By Jolee Jordan
Colorado Springs, Colorado—The Fourth of July holiday brings huge opportunities for rodeo competitors with so many big purse rodeos taking place around the celebration of America’s Independence. While the anticipation factor is quite high, Cowboy Christmas can also seem quite daunting for a rookie competitor who has not ever experienced the rush.
The WPRA’s leading rookie in 2017 Taci Bettis admits to feeling a bit of that trepidation at the prospect of hitting so many rodeos, and spending so many hours in the truck in the days leading up to the Fourth. She hit the big week with great momentum, however, after posting the fastest time of the Reno Rodeo the week prior to the Fourth.
“Before we left, I was a little nervous,” she laughs. “When I tried to visualize things, I just kept seeing a black wall.”
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” says Bettis, noting that she had made a lot of runs in a short amount of time back when still competing in regional rodeos in Texas in previous summers but had never experienced the runs coupled with the traveling.
Photo by Ty Stockton
Bettis had an ace-in-the-hole in her hauling partner, veteran Tammy Fischer from whom Bettis bought her great gelding Smash.
“Tammy has shown me the ropes . . . I’d be lost without her,” says Bettis, who has ridden with Fischer since she was quite young.
Fischer had the pair’s Fourth mapped out, beginning with a run in Colorado Springs for the qualifying event for Pikes Peak or Bust on Monday, July 26. From there, the duo went to the Greeley Stampede on June 28.
“We got qualified [in Colorado Springs] but the rookie-first barrel in the middle of the arena-thing got me in Greeley,” she jokes, referring to the fact that the right barrel sits in the middle of the huge Greeley arena, way off the wall. “I rode too safe and we ended up just missing coming back [for the short round.]”
Fischer and Bettis had help in the form of their husbands, Bryan and Jeremy, who came on the road to help with the driving but their trip became a little shorter—but more stressful—when a trailer problem forced them to turn out of the Gold Tour stop in St. Paul (Ore.). Luckily, the trailer got fixed in time for them to pick up their schedule again at the Livingston (Mont.) Roundup on July 1.
Bettis posted a 17.66 in Livingston to eventually earn the 12th place check. She rode Smash, who is registered Bogie is a Smash, a nine year old son of Bogie Biankus out of Bogies Divine Smash.
“He’s my old faithful,” she says, adding that she also has a six year old along for the seasoning experience. “He was tired but it wasn’t affecting him. My gut said to just stay on him and he stayed strong.”
The rush continued at the Home of Champions Rodeo in Red Lodge (Mont.) on Sunday morning, July 2 then the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche (S.D.) that night.
“I think we had like 10 minutes to spare in Belle Fourche,” says Bettis. “I don’t think either one of us knew we were running barrels!”
Bettis’ 17.36 second run in Red Lodge landed her second behind Kelly Yates while her 16.91 second effort in Belle Fourche took the lead at the time and would eventually earn her a fourth place check. Fischer picked up checks at both rodeos as well.
An overnight drive to the Sitting Bull Stampede in Mobridge (S.D.) proved successful as well for the Texas cowgirls. Bettis stopped the clock in 16.93 seconds to win fourth while Fischer took seventh.
After a quick trip back to Greeley for Fischer to compete in the finals, the rig was on the road again for an all-nighter to the Cody Stampede. Fischer claimed the biggest prize over the Fourth, winning nearly $10,000 after her run of 16.88 seconds earned her the championship. Bettis stayed close behind, winning sixth with her run of 17.01.
“I guess the more tired they are, the better they worked,” says Bettis of Smash and Fischer’s Ziva's runs in Cody.
The pair finished up at the Oakley (Utah) Independence Rodeo on Tuesday night, July 4.
“We’re staying put for a few days to regroup and rest,” noted Bettis on July 6, two days after the dust had cleared. “We were really happy to get some real food after living on gas station food for a week!”
With all the runs taken into account, Bettis had earned $10,258 for the Fourth, 10th best of all the WPRA barrel racers.
She picked the Cody Stampede as her favorite memory of her first Fourth of July.
“I really liked it—I like those big pens,” she explains. “And it was a dirty tough barrel race so to be in the mix of that was really cool.”
Five cowgirls stopped the clock in less than 17 seconds on the WPRA standard pattern and it took a 17.24 to earn the final check at 15th place.
Fischer finished third in the Cowboy Christmas race, earning $13,681 to move to 11th in the WPRA World standings. Bettis is now ranked 16th, about $1,500 behind Carley Richardson in 15th. She has extended her lead for the WPRA Rookie of the Year title to $25,000 over Holly Wright.
Fischer and Bettis took a few days rest but will be back in action at the Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo in Vernal, Utah. Their schedule will stay busy for the foreseeable future.
“We’re hoping to win fast and get home if we can,” she says, “like everyone I guess. I’m excited to get to run in Salt Lake City, to run for the big money.”
Bettis earned her spot at the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games by virtue of her spot atop the rookie standings.
“I feel very blessed.”
“For my first time doing this [Fourth of July run], I have to say it was very, very successful,” Bettis says. “I was coming out here to get the experience — I want to win of course but I didn’t know what to expect.
“I’m just grateful to be getting to do this and I know it’s going to be hard to live up to this as my first year out here.”