Sweeping both the average and year-end, Abby Knight is heading to the NFR Open for the first time aboard gelding Pistol.
Abby Knight of Charlo, Montana, captured both the aggregate and year-end barrel championship in the PRCA Montana Circuit in Great Falls, Montana, Jan. 12–14, 2023, with $30,683 earned throughout the year.
“That pen is so tough there in Great Falls that the average can really be anyone,” said Knight, 27. “So going in with my number one spot in the standings, I knew I needed to just be competitive in the finals so I could clinch that year-end title.”
Knight was competitive and more, winning the first and second rounds with times of 13.02 and 12.91 seconds, respectively. Knight also snagged fourth in the third round with a 13.02-second run. An aggregate of 38.95 seconds on three runs earned her a $3,660 check, bringing her circuit finals total to $9,150.
The pen in Great Falls, Montana, is tricky to say the least. Knight described it as having a crooked gate, and the tight set-up meant that nine of the 12 riders caught a barrel by the time the third round came. The ground varies year-over-year, too, because it’s hauled in and has an entire rodeo take place over it before it’s time for the barrels. This was Knight’s second trip to the circuit finals, and she said the ground was “pretty hard” this year.
“When you come to the first barrel, if your pivot point is off, you come back over the top,” Knight said. “And if you run to the left barrel first, it’s completely blind. Plus, it’s tiny so you don’t have a lot of room. I’m lucky that my horse lets me pick him up and move him but, if you have a strong horse, sometimes it’s just too hard to keep them off of them.”
Knight said her 10-year-old gelding Mable Draws A Pistol (Instant Income x Tinka Rocket Command), called “Pistol,” was stronger than usual on her first barrel of the first round, but improved throughout the run and was the picture of consistency the next two nights.
Abby Knight and Mable Draws A Pistol Clocked a 12.91-second run to win the second round of the 2022 Montana Circuit Finals.
Generations of Winning Horses
Pistol is part of the second generation of winning horses on Knight’s team. She rode the gelding’s dam, Tinka Rocket Command (Brown King Command x Tinka Rocket) to a NBHA State Youth Title 20 years ago and rode Pistol’s three-quarter sister Mables Little Rocket (Passive Income x Tinka Rocket Command) throughout her high school and college rodeo years.
Although Pistol was on the back burner throughout college, he quickly stepped up when it was his turn.
“He has been easy from the beginning,” Knight said. “He’s the first horse I fully trained myself, so we’ve been together from day one. I entered him in his first race in July his 5-year-old year and, by September, we were winning rounds at NBHA State Finals. He’s always wanted to work.”
Some of Knight and Pistol’s recent successes together include a 1D Championship at the All In Barrel Race in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dec. 3, 2022. They’ve earned the Northern Rodeo Association Finals Average Championship in 2021 and 2022, as well.
Pistol runs without a tie down or bonnet and works with a Half Wonder Bit with a twisted wire mouthpiece. Knight said the bit was his first “step up” from what he was started in, and he was so content she never changed it.
He’s happy on the road if he has a buddy, which Knight found in mare Paydays Instant Cash (Instant Income x Tidys Payday).
“Usually I’m only running Pistol, but there were a few rodeos where we pulled in and it was a mud hole so [the mare] got the call,” Knight said. “She ended up placing at the two muddy rodeos: Roundup and Drummond.”
Brittney Barnett Dominates 2021 Montana Circuit Finals Barrel Racing
Stringing Together the Wins in 2022
Part of Knight’s year-end magic was a run of solid rodeos in late August. Trekking from her northwestern corner of Montana, Knight finished second in Baker for $3,159, won Circle for $859, placed in Billings for $553, and finished up in Kalispell in second place, earning $2,025.
“In four days, I drove over 1,500 miles and managed to place in every rodeo, so that gave me the boost and padding I needed,” Knight said.
For the full-time horse trainer, the string of summer successes and a fantastic Montana Circuit Finals is a sign Knight should lean into rodeo in 2023.
“People have told me to use my horsepower,” Knight said. “I want to go a little more in 2023.”
Knight is looking forward to competing in the NFR Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the first time. The event will take place July 13–16, 2023.
“I’m pretty excited to see how my horse competes against all those other big-name girls,” Knight said. “I’m ready to travel more and rodeo hard. I plan on keeping my horse sound and feeling his best and do the best we can in Colorado.”
Joining Knight in Colorado Springs is 2020 NFR qualifier Brittany Sporer (Barnett) from Stephenville, Texas, who finished second in the year-end standings with $17,372.
Montana Circuit Finals Results
Great Falls, Montana, January 12-14
First round: 1. Abigail Knight, 13.02 seconds, $2,440; 2. Cierra Erickson, 13.10, $1,830; 3. Maggie Poloncic, 13.32, $1,220; 4. Heather Crowley, 13.38, $610
Second round: 1. Abigail Knight, 12.91 seconds, $2,440; 2. Ashley Day, 13.05, $1,830; 3. Brittney Sporer, 13.11, $1,220; 4. Hailey Garrison, 13.23, $610
Third round: 1. Ashley Day, 12.81 seconds, $2,440; 2. Maggie Poloncic, 12.98, $1,830; 3. Heather Crowley, 13.00, $1,220; 4. Abigail Knight, 13.02, $610
Average: 1. Abigail Knight, 38.95 seconds on three head, $3,660; 2. Cierra Erickson, 39.52, $2,745; 3. Maggie Poloncic, 39.75, $1,830; 4. Ashley Day, 43.90, $915
(Results from ProRodeo.com)