Idaho-The only one truly surprised on Saturday night,
August 20 in the Caldwell Night Rodeo Arena was Nancy
The reigning champions of the barrel
racing from the 2010 CNR, Hunter and her great horse
Flit N Fizz made the trip to a second consecutive CNR
short go round matched against some of the toughest
horses of the WPRA including six 2010 Wrangler NFR qualifiers,
two 2009 Wrangler NFR qualifiers and 2006 WPRA World
Champion Mary Burger.
According to Hunter, the pack brought
the heat in the short go.
"The girls were getting after
it," says the Neola, Utah cowgirl who ran near
the bottom of the ground at ninth position. "They
were stomping our heads."
Hunter almost never earned a single
CNR championship aboard Fuzz, as he is affectionately
known around the barn. In 2008, Fuzz had trouble negotiating
Caldwell's corner gate, scattering the bull riders by
Hunter's description. Only at the urging of her husband
- and trainer - Fred did Hunter agree to ride the son
of Dr Nick Bar at Caldwell in 2010.
"That get in is hard for everyone
but especially for me," she says. "At least
we didn't scare the bull riders this year. But we didn't
walk across the pen; I think I was the only one who
ran from the gate!"
The start proved a little tough
for the reigning champions during the first go round
in slack on Tuesday morning.
"I ran from too far back and
we were too straight into the first turn," Hunter
says. She finished 12th in the round. Wrangler NFR qualifier
Brenda Mays and the 2010 AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year
Jethro won the round with their time of 17.45 seconds.
As she often does, Hunter leaned
on her husband of 35 years for adjustments. He told
her to aim for the second barrel through the gate and,
once clear of the gate, to come back to the first.
It worked well for the second round
run which produced her first 2011 CNR check, fourth
in the round with a time of 17.41 seconds. Trula Churchill
posted the rodeo's fastest time of 17.29 in the second
round for the win; Churchill definitely needed the win,
the Nebraska cowgirl is ranked 18th in the world standings,
less than $2,000 out of 15th.
In the short go round, Hunter did
something she never does.
"Fuzz wasn't running home.
Kim Schulze's husband told me to whip him. I told him
the last time I did that, he bucked me off! Kim said
she wouldn't whip him either."
Calling him "a lot of drama,"
Hunter says Fuzz has quit bucking for the most part
now days. "But if his tail is twitching, I will
sure lope him some more!"
Hunter opted for a pair of spurs
in the second go round at Caldwell but after Fuzz made
adjustments at the first two barrels during the short
round, she needed a little more go for the run home.
She used the over-and-under.
"I told Fred I would probably
clear the gate if I hit him. He said, 'you've got to
be famous for something,'" she laughs. "He
caught about five gears running home. We tested the
gate but we got stopped. I am not sure I would ever
do that again!"
Hunter stopped the clock at 17.38,
her fastest run of the rodeo and good enough for second
in the short round behind the red-hot Jeanne Anderson
who equaled Churchill's second go time of 17.29.
When the tallies were made, Hunter
rose to the top of the average heap with a 52.56 on
three runs, just .06 seconds ahead of Anderson.
"I am really surprised,"
says Hunter, the 2008 Wilderness Circuit Champion. "I'm
still so excited. As always, Fred fixed me after the
first run. And we got lucky."
Better to be lucky AND good. Hunter
collected $5,128 for the win, pushing her two year total
to $11,732 at Caldwell. Hunter moved to second in the
current circuit standings, an excruciating $11.35 behind
Sammi Bessert who earned a round check at Caldwell but
failed to make the short round.
Hunter would love to close out Fuzz's
2011 with another Wilderness Circuit title and trip
to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo. She is planning
on entering the remaining circuit rodeos along with
Hunter is ready for Fuzz to slow
down his rodeo career, saying she is only planning on
running the 11-year-old gelding at a few rodeos next
year while she turns to 6-year-old Cash Register, who
recently won his first pro check at Coalville, and another
"He's been good for me. He's
not a patient horse but he taught me to be a better
rider," she says. Fuzz will eventually end up in
the hands of Hunter's 4-year-old granddaughter, Haley.
Meanwhile, Hunter is looking forward to riding the young
horses. "It's challenging and fun. They are all
different but have a similar ride because of Fred's
"We're moving from this adventurous
life to another one," she laughs.
The 2011 CNR paid out nearly a quarter
of a million dollars, making it one of the most profitable
rodeos on the schedule for pro rodeo contestants. For
more information on the Caldwell Night Rodeo, visit
them on-line at www.caldwellnightrodeo.com.