Putting In Work
Zilverberg Wins Tie-Down Average en route to First World Title
By Tim Gentry
Tanegai Zilverberg has a job to do. Every single day on her family’s Lazy Heart Z Ranch in Holabird, S.D., she’s up early taking care of the horses. She breaks them, trains them, rides and ropes on them. Her job isn’t a nine-to-five. It’s a twenty-four-seven, rain or shine. Her job is her calling, her birthright.
Even when she hits the rodeo trail, it’s just as much business as pleasure. A trip to the pay window can put a little more diesel in the rig and pay the fees at the next stop, but her livelihood is selling the same horses she rides. Every go-round is an advertisement for the sort of finish she and her family can put on a mount, and she never takes it lightly.
“My life revolves around rodeo and training horses,” said Zilverberg. “When I show up to a rodeo, I’ve taken a day off of riding other horses. If I don’t win, I’ve also lost the day of training on something else that I could sell or is an outside horse.”
Rodeo is her job, and she just can’t give anything less than her absolute best, whether she’s in the round pen, the practice arena or a performance. She’s driven to be the best, to be that all-around cowgirl who can pull a check in any event that puts a rope in her hand.
She qualified for the WPRA World Finals in first place in the tie-down, but also competed in the team roping and the breakaway, her personal favorite event. Her strategy in the tie-down was simple: the slim lead she had coming into Finals meant nothing. Just as in years past, an average win would likely crown the next World Champion.
“In the tie-down, I never really go for first. I just go for solid,” she explained. “If you win the average, you usually end up with the year-end. Just [wanted to] stay solid and hope I draw good calves I can win on.”
Aboard her brother Zane’s calf horse, Mister Mighty Spark (“Barley”), the first round’s draw was middle of the pen, and the pair clocked a clean, 15.9 for third place. Chasing Zilverberg from second in the standings was four-time and reigning world champion Kari Nixon, Freedom, OK, who gained ground with a second-place run of 14.2. Rylee George, Oakdale, CA, won the go with a 13.1.
Her second round draw was even better, and while she may never go for first, Zilverberg’s “solid” that night was 14.1 seconds. It won her the round and increased her lead over Nixon, who finished fifth. Chenoa Vandestouwe, Inwood, IA, was second with a 15.1.
As predicted, the 2022 Tie-Down Championship would come down to the final round. Zilverberg’s 30-flat on two led the way, with Nixon’s 31.7 behind her. But when Zilverberg got her draw for the last round, she knew she had some extra work to do. He was bigger than most of the pen, and had given girls in the first two rounds plenty of trouble. In an arena a little louder than her horse was used to, it all very nearly fell apart in that final round.
“What happened was, when I roped him, he was off to the left and he ran up the rope a little,” said Zilverberg of her make-or-break run. “The speakers, they spooked Barley forward a little bit so my rope wasn’t tight and I didn’t have that leverage to get him flanked off that tight rope. I didn’t get him the first time, so I had to flank him again.”
The clock stopped in 22.9. Not the prettiest run, and no final-round check at the pay window, but her second effort saved the average, and won her the 2022 WPRA Tie-Down World Championship. Second place in the average went to Vandestouwe, who had a stand-out Finals performance, taking checks in all three rounds.
In addition to her championship hardware, Zilverberg left Waco with something more meaningful than any title she could win for herself. Her peers at the Finals voted Barley Professional’s Choice Most Outstanding Horse of the Finals. He also helped win his rider a check in the team roping, and took fourth place in the all-around barrel race.
Tanegai her parents, Gary and April Zilverberg, and brother, Zane worked together over the years to make Barley into such an amazing, all-around horse. The 12-year-old is in the prime of his career, and the honor belongs to him, but it’s for the whole family to celebrate and share in.
“I take pride knowing I can take a horse from the bottom, one that’s probably never, ever been touched, and eventually make him into something as nice as Barley,” commented Tanegai. “We broke him to ride. We roped on him. We did all the hard stuff with him and now we’re winning on him. That’s a pretty big deal to me”
All in a day’s work for this first time World Champion. Her job is her passion and rodeo is how she earns a living. It’s engrained in her, and she’ll never stop training horses no matter how much success she finds in the arena.
“I have the horses I keep because they’re my number one, go-to-the-rodeo horses, but I have horses that have helped me throughout the years be able to go to places like the Women’s Finals and do well that I’ve sold to people, and they’re winning on them now. It’s almost more of a proud moment for me than myself winning, just because I put enough time into that horse and made him good enough that somebody else could go on and achieve their dreams with him.”
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