Emily Beisel and Ivy Hurst cheered one another on as they gritted it out to earn their tickets to the NFR Open at the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in Duncan, Oklahoma.
Close friends Emily Beisel and Ivy Hurst battled for checks all weekend long in Duncan, Oklahoma’s Ram Prairie Circuit Finals, and cheered one another on as Beisel rallied to win the year-end circuit championship and Hurst dominated the aggregate win.
Hurst finished second in the first round with a 16.38-second run and earned $1,445, topped the second go with a smoking 16.01, and matched that to also top the second round and earn $1,936 each time. Her time of 48.40 seconds earned her the aggregate win by over 0.40 seconds and earned an additional $2,890, bringing her total earnings for the weekend to $8,187.
Her circuit finals performance put an exclamation point on a two-year long struggle Hurst faced inside and outside of the arena. Just two years ago, Hurst lost her standout gelding, Top Of The Roc, “Diddy,” and the loss nearly broke her spirit.
“That changes your perspective,” Hurst said of his death. “I’ve never experienced that big of a loss, which I am fortunate for. It wrecked me. A lot of people don’t know, but it took me an entire year to recover. You lose your identity when you lose that horse, and you lose the reason you do everything.”
After a year away from rodeo and partway thorugh the 2022 season, Hurst had the opportunity to climb aboard Famous Dallas Jazz, who helped her secure her seventh PCFR qualification. When the gelding sold weeks before RPCF, Hurst was unsure what her mount of choice would be in Duncan.
Hurst’s friends stepped up in a big way. She had offers of horses to ride pour in from across the USA and Canada. She decided to settle on Cheyenne Fab, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Rylee Shields. Hurst knew she could ride after Shields, and she had the added bonus of Cheyenne Fab being just 45 minutes from her home in Springer, Oklahoma. She tried the gelding at one jackpot the week before RPCF, took him back to Shields and picked him up on the way to Duncan.
Hurst’s Time to Shine
A calm settled over Hurst as she pulled into Duncan, something she hadn’t felt during previous circuit finals.
“I had a tack set made with Diddy’s hair in it,” Hurst said. “It’s been sitting in my trailer all year long, and this weekend was the first time that I put it on a horse. I felt ready.”
The peace that Hurst felt was nothing like she’d ever experienced at her six previous RPCF qualifications.
“I went over there with a different mindset this year—I showed up to win,” Hurst said. “I don’t know why, but I knew it was going to happen. Even when I got dressed Saturday night, I picked clothes and things that I wanted my picture taken in. I guess God talks to you like that—like ‘Hey, today’s your day.’ I knew it was coming my way.”
Inside the arena, Hurst is known for jockeying incredibly difficult horses and solving problem cases. Riding Cheyenne Fab gave her an opportunity to have fun during her runs. She noted that she was nearly on autopilot as a rider while running the gelding all three rounds and sang her praises to both Cheyenne Fab and Shields.
“A good horse makes my job easy,” Hurst said. “He’s just a winner and was so much fun to run.”
With her mind right and a ticket into the NFR Open, friends have been asking if Hurst plans on taking a stab at the NFR next year. She laughed at the thought, because she may be missing one key ingredient: a finished barrel horse.
“Let’s be for real, I own a 3-year-old right now,” Hurst said. “But what I do know is that I have connections with amazing people. Just like this year, I never expected to get Famous Dallas Jazz to run. There will be another story and another horse, I do know that. All of my great horses have found me somehow. It’s been a crazy, Godly thing, so I’m patiently waiting.”
Beau Steps up for Beisel
Cheering Hurst on all weekend long was her friend and multiple-time NFR Qualifier, Emily Beisel, who entered the RPCF in the No. 4 position in the standings. Beisel has spent years assembling a team of rockstar geldings that each fulfill a different need in her program, and she switched up her strategy when making her selection for Duncan to help her prepare for the upcoming NFR.
“They all have an area where they shine,” Beisel said. “Pipewrench (Namgis D 35) won the majority of my earnings for the circuit this year and set us up to be in contention for the year-end. But, I wanted to make sure I had a backup for Las Vegas this year, so I decided to give Beau (Biddin on Fame) his chance. Usually I ride Beau in the tricky setups—the crazy gates, weird patterns, those things you encounter at the rodeos— but I wanted to give him and I the opportunity for some confidence in a traditional indoor arena set up similar to the NFR.”
“I was 11th out on Saturday night and about $50 behind Tamara (Reinhardt) in the standings,” Beisel said. “I paid attention to see if I would have to go throw down or just make a solid run. They started cranking out these great runs and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re throwing down! Okay, let’s go for it.'”
A Difficult Decision
Beisel reflected on how her career has changed drastically since her first circuit finals a decade ago, during her rookie season. She quickly became a well-known name within the Prairie Circuit and in surrounding states, but she got launched to national stardom when she and Pipewrench won the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida, (the precursor to the NFR Open) earned an exemption into The Calgary Stampede, and used that momentum to later earn her first NFR qualification in 2018. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to maintain a career as a professional barrel racer, and now could be faced with a difficult decision.
“The RNCFR started my whole career,” Beisel said. “I am very loyal to the circuit system. Without it, I would be cleaning teeth full-time, not where I am today. Unfortunatley, the way thoings are set up with the NFR Open overlapping Calgary, there’s a ground rule that doesn’t allow you to compete at both. Calgary has always been good to me and I absolutely hate that I may have to choose.”
Professional dilemma aside, the possible decision hits on a deeper level for Beisel.
“When I figured out that I couldn’t do both—it takes away a lot of the incentive to circuit rodeo, and that honestly breaks my heart. I grew up around these committees, I love them. I have history with them. Those little rodeos will send you a thank-you note sometimes just for showing up at their rodeo, and that’s just so cool. It means so much to me, and it’s hard on my heart right now that this could hurt the circuits.”
Beau placed in all three rounds with Beisel and was No. 2 to Hurst in the aggregate, earning $5,057 to bring her season earnings to $20,897.95 and secure the Prairie Circuit championship. She nodded her hat to the committee and circuit director for making sure the ground was safe and fair for all contestants, which she felt aided to the intensity of the competition each round.
Friends in the Winner’s Circle
In between runs, Beisel, Hurst and their third amigo, Michelle Darling, could be found hanging out between the trailers with their families. Hurst and her husband, Lane, enjoyed a weekend away from working young horses. Beisel had the welcome surprise of her stepson, Rowan (7), being in attendance, and her husband, Austin, was also there to cheer her on.
“It was just a fun weekend,” Beisel said in conclusion. “It really was.”
Ram Prairie Circuit Finals
Duncan, Oklahoma, October 11-14
1. Emily Griffin, 16.35 seconds, $1,926; 2. Ivy Hurst, 16.38, $1,445; 3. Michelle Darling, 16.42, $963; 4. Emily Beisel, 16.43, $482
1. Ivy Hurst, 16.01 seconds, $1,926; 2. Emily Beisel, 16.28, $1,445; 3. Taylor Johnson, 16.36, $963; 4. Tammy Peterson, 16.43, $482
1. Ivy Hurst, 16.01 seconds, $1,926; 2. Emily Griffin, 16.09, $1,445; 3. Emily Beisel, 16.14, $963; 4. Tamara Reinhardt, 16.16, $482
1. Ivy Hurst, 48.40 seconds on three head, $2,890; 2. Emily Beisel, 48.85, $2,167; 3. Emily Griffin, 48.98, $1,445; 4. Tamara Reinhardt, 49.16, $722