5 Questions with WPRA World Standings Leader and Fort Worth Barrel Racing Champ Wenda Johnson

Wenda Johnson and MacGyver Moonflash Celebrate a Stealth Victory at the 125th Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo.

FWSSR Photographs by James Phifer

Wenda Johnson and MacGyver Moonflash Celebrate a Stealth Victory at the 125th Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo.

When the 125th Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo (FWSSR) concluded its $1.1 million Pro Rodeo Tournament on February 5, it was two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Wenda Johnson, Pawhuska, Oklahoma, riding the mortally fast Macgyver Moonflash to a series of record runs in Dickies Arena, who emerged as the champion. Johnson guided the 8-year-old bay gelding known as “Mac,” to a 16.08-second run in the finals, which shattered their previous arena record of 16.17 set in their qualifying bracket. The $24,520-win propelled Johnson to the top of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Standings.

Johnson, a nurse practitioner, was back to work the Monday following her major professional rodeo coup, but took time out of her busy schedule to answer Barrel Racing Magazine’s questions about how she juggles it all.

Barrel Racing Magazine:  How does it feel to win one of the premier stock shows rodeos? 

Wenda Johnson: “Winning Fort Worth meant a lot because of the background of how my friends that own Mac got into barrel racing. It all started six years ago when they attended the Fort Worth Rodeo, saw barrel racing, and knew their horse could run barrels. This year was the first time one of their three amazing barrel horses [Dreams First Flash, MacGyver Moonflash and Steal Money] had the opportunity to compete and win at the Fort Worth Rodeo. This was a special event and Mac was confident and happy, he ran his best and seemed so proud of himself.” 

BRM: You set and broke your own arena record, which is simply awesome, how did you prepare Mac to keep making those incredible runs at the FWSSR? What helps keep him feeling his best?

Johnson: “Mac is a very consistent, solid horse that will at times break records. He is definitely feeling amazing and is in great shape. Our situation is unique because the horses are cared for and ridden daily by Mark Singletary’s Tres Mesa’s Horses’ barn manager, Luis Hernandez, then I take them to the races to compete. A race a month is ideal, and like this trip, I occasionally take him to a barrel race to cruise him through the pattern in preparation for an event like Fort Worth. There is no doubt that this consistent exercise program keeps Mac feeling good and ready to make a run.”

BRM: What rodeos do you have coming up on your schedule, and do you have a strategy for which of the geldings (Mac or Steal Money, “Mo”) you will run where?

Johnson: “At this time I plan to compete at the major winter rodeos. Once I am at the rodeo, that’s when I will decide what horse is best for each location and run. They are both amazing, and I am grateful for their willingness and try.” 

BRM: How do you juggle the demands of having a professional career, a family and also a very successful rodeo career? Are there things you do each day that help you stay organized and focused?

Johnson: “There are many things in my life that keep me busy, therefore I prioritize the most important things first. My love for the Lord and to serve others, spending time with family, work and horse responsibilities, and so on. Each day I strive to live life to the fullest and enjoy each moment of whatever it is I am doing.” 

BRM: Can you tell barrel racers about the tack you like to use and why?

Johnson: “With my riding style, I strive to stay centered and love to ride forward with the speed. The saddle I found that works for me is the Martha Josey Ultimate built by Circle Y. The seat is flat and the stirrups are hung forward, which makes it very similar to the saddles I grew up riding and competing in called the Monte Forman Genuine Balance Ride. The saddle pads I use are the S3 felt pads. Currently I use a JD Morrow bit and a Molly Powell bit on Mac, and a Martha Josey bit on Mo. They have a consistent exercise regimen, and feed program with pasture. My number one goal is to keep the horses happy and have fun!”

The FWSSR Format

In order to make the finals cut, Johnson and the other eight ladies who qualified had to navigate the tournament brackets. The FWSSR, which took place January 21 – February 5, 2022, took 56 qualifying barrel racers who were divided into groups of eight to compete in each of the seven brackets held January 21-February 1. The top two money winners from each group qualified for one of two semifinal rounds February 3-4. The third-highest money winner in each set qualified for the wild card round held February 2. The other four competitors went into a non-qualifiers pool and the highest remaining money winner moved on to the wild card round. The top two money winners of that second-chance wild card competition moved on to the semis. Then, the top four from each semifinal advance to the blistering, star-studded finale held Saturday, February 5 where champions were crowned.

The Bracket & Added Money Breakdown:

Brackets 1 through 7 / $8,800 added per bracket
Wild Card / $2,000 added; Semifinal 1 & Semifinal 2 / $10,000 added each Finals / $44,000 added

Once in the finals, barrel racing qualifiers put on a spectacular show in a tightly-fought race for one of the four paying positions.

Hailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday (Sister) posted a 16.24 on championship Saturday to earn $12,000 to add to their bracket and semifinal earnings of $7,520.
Reigning WPRA World Champion Jordon Briggs and Famous Lil Jet (Rollo) were third in the finals with a 16.30 for total FWSSR earnings of $14,080.

