse works with which rodeo.
“You’ve got to know their strengths and their weaknesses,” she said. “They all have a lot of strengths. What makes Beau stand out is he’s really gritty, and he adapts to situations really well. That’s why I ran him at St. Paul, because I knew the trees in the arena wouldn’t bother him. Chongo is really fast. You put him on good ground, and he’s going to excel.
“Pipewrench is going to run into the hole really well. I can put him in a tighter spot, like at Mandan, and I don’t have to worry about him. You have to know your horses and pay attention to them.”
With that trio of great mounts, Beisel feels more at ease. She knows she can trust them as long as she puts them in the right situation.
“There are very few horses that are versatile enough to compete and win in almost all arena types and ground conditions, like Hailey Kinsel’s Sister,” Beisel said. “Having three horses with different styles that complement each other is very advantageous.”
Whatever formula Beisel has for what it takes to run at an elite level, it’s working. She is riding her way to the NFR for the third straight year, and she has a herd of horses leading her to Las Vegas in December.
What more could a barrel racer want?