Unexpected Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo win propels Brittney Barnett into the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Standings.
Brittney Barnett couldn’t believe it. So, she asked Montana Circuit officials if they were sure they’d calculated correctly. In fact, it wasn’t until they said they’d checked the stats three times that she believed she had in fact won the 2021 Montana Circuit Year-end Barrel Racing Championship.
“It was a big shock,” Barnett said. “I didn’t think it was even possible. Maggie had such a big lead, and I didn’t think there was enough to win at the finals. I kept asking them, ‘are you sure?’”
Barnett entered the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo in Great Falls on January 13-15, 2022, ranked fifth, trailing leader Maggie Poloncic by just over $8,000. But after romping through three rounds, winning first every time she ran down the alley, Barnett earned the average title and picked up $11,213, squeaking past Poloncic for the double win.
“It’s exciting,” Barnett said of picking up her first circuit titles.
Admittedly, Barnett did not ride into Great Falls expecting huge results. Her mare, Chicks Keen O PocoPoo was coming back off a much-needed rest after a long season.
“She needed some time off,” Barnett said of the gritty little mare that measures nearly at pony size and is known as “Paint” around the barn. The 15-year-old is by the APHA stallion Mr Dominator out of the Quarter horse mare Stylish Chick Olena by Dix Chic Olena. Barnett opted to skip October rodeos to start the 2022 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association season and turned Paint out.
“Then I sent her to swim at Pozzi’s [Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi’s Conquer Equine in Lampasas, Texas],” Barnett said. “I made two runs at jackpots and went to the circuit finals.”
“Swimming really helped her get that extra umph back,” Barnett said.
Barnett is originally from central California but makes her home now in Stephenville, Texas. She claimed the Montana Circuit back in 2019 and competed in Great Falls aboard her other mare, Frenchmans Pick (“Pei”). After a year in the Texas Circuit, she claimed Montana again in 2021 because she spends her summers in Cody, Wyoming, along with fiancé Sid Sporer.
“We’re there all the time anyway so it just made sense,” Barnett explained. “All the summer rodeos are up there.”
She always felt that Paint would excel inside the tiny confines of the Four Seasons Arena with its tricky, slightly offset set up. However, it was a battle just to ensure she got the chance to see if she was right.
“I almost didn’t even make it, I was struggling for a while,” she said of getting inside the Montana Circuit’s top 12. “It was like the last month that we finally started placing.”
Barnett and Paint scored a clutch win in Dillon over Labor Day, gapping the field by half a second, to punch their ticket to Great Falls.
“That one paid really good and we shot way up in the standings. After that, I knew I was in.”
With the last-minute heroics to qualify, and a healthy horse feeling great after her break, Barnett still didn’t know what was to come after a rough pre-rodeo practice session.
“We were crashing everything,” Barnett noted ironically. “I think I went through [the pattern] several times and crashed every time. She was super ratey in there.”
Barnett said she knew she was going to have to push hard to get around the barrels once competition got underway and she was right.
“It’s a good thing I’ve perfected the leg lift on the second barrel,” she joked, adding that she needed every inch to stay clean as Paint got a little shorter each run.
After winning the first two rounds in 12.98 and 12.94 seconds, Barnett held a huge lead in the average going into the final round.
“I told my dad I was going to play it safe, not try to win a round, and just go around the barrels,” Barnett shared of her strategy. Paint had other ideas. “She took off strong down the alley, I couldn’t hold her back. I’m in an o-ring snaffle so there’s no pulling up so I just had to go with it!”
Barnett stopped the clock at 12.97 to win another round.
“I got back to the warm-up and Dad said, ‘I guess you were going for it,’” she laughed.
Barnett was the only barrel racer to break the 13-second mark all weekend and easily won the average at 38.89 seconds. Barnett and Poloncic will represent Montana at the NFR Open, formerly known as the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which will be held with the Pikes Peak or Bust in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in July.
“She was incredibly consistent. You can’t ask for any more than that. It was the same run every time. She definitely loved it,” Barnett added of the Great Falls arena. “She likes a blind first barrel, so I figured she’d do well.”
Sharing the celebration with family made the win even sweeter for Barnett. Her parents, Robert and Tina, were on hand as was her 10-year old daughter, Chaney, her uncle, and Sporer and his family too.
“They took their vacation and met up there,” she laughed. “It was fun to have everybody there.”
“Dad was in the warm-up pen with me every night. He’s always been there; he walked me down the alley almost every round at the NFR,” she noted of her 2020 appearance when the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) was held in Arlington, Texas.
With the Montana Circuit Finals money counting toward 2022 WPRA World standings, Barnett is now ranked fourth and thinking of reconsidering her 2022 game plan.
Sporer is hitting the road to chase a Wrangler NFR berth along with partner Jake Cooper and has encouraged Barnett to go again.
“I wasn’t planning to rodeo,” she said, noting she did enter big winter rodeos for which she’d qualified like Denver, Fort Worth and San Antonio. “I’m entered in the big stuff and I guess I’ll play it by ear. It’s a lot to have won early not to try.”
Paint is 15 years old now and Barnett has designs on pulling some embryos.
“That’s another reason I wasn’t planning to rodeo as hard,” she said. “I’m pretty excited about that. We need more pintos!”
For Barnett, the final reflection on the stellar weekend was pretty simple.
“I’m pretty proud of her,” she said of Paint. “Glad I own her.”
Montana Circuit Finals Results
First round: 1. Brittney Barnett, 12.98 seconds, $2,643; 2. Lindsay Kruse, 13.19, $1,982; 3. Abigail Knight, 13.27, $1,322; 4. Callahan Tryan, 13.48, $661. Second round: 1. Brittney Barnett, 12.94 seconds, $2,643; 2. Abigail Knight, 13.08, $1,982; 3. Maggie Poloncic, 13.11, $1,322; 4. (tie) Ashley Day and Tia Murphy, 13.22, $330 each. Third round: 1. Brittney Barnett, 12.97 seconds, $2,643; 2. Tia Murphy, 13.05, $1,982; 3. Tayla Moeykens, 13.23, $1,322; 4. Abigail Knight, 13.24, $661. Average: 1. Brittney Barnett, 38.89 seconds on three head, $3,965; 2. Abigail Knight, 39.59, $2,974; 3. Ashley Day, 40.05, $1,982; 4. Tia Murphy, 44.63, $991.
Montana Circuit Year-end Standings
- Brittney Barnett Stephenville, Texas $19,350.38 28 rodeos
- Maggie Poloncic Gillette, Wyoming $17,520.91 19
- Tammy Carpenter Kalispell, Montana $13,631.90 34
- Abigail Knight Charlo, Montana $13,505.74 21
- Erin Williams Alzada, Montana $13,171.34 24
- Tia Murphy Cut Bank, Montana $10,811.83 23
- Lindsay Kruse Fromberg, Montana $9,799.37 27
- Terri Kaye Kirkland (G)Billings, Montana $8,748.94 32
- Ashley Day Volberg, Montana $8,148.16 28
- Callahan Tryan Huntley, Montana $7,423.04 20
- Tayla Moeykens (R) Three Forks, Montana $6,668.88 24
- Taylour Russell Conrad, Montana $6,451.27 26