Lord takes family life on the road

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Cinch barrel racer Shali Lord first qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2005 and followed that with another in 2019. She continues to excel while keeping her family close.

Colorado Cinch cowgirl keeps her priorities in place while still competing

Shali Lord had just made a run at the Greeley (Colorado) Stampede and was just waiting for word from four hours away in her hometown of Lamar, Colorado.

Rain had hit that area, and she was unsure of what was going to happen with her son’s baseball game that night. Was the field going to be dry enough to play? Was it going to be delayed? She just didn’t know.

With just enough time to make the drive, she learned that the game was on. She scrambled, made sure her horses were in a good place at Greeley and launched her truck southward so she could make the game in time.

Like her parents before her, being involved in her children’s lives is important. Being there for Slade meant everything, even though she’s in the middle of a season that she’d like to seen end at the National Finals Rodeo for the third time in her established career.

“The experience my parents gave me as far as the opportunity to ride, to go to clinics, to ride with professionals when I was young helped me a lot,” said Lord, who qualified for the sport’s grand championship in 2005 and 2019. “I was able to ride a lot of different horses. I didn’t have one really good one that I stuck with forever.

“It helps me now later in life running barrels, because I’ve been on different horses. It’s easier to adapt to different horses.”

She was born in Guymon, Oklahoma, just 20 miles from her first family home in Texhoma, a town on the Oklahoma-Texas border in the Panhandle. She was still pretty young when her father took a job with the PRCA in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and that’s where she started riding. She competed in Little Britches, then on to the Colorado Junior Rodeo Association.

As an only child, she had her parents’ full attention. Dad, Jim, has competed all his life; her mom, Lesli, was an athlete, too, a basketball player in high school.

“She didn’t run barrels, but she’s very competitive,” said Lord, married to Phy for nearly two decades.

Lord gets her competitive from both sides of her parents, who are originally from Texhoma. They live in Wickenburg, Arizona, now and produce two ropings a week in the winter there with their company, High Call Productions.

Through whatever competition in which she was part – she also ran poles as a youngster and competed in breakaway roping and cutting while in high school – she worked herself to be better.  It helped her earn a degree in education at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, where she was on the rodeo team. She even worked as a substitute teacher for a bit after she and Phy were married.

It was about that time that she acquired Slider, and the horse was so good, fellow competitor Molly Powell borrowed him for her run at the 2004 National Finals Rodeo. He helped her win the average championship. A season later, the talented bay gelding guided his owner to her first NFR qualification.

“When we bought Slider, it was just to circuit rodeo,” she said of her prized mount, which died earlier this year at 30. “It was a lot bigger than that after we got him.

“Slider did so much for our family. He made it for the better. The kids rode him. You would never think it would go well with him and the kids, because he was so on point and ready to go. When the kids got on him, he was wonderful. Slade rode him in the peewee rodeos. Steely got to ride him at home for a little bit.”

Other than the birth of her kids – Slade is 11, and Steely just turned 6 – and maybe her wedding, there aren’t many greater memories than running through 10 rounds at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, home of the NFR since 1985.

“That was definitely a dream come true,” she said of her inaugural run 17 seasons ago. “When you’re going, it’s so hard to get to the finals, but when you’re winning, it’s easy. That season started off good and we made it, and you don’t realize how hard it is to get there.

“In 2006, I ended up 16th. I hit a lot of barrels that winter. I think I ended up in the top 20 a couple of years after that. Then we had our kids. It seems like I’ve always rodeoed, but some years I just stayed in the circuit. As Slider got older, I had to pick and choose where I was going.”

Three seasons ago, Lord returned to the NFR, this time aboard Can Man, now a 13-year-old sorrel stallion. He was injured last fall, and she’s running barrels on a couple of Can Man’s 5-year-old colts. She was set to compete the second week of July at the NFR Open, the new name for the longstanding National Circuit Finals Rodeo. She’ll see how that goes and what kind of payday she can earn in Colorado Springs to decide her route for the rest of the season.

It doesn’t matter, though; she’s still going to find time to be with her family. She and Phy have horses and run a cow-calf operation in southeastern Colorado. He also competes in ranch rodeo – his team has won the Working Ranch Cowboys Association World Finals four times – but travels with his wife when possible.

“It seems like when we go to the rodeos, we go as a family,” Lord said. “it’s not easy to rodeo with kids, so my parents have always been really helpful to go with me. Phy’s parents are helpful on the ranch.

“Everything revolves around our family, so we’re very blessed in that aspect.”


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