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Junior Division News


Leonard looking to win barrel racing season title at Cowtown Rodeo
By Jolee Lautaret
8/8/13

Woodstown, New Jersey-The rough and tumble world of professional rodeo is not often mentioned in the same circles as the Ivy League but that may be changing in 2013. One resident of Princeton, New Jersey, home of the famed university of the same name, may be putting the city on the map in rodeo circles.

Liz Leonard has been on a roll in the First Frontier Circuit this summer culminating with a pair of back-to-back wins at the weekly rodeo in Woodstown. The Cowtown Rodeo is the cornerstone of the First Frontier Circuit and hosts the country's oldest weekly rodeo. Cowtown has been a Saturday night staple since 1955 and is still run by the Harris family, the same family that founded the original rodeo back in the 1920's.

With Princeton a short 70 mile trip to Woodstown, the rodeo is an ideal venue for Leonard.

"I know a lot of girls have to haul further to get to Cowtown, but for me, it's closer and it's a weekly rodeo," she says. "It's great and my horse runs good in that arena so it really pays off for me to be able to go each week."

The cowgirl was born and raised in "Jersey" but always loved horses and riding. Her mother still rides to this day but Leonard says she's not sure how she ended up a professional barrel racer.

"That's a good question," she laughs. "It just kind of happened."

Ten years after starting the sport, and several years into her professional career with the WPRA, Leonard is on track to qualify to her first First Frontier Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2013. Much of her winnings this season have come inside Cowtown's arena.

"My horse has been on a roll," she admits. "Amazingly, he has run around the same time each week."

In fact, Leonard won both the August 3rd and July 27th rodeos with 17.94 and 17.90, respectively. She has posted 17.89, 17.77, and another 17.90 in previous weeks, placing every week since June 22. The earnings have vaulted the cowgirl to sixth in the current circuit standings with nearly $2,500 in earnings.

"I've gone the last two years to watch [the FFCFR in Harrisburg, PA]," she says, noting it is just about three hours from her home. "It got me motivated to go and try to qualify."

Leonard's partner in this pursuit is the 11 year old Perks are Easy, aka Sherman. She found the horse for sale on Barrel Horse World and liked the breeding.

"A woman in Kansas owned him. He was four years old and I never saw him before [the purchase]," she says. "I watched a two minute video and bought him."

"He's one of the nicest horses I've ever owned." Unlike many of her fellow competitors, Leonard doesn't have her own arena; she simply trail rides to keep her horse in good condition and says he only sees the barrels at the rodeo.

Sherman has his quirks, like all good barrel horses, but handles the side gate set-up at Cowtown like a pro.

"You have to move down the bucking chutes and during the perfs, there are bulls loaded," she laughs. "It doesn't bother him at all. He came from Kansas so he's had lots of exposure to livestock!"

Cowtown gives buckles to each event's season high money winner and Leonard has that high on her list of goals, along with the circuit finals qualification.

"I would love to win that," she says.

She is certainly in the hunt for the title and there is plenty of rodeo action left before the season champions are crowned. Cowtown has a rodeo every Saturday night through the end of September. In fact, the close of Cowtown coincides with the last weekend of the 2013 rodeo season.

In the meantime, Leonard is contemplating the trick of keeping her horse in shape through the "wicked" winters which often include frozen and icy ground for the FFCFR which happens in January each year.

"I've always wondered how they do it," she says of the cowgirls who have qualified. "My horse can be a handful if he's not ridden on a regular basis."

She's hoping to have to come up with a solution, including possibly sending Sherman to a trainer, one "who has an indoor arena!" to stay legged up.

It's a problem the cowgirl hopes to have to solve.

"I'm really looking forward to that. It would be very cool to qualify to the circuit finals. I know many of the women here that have been doing this and have qualified many times . . . to be amongst them would be a pretty good honor."

For more information on the Cowtown Rodeo series, visit them on-line at www.cowtownrodeo.com.


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