Pinkston Playing the Game of Life


Liz Pinkston

Mike Copeman

By Laura Lambert


This fun loving, athletic, energetic mom from Alice, Texas qualified for the Wrangler National Finals in 2004 and 2005 atop her great horse Speedy Doc Holiday aka “Doc”.  Not only did she qualify but in her second trip, she placed in five of the 10 rounds and won the average earning her more than $65,000 just at the Wrangler NFR.

You don’t have to spend long talking to her to find out she is self-driven and goal oriented.  When talking about the past, she was quick to say, “I’ll be back at the Wrangler NFR one day – it’s just all about timing.”

Timing is important to Liz Pinkston and has played a pretty big role in her success.  Having been involved in rodeo since being in the second grade, Pinkston always dreamed of making the National Finals rodeo.  She gave it a few tries but the timing just wasn’t right and things didn’t fall in place.  In 2000, her great partner Doc got injured at Calgary and sent the pair home with some pretty pessimistic news.  

“The vets actually told me that Doc would never come back and certainly never run barrels again,” Pinkston recalled.  “I just turned him out and got on my other horses.  I went on to make the circuit finals on them and had some success for sure.  They were nice, but they weren’t Doc.  A few years later, we got him up and he seemed like he was sound.  I started getting him in shape and decided that I would just test him at a few rodeos but that those rodeos would be the tour rodeos.  I figured that if I was going to run him, I was going to run him at the big ones where it really meant something,” Pinkston said.

As it turned out, the timing was right and things started to fall into place.  Those runs started meaning a lot and by the end of the year in 2004, she had qualified for the Tour Finale in Omaha, Neb.  She was still a bit of a distance from making the Wrangler NFR but the goal was within reach.  Pinkston put together some great runs and ended up winning the Finale.  With this big win and at the end of the season, the duo needed to win $1,500 to make her first trip to sin city for the big show.  With one last chance, she advanced to Dallas where she kept her head about her and went ahead and put an exclamation point on the deal.  She won Dallas, securing her spot.

“When I got to the NFR, I can just remember that I was nervous.  I tell everyone all the time to take three deep breaths, clear your head, and then go have fun.  I tried to keep it all in perspective and just enjoy it.  It was that qualification in 2004 where I saw the average saddle and that became my new goal.  I said that I was going back again and I was winning that saddle next year,” she remembers.

The goal was set.  When Pinkston sets a goal, you can bet she is going to play all her cards toward achieving it.  The year 2005 brought about some new soundness challenges for the duo so Pinkston was careful about where she ran Doc.  She did what she called, “played the game smart.”

A good game it was and she qualified for her second trip to Las Vegas.  Nine rounds down and nine clean runs!  With one run left at the Wrangler NFR, Pinkston was set up to accomplish her goal.  “I was so nervous that day.  I was doing everything I could to keep my mind off of that run.  I roped the dummy with my kids, I did anything and everything I could to stay relaxed,” she said.

Apparently it worked because when she left the arena, she was the 2005 Wrangler NFR average champion and completed her goal.  When she got home she decided that Doc had given his all.  She wasn’t going to push him.  

“Doc was just one of those with a huge heart.  He absolutely wanted to do it.  He loved running barrels.  I learned so much from him and I think it is amazing that he went on to teach my daughter a lot about running barrels.  You can’t teach someone how a good horse feels, they have to experience it.  I know I learned from him and I still try to make my other horses feel like him,” she said.  “He deserved to rest and not be pushed to give so much each run.”

Pinkston kept on the rodeo trail for a few years with another horse, Cup Crazy aka “Tiny” but not to the extent she had.  She had success and won quite a bit on him but the timing of life was changing.  It was about this time that her daughter, Acey, was getting tired of being on the road and her son, Bradford, was very involved in football.  Pinkston valued her time as a mom and didn’t want to miss out on activities with her kids, so she went home.  

“My kids pretty much consume my life now.  It’s a full time job having a 21-year-old boy in college and a 12-year-old girl involved in everything possible.  Bradford is attending college at Tarleton State where he is on the rodeo team.  He ropes calves and team ropes.  Acey is in seventh grade and plays volleyball, basketball, cheerleads and rodeos.  Basically I’m busy being a mom,” she laughed.  

Being a mom is something she enjoys and puts her whole heart into.  Her horses all end up in the kids hands and she’s fine with it.  In fact, Doc even debuted as a kids horse when Acey decided to ride him.  She took home many wins on him.  He is now retired, living out his life in a big pasture, bossing everyone around.  He even comes to the trailer when it’s time to leave and begs to get in.  

photoLiz Pinkston
Photo by Mike Copeman

“When I’m not doing things with my kids, I’m still riding horses and tuning other kid’s horses.  I love helping kids, and I love barrel racing so it all goes together.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to go much.  In fact, I think I would have to talk myself down if I got to make a competitive run.  I think I would be terribly nervous.  I’d have to tell myself to take three deep breaths,” she joked.

While she is staying busy being a mom, she also hopes to make it to some of the winter rodeos this year.  She would like to pocket a little prize money to help her get into some of the bigger rodeos later in the year.  If she is able to go, she will be armed with three different horses including Tiny.  

“I’ll just set some smaller goals and if those fall into place, the bigger picture will work itself out,” she said when asked about her future in the professional barrel racing world.  

“You know it’s tough out there and I just admire those ladies who made the Wrangler NFR this year.  I don’t really have any favorites because I respect them all.  I’ve been away for long enough that I don’t recognize some of them but I will say what an incredible year Mary Burger has had.  She deserves everything she is attaining right now.  It’s just awesome.  She’s a veteran and it’s obviously meant to be!  I like to think of her year like she is setting herself up for the triple crown in rodeo.  She won Houston, won Calgary, and has a great chance to win the world.  It is amazing the amount of energy and drive she still has for our sport,” Pinkston said.

“I guess I have to cheer for the veterans.  I don’t know how you can bet against Lisa Lockhart and Louie.  She is so consistent across the board.  Sherry (Cervi) has been there so many times and always proves to be a contender.  Mary (Walker) and Latte are always at the top of my list because she has had a lot of heartache in her life.  I always want her to do well.  This year’s field is a strong one and it takes a lot of hard work to get there.  I have no doubt we will be in for a treat every time they set the barrels up,” she said.