Unofficial Barrel Racing Results

Bracket 1: First round: 1. Brittney Barnett, 16.44 seconds, $1,760; 2. Stevi Hillman, 16.57, $1,320; 3. Shelley Morgan, 16.64, $880; 4. (tie) Cheyenne Hattesen and Amanda Welsh, 16.82, $220 each. Second round: 1. Stevi Hillman, 16.41 seconds, $1,760; 2. Kelly Bruner, 16.47, $1,320; 3. Shelley Morgan, 16.66, $880; 4. Brittney Barnett, 16.68, $440. Advancing: 1. Stevi Hillman; 2. Brittney Barnett. Wild card: Shelley Morgan.

Bracket 2: First round: 1. Hailey Kinsel, 16.67 seconds, $1,760; 2. Jimmie Smith, 16.72, $1,320; 3. Kylee Scribner, 17.01, $880; 4. Lois Ferguson, 17.17, $440. Second round: 1. Hailey Kinsel, 16.42 seconds, $1,760; 2. Lynette Clyde, 16.70, $1,320; 3. Lois Ferguson, 16.86, $880; 4. Kylee Scribner, 16.90 $440. Advancing: 1. Hailey Kinsel; 2. Lynette Clyde. Wild card: Jimmie Smith.

Bracket 3: First round: 1. Cheyenne Wimberley, 16.46 seconds, $1,760; 2. Molly Otto, 16.56, $1,320; 3. Lisa Lockhart, 16.59, $880; 4. Jessica Routier, 16.61, $440. Second round: 1. Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi, 16.58 seconds, $1,760; 2. Molly Otto, 16.72, $1,320; 3. Jessica Routier, 21.73, $880; 4. Cheyenne Wimberley, 21.84, $440. Advancing: 1. Molly Otto; 2. Cheyenne Wimberley. Wild card: Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi.

Bracket 4: First round: 1. Ilyssa Riley, 16.54 seconds, $1,760; 2. Ivy Saebens, 16.59, $1,320; 3. Kricket Ginter, 16.64, $880; 4. Maggie Polocic, 16.67, $440. Second round: 1. Kricket Ginter, 16.42 seconds, $1,760; 2. Jackie Ganter, 16.48, $1,320; 3. Ilyssa Riley, 16.52, $880; 4. Ivy Saebens, 16.64, $440. Advancing: 1. Kricket Ginter; 2. Ilyssa Riley. Wild card: Ivy Saebens.

Bracket 5: First round: 1. Sissy Winn, 16.40 seconds, $1,760; 2. Jordon Briggs, 16.41, $1,320; 3. Jill Wilson, 16.68, $880; 4. (tie) Paige Jones and Carly Taylor, 16.84, $220 each. Second round: 1. Jordon Briggs, 16.25 seconds, $1,760; 2. (tie) Sissy Winn and Dona Kay Rule, 16.62, $1,100 each. Advancing: 1. Jordon Briggs; 2. Sissy Winn. Wild card: Dona Kay Rule.

Bracket 6: First round: 1. Destri Devenport, 16.61 seconds, $1,760; 2. Michelle Darling, 16.70, $1,320; 3. Emma Charleston, 16.85, $880; 4. Deb Guelly, 17.8, $440. Second round: 1. Michelle Darling, 16.57 seconds, $1,760; 2. Destri Devenport, 16.63, $1,320; 3. Christine DeRenzo, 16.83, $880; 4. Deb Guelly, 16.97, $440. Advancing: 1. Michelle Darling; 2. Destri Devenport. Wild card: Christine DeRenzo.

Bracket 7: First Round: 1. Wenda Johnson, 16.17, $1,760; 2. Emily Beisel, 16.29, $1,320; 3. Stephanie Fryar, 16.55, $880; 4. Lacinda Rose, 16.67, $440. Second round: 1. Wenda Johnson, 16.21, $1,760; 2. Emily Beisel, 16.29, $1,320; 3. Kassie Mowry, Dublin, 16.33, $880; 4. Stephanie Fryar, 16.57, $440. Advancing: Wenda Johnson; 2. Emily Beisel. Wild card: Stephanie Fryar.

Wild card round: 1. Dona Kay Rule, 16.26 seconds, $1,000; 2. Stephanie Fryar, 16.35, $600; 3. Ivy Saebens, 16.52, $400. Semifinal qualifiers: Dona Kay Rule and Stephanie Fryar.

Semifinal 1: 1. Stevi Hillman, 16.40, $4,000; 2. Jordon Briggs, 16.44, $3,000; 3. Ivy Saebens, 16.52, $2,000; 4. Wenda Johnson, 16.17, $1,000. Final qualifiers: Stevi Hillman, Jordon Briggs, Ivy Saebens and Wenda Johnson.

Semifinal 2: 1. Hailey Kinsel, 16.26 seconds, $4,000; 2. Michelle Darling, 16.39, $3,000; 3. Kricket Gintner, 16.45, $2,000; 4. (tie) Sissy Winn and Stephanie Fryar, 16.54, $500 each. Final qualifiers: Hailey Kinsel, Kricket Gintner, Sissy Winn and Stephanie Fryar.

Finals: 1. Wenda Johnson, 16.08 seconds (arena record), $20,000; 2. Hailey Kinsel, 16.24, $12,000; 3. Jordon Briggs, 16.30, $8,000; 4. Ivy Saebens, 16.38, $4,000.