Road to NFR Open

Best Friends Make the Best Competitors

By Tim Gentry


It’s the afternoon of November 12 in Davie, Florida, Chloe Gray and Heavenly Red (“Karma”) are waiting to make their third and final run in the Southeastern Circuit Finals. Their Finals so far had been a dream: two first place checks and four tenths of a second cushion in the average.

Chloe Gray

Photo by Mike Rastelli

Chloe Gray

Photo by Mike Rastelli

The 29-year-old Yatesville, GA, cowgirl said she had butterflies in her stomach all morning, along with her hauling partner and best friend, Taylor Carver, from Broxton, GA, who was having a great weekend of her own, finishing second in each of the first two rounds.

            “Taylor likes to win. Me and her are both very competitive,” explained Gray. “So, we’re really friendly about it because we know what it takes to win. After the first night, she’s like, ‘Okay, well can I get first the next night and you get second? Can we switch it up here?’ But I guess Karma had other plans.”

            Both had qualified for Circuit Finals in the middle of the pack, barely getting the minimum number of rodeos for qualification. Now, with their round earnings and potential average checks, they had a chance to finish one-two in their Circuit and qualify for the NFR Open in July in Colorado Springs, CO.

            “We knew what we had to get done, and we wanted to do it together,” explained Gray of what they needed in the final round. “She actually ran in the first drag, and I was in the second drag. When she came out with a clean run and winning it, I was like, ‘Oh, Lord. I know exactly what I need to do.’”

            Karma has what Gray calls a “spicy” personality, and with so much going on at a rodeo it can be easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you’re picking up your rider’s nervous energy. Thankfully Karma and Carver’s Miss Rare Perks (“Mini”) became instant best buddies the first time they loaded up together.

            “[Carver] actually came back out and sat with me to keep Karma eased down and quiet before my turn,” said a grateful Gray. “She helped me walk him to the gate. I think that speaks for us as competitors and I think that’s how everybody should be. It was great to have her back there and I think Mini was Karma’s comfort zone.”

            Carver’s and Mini’s 14.76 was the time to beat. Gray and Karma nipped them for a third and final time with a 14.65 to take the round, the average and the overall Circuit Championship with circuit final earnings totaling $12,550. Carver’s weekend sweep of second netted her $9,412, enough to catapult her into second in the final circuit standings.

            “We were just in awe,” said Gray of her and Carver’s performance at Circuit Finals. “We were there together and we’re best friends. It was a high like no other. The way back from Davie usually feels like it takes forever to get back home, but I think we were both on cloud nine because we just kept on trucking. It was an easy nine hours home.”

            With a qualification to the NFR Open secured for the duo, it made the decision to go hard in 2024 an easy one. Gray says she’ll mainly work her circuit rodeos before venturing out west this summer. Meanwhile Carver did well enough in Uvalde, TX to qualify for San Antonio, and is hoping to get an early jump in the standings.

            Still, Gray’s decision to focus more on rodeo in 2024 was not one she arrived at lightly. She spent a lot of time in prayer asking if the time was right.

            “I think my plan and God’s plan have kind of lined up,” she explained. “Everything feels really right right now, and I really had in mind to do well at the Circuit Finals to give me a jump into the next year’s standings. That was really something I was focusing on and prayed hard about it.”

            With Carver joining her in representing the Southeastern Circuit at the NFR Open, they’re set for a summer adventure neither one will ever forget. All it took was one magical weekend in Davie, where two friends and competitors pushed each other to the top.

            “Some days I can’t even believe it still,” said Gray with a laugh. “It was a fairytale weekend for sure.”

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431 South Cascade
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

(719) 447-4627
(719) 447-4631 (fax)

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