By Ted Harbin (Appeared in March WPRN)
Jana Bean owns a small herd of quality horses, and it’s a good thing for barrel racing in general.
Bean found success on several horses – she ran six in 2015 and earned money on five of them. She also allowed other ladies to find their own successes on her horses.
“I train horses, so I have a few in the barn,” Bean said with a laugh.
Bean finished second in the year-end standings in the Texas Circuit, leaning heavily on Dashing Klee, a 5-year-old bay gelding she calls Chick, and Im A Royal Design, a 9-year-old sorrel gelding that goes by Hammer. Those two powerful mounts also guided the Fort Hancock, Texas, cowgirl to her second straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification.
When Sarah Kieckhefer needed a little help at the RAM Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo, Bean was there with UR One Famous Rebel, a 7-year-old sorrel stallion out of Denas Dividend by Dash Ta Fame. Kieckhefer rode Rico to a second-place finish in the average and in the year-end race, just behind Sherry Cervi in both categories.
Now Kieckhefer and Bean will race for the national title at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which takes place April 7-10 in Kissimmee, Fla.
“I didn’t have anything,” said Kieckhefer of Prescott, Ariz. “I had to retire my horse, Stingray Booger, and had to put him down this past fall. My other horse, Cruisin Okey Dokey, got hurt over the Fourth of July.
“I was having a hard time finding a horse around here to borrow. I called her to see if she knew of something around El Paso, since the circuit finals were in Las Cruces (N.M.) and isn’t that far from there. She offered her stud. I went earlier that day, met Rico at a friend’s house and rode him for about 20 minutes. That was the first time I’d been on him, then I rode him at the circuit finals that night.”
In fact, they placed second in the round that night and earned a check again in the third round. The $3,740 she earned in Las Cruces pushed her to second in the year-end standings, earning her ticket to Kissimmee.
“It’s vacation for us,” she said of her husband, Rick, and their 4-year-old daughter, Kodi. “It means a lot to do that, because the last couple of years I didn’t think I’d ever get to go again.”
Kieckhefer had earned a trip to the national finals when the event took place in Pocatello, Idaho, and this will mark her second qualification.
“We took Kodi to Disneyland (in California) the summer before last, and she loved her,” she said. “I told her we get to go to Disney World now, and it’s even bigger now to her because it’s down by the beach. She’s pretty excited.”
So is Sarah Kieckhefer, who plans to use the experience as a way to make a little money while enjoying some family time. How things go through the early part of the 2016 season will help her decide what happens the rest of the year.
“If I had a chance (to go to the NFR) or had a good winter, I’d probably go rodeo a little bit,” said Kieckhefer, who also spends a great deal of time working at The Legacy Ranch Horse Sale in Prescott. “We’re just so busy here at the ranch that it’s hard to be gone.
“Plus, without that Stingray horse, I’ve had a hard time getting excited about it again.”
She is excited about heading to Florida and taking a shot at the national title. So are 23 other cowgirls that have all earned their way to the RNCFR, and Bean is one of them.
“We’re excited about going to Florida and seeing the sites down there,” said Bean, who plans to take Hammer and Rico to Kissimmee. “Last year all those girls got to go to where those gators were, and I’d like to do that. I’m from the desert, so I’ve never seen a gator.”
Bean finished second in the Texas Circuit’s year-end standings, just behind Kelly Tover, who also won the average at the RAM Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo in Waco, Texas, in early January.
“Making the RNCFR is very important,” said Bean, who qualified for the first time in her career. “To make the circuit finals in Texas is an honor. Every circuit’s tough, but our circuit – with so many rodeos and so many good horses in Texas – is always tough.
“For two years in a row, I’ve gone into the circuit finals winning the year-end and lost it at the circuit finals.”
Everything worked out just fine, though.
“I don’t want to take anything away from any of the other circuits, because they’re all very tough,” she said. “I just think we have more horses in our state, and it’s so big and is such a rodeo state. There are so many people in our state that are great; just because they don’t go to the NFR doesn’t mean they can’t if they tried.”
That type of competition helped pave the way for the West Texas cowgirl to earn two prestigious qualifications in 2015 – the RNCFR and the NFR. At the later this past December, Bean placed in three straight go-rounds, winning on the ninth night. That came on Hammer, a talented sorrel.
In all, she earned more than $41,000 in Las Vegas and finished the year with $111,624, good enough for 12th in the world standings.
“Dashing Klee, my 5-year-old, was my superstar in the winter,” she said. “I just had young, green horses, but I knew he could do it. After Odessa (in January 2015), he really came on fire. We finished second in the average at Fort Worth. I placed in three rounds on him in San Antonio, then we hit a barrel to set the arena record at San Antonio. He won me $25,000 in the winter.”
She continued running Chick through the winter and into the spring. She acquired Hammer in May.
“I knew of the horse and the caliber of the horse, so I called the lady that had him,” Bean said. “We talked about it and prayed about it. He and I just became a team. I got to the finals on him.
“He’s a real big, strong horse and has a lot of speed. You just have to get him to trust you. If he trust you, he’s usually OK. It took him a little time to get there with me.”
As a horse trainer, Bean knows what it means to have that bond with a horse. She also knows what it means to be in a bind and have some help getting out. That’s why she was open to helping Kieckhefer when she needed. Bean also will have Rico in Kissimmee just in case Kieckhefer needs him.
“I’ve been very fortunate and have had people let me use their horses, and I like to give back,” Bean said. “That’s the cool thing about rodeo; we all try to help each other.
“I think that’s what’s great about our sport.”
Yes, it is.