By Jolee Jordan
Canon City, Colorado —It’s not far from Fowler to Canon City, Colo. —just about 70 miles; it would be an easy drive for Fowler native Jenna Waggoner . . . if she still lived there.
Waggoner recently got engaged and moved to Gering, Neb. Though the drive to the Royal Gorge Rodeo is now more than five hours from home, Waggoner still made sure to keep the rodeo on her entry book.
“I ran at Guymon [the same week] and I’ve won money in Canon City every time we’ve been there so I planned to go,” says Waggoner.
The Royal Gorge Rodeo is billed as the oldest continuous rodeo in Colorado, begun back in 1872 under the name Old Settlers Reunion. The rodeo returned to the ranks of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and Women’s Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) in 2016 after several years under the banner of a regional association.
A four year pro, Waggoner has been hauling with her future husband, seventh ranked PRCA tie down roper Riley Pruitt, this spring. Hauling a pair of horses, Waggoner hit bad luck in Guymon, Okla., when her main mount came up sore after the pair’s first run. She was forced to turn out the second run.
Fortunately, she had planned to ride the horse who has been more the back-up lately, Sumfunsin, aka Fusebox, in Canon City anyway after past history of winning in the same town just west of Colorado Springs.
PHOTO BY: Phillip Kitts
Drawing up in the Saturday morning slack on May 7, Waggoner noted that the Canon City Rodeo Association Arena has new ground, with more sand, in 2016.
“It was really deep and I watched the first horse out have some trouble with it,” says Waggoner. However, the cowgirl had no worries about her own chances. “Fusebox loves deeper ground so I knew he would do good. That’s what he really likes.”
Turns out, she knows her horse. The nine year old former race horse made his way around the cloverleaf to stop the clock at 18.07 seconds. She led with just one performance left to compete, the Saturday night group.
“There were some tough ones up that night like Ivy Conrado [No. 2 in the WPRA World standings],” notes Waggoner. However, no one was able to beat her time, giving her the win and $882.
“I was glad to get the win.”
The win moved Waggoner to third in the Ram Mountain States Circuit standings in early going. Her main goal for 2016 is to secure a berth at the Circuit Finals Rodeo, to be held this year in Loveland, Colo.
“I’ve never made enough rodeos,” says Waggoner, referring to the requirement that competitors compete in a minimum number of rodeos in order to be eligible for circuit finals qualifications. “I’ve made the money but not the rodeo count.”
Health issues with her horses had put the damper on a first trip to the circuit finals but Waggoner is hoping this season will be different. Her main horse should be back in action by summer and Fusebox has been a solid campaigner.
“He has been good to me,” she notes, “and he has rodeos he likes where we always seem to win.” Waggoner bought the grey gelding as a four year old from Crystal Evans of San Angelo, Texas. He had been on the track briefly but an illness forced an end to a racing career before he came to Evans.
“She turned him into a barrel horse,” Waggoner says.
Waggoner and her younger sister Nicole grew up with horses. Their parents own a trucking company but both grew up riding - their father in the racing business and their mother on a ranch.
“We did gymkhanas and everything . . . I’ve been rodeoing since I was probably six or seven,” Waggoner notes. Today, both the Waggoner sisters still rodeo, usually traveling together.
“We’ll go together this summer again since Riley will be going to the bigger rodeos and hauling further,” she says. The travel will include a stop in Casper, Wyo., for the College National Finals Rodeo. Nicole qualified this year competing for Otero Junior College, also her big sister’s alma mater.
Waggoner works as a bookkeeper for a farm and ranch operation in her new hometown, a position that allows her the flexibility to accommodate her big summer rodeo plans.
“They understand the rodeo life. I take work with me on the road,” she says. “They are really good about my traveling.”
Waggoner is looking forward to summer rodeos in her home circuit including much anticipated stops at Elizabeth (CO) and Cheyenne Frontier Days, both places she has had success in the past. She also notes that she’s resisted the idea of changing circuits since she recently moved.
“We have lots of good rodeos in our circuit,” she notes, laughing while adding that her fiancé wanted her to come to the Badlands Circuit with him. “They get snow up there—I don’t like going to rodeos in the snow.”
Snow likely won’t be a problem on the summer run in Colorado and Wyoming. Waggoner will also stay busy with wedding plans. She and Pruitt will wed in Denver on October 15.
“I had no idea how much work it is!” she laughs. “If I’d known that, we’d probably be having a destination wedding!”
For more information on the Royal Gorge Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.canoncityrodeoassociation.com/.