NFR 2018
NFR 2017
NFR 2018-Horse of the Year
rule Hailey Kinsel's
Named AQHA Horse of the Year

By Ted Harbin
Photo by: Kenneth Springer

Hailey Kinsel looks at her powerful yellow horse and knows there is something special inside that frame.

It seems other barrel racers thought the same thing of DM Sissy Hayday, a 7-year-old palomino mare out of Royal Sissy Irish by PC Frenchmans Hayday, because Sissy was named the WPRA/AQHA Barrel Racing Horse of the Year.

“I am proud and honored the other girls think that highly of her,” said Kinsel, who heads into the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo No. 1 in the ProRodeo world standings with nearly $193,000 in earnings. “It was really special that everybody else was thinking the same thing about Sis. I’m really thrilled that she won it.”

It’s been a magical season for Kinsel and Sister, who will return for the second straight year to the NFR, where they lit the Thomas & Mack Center on fire over 10 days and finished the 2017 campaign as the reserve world champion. The tandem seemed to carry the momentum from last year’s finale into this year’s run for the gold.

“It means a lot to be able to describe her as the Horse of the Year,” she said of Sister. “This has been a big year; she has made every year of my life with her a big year. It’s fun to be able to put a label on this year as her best one so far, and it’s not quite over yet.

“Last year was special for her overall with winning The American, the college finals and Salt Lake. We had some really big wins that made it to be a huge win. But two of those didn’t count for the WPRA. This year, for most of those big wins to be inside the WPRA made her somewhat qualified to get that recognition.”

The big victories came early. Kinsel finished second at Fort Worth, pocketing $14,512. Then came the title in San Antonio, where she earned $25,141. She finished second in Houston, worth $27,000, and won Calgary, pocketing $121,000, $71,000 of which counted toward the WPRA standings. Those four paydays add up to nearly $140,000 of her season earnings.

That’s not bad for the fourth-year pro who broke out a year ago. She earned her first 2017 victory in late June, a couple weeks after winning the barrel racing championship at the College National Finals Rodeo while competing for Texas A&M University.

Even before that, Kinsel knew she had a special creature in Sister.

“She comes first before my plans and my goals,” Kinsel said, revealing a maturity well beyond her 24 years on this Earth. “I don’t just go to rodeos that I want to go to; I go to the ones that are good for her and for her health and for her mind for the long term. I want her to be a great horse for a long time.

“Even though there are several rodeos I’d love to run her at because she’d give me a shot to win, I remind myself that if I save her and am smart and limit her hauling, I can keep her efficient with her runs. By doing that, I’ll have a winning horse for several years. We plan everything regarding what’s going to be the best for her in the long run.”

Sister is also mature for a young horse. She has handled the road well and has proven to be quite adaptable. Kinsel said the mare knows how to differentiate her time of rest compared to her time to make runs.

“Sis has always had a talent for that,” Kinsel said. “She’s all over the place, but when it comes to running barrels, she focuses really well.”

Word about the award was distributed Oct. 5, just two months prior to the start of the NFR. Sister finished ahead of the runner-up, KN Fabs Gift Of Fame, ridden by Ivy Conrado and owned by Kenny Nichols and James Barroon. Rafter W Minnie Reba, ridden by reigning world champion Nellie Miller and owned by her father, Sam Williams, finished third in the voting.

Now there are several weeks to get everything lined out for the richest 10 days in rodeo each year.

“We will be really proactive about planning her rest times and her breaks, then programming when we get her back into conditioning,” Kinsel said. “We’ve been planning for the NFR since July. The idea is how can I get her to peak right before the finals. We’re getting ahead of the game as best we can to set up that week.

“My job is to have her as fit as possible and have her as sound mentally as I can. I will be getting her as strong as I need to be.”

She already knows Sister is fast, who can get to top speed in a hurry and stop just as quickly. But there’s more to the palomino mare than the eyes can see.

“She likes the job, and she likes the way we handle her,” she said. “She likes my mom and me. I think she’s as in love with the game as I am. I think she does her job because she likes it.”


AQHA Horses of the Year

1. DM Sissy Hayday (Sister); rider: Hailey Kinsel; owner: Dan & Leslie Kinsel

2. KN Fabs Gift Of Fame (JLo); rider: Ivy Conrado; owners: Kenny Nichols & James Barron

3. Rafter W Minnie Reba (Sister); rider: Nellie Miller; owner: Sam Williams