At the California Rodeo—a rodeo steeped in history—two-time World Champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi has established a tradition of her own.
Few barrel racers earn one California Rodeo (pronounced roDAYo) championship in their career, much less five of the coveted titles. But Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Lampasas, Texas, is not your average competitor. Pozzi Tonozzi has a winning formula that hinges on knowing where her horses excel and entering accordingly. In Salinas, Pozzi Tonozzi’s formula yielded an $11,362 windfall
Before winning the 2022 California Rodeo with Babe On The Chase (Birdie), Pozzi Tonozzi teamed with the late Yeah Hes Firen (Duke) for four Salinas buckles. Pozzi Tonozzi says Birdie didn’t get it done this year without first paying their dues in 2021.
“Last year I took Birdie to Salinas, and she did pretty good, but not like this year,” said Pozzi Tonozzi. “I feel like with Salinas the first year doesn’t necessarily always go the best. It’s the kind of rodeo that that first year it’s like you almost have to take your licks because of how hard the setup is.”
A master barrel racing strategist, Pozzi Tonozzi decided to take a slightly different approach this year to the long run to first down the racetrack.
“This year I let her roll to first and let her get by a little,” said Pozzi Tonozzi. “I kind of let the fence turn her more, which made her come back straight leaving and really sent her off the first turn with a lot of momentum. Last year I was trying to get a pretty, round first barrel and it just wasn’t as fast, I didn’t have that kind of momentum doing it that way.”
Winning the first round with a 16.050 got Pozzi Tonozzi and Birdie tapped off right. They placed fifth in the second round with a 16.250, missed a check in the third go, but came back with a vengeance in the short go clocking the fastest time of the rodeo—a 15.990 for first as well as the top spot in the aggregate with a 64.790 on three.
“The days of a lot of hit barrels are over. The level of competition has just soared,” said Pozzi Tonozzi, who added that the Salinas setup is one in which she knew Birdie could get the job done. “She definitely does best in conditions that are her element, so I’m saving her for the arenas and types of setups where she does best.”
Birdie’s preferred conditions include a little bit deeper ground, which Pozzi Tonozzi says is more to the 10-year-old mare’s liking.
“She can handle hard ground too, but I try to keep her on good ground because it’s easier on her feet,” she said. “I mean you want to keep them on good ground as much as possible. If the first barrel has some type of fence, she does better with that, but second and third it doesn’t matter at all.”
Pozzi Tonozzi is ranked ninth in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Standings as of August 2 with $76,705 from 37 rodeos.
“Everybody keeps telling me I’m in a good spot, but I just refuse to let myself believe it. I’m entered up,” she said. “I’m going to the Northwest but doing it a little differently. I’m going to the Montana rodeos and picking the places where I know my horse does well. With Duke and Stitch it didn’t matter as much, but then with Mona she did way better outside. I make a big effort to rodeo around the situations the I know Birdie excels in.”
Streaks like winning both the National Western Stock Show Rodeo in Denver, Colorado, and now Salinas five times gives Pozzi Tonozzi unique bragging rights.
“I just won Burlington, Colorado the other night on Birdie for I think the fifth time, so I find places that work for me I guess,” she said.
Professional’s Choice Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi Combo
“I’ve been running Birdie in the wire nose combo by Professional’s Choice for about two years,” said Pozzi Tonozzi. “I was working on getting her first barrel, and I happened to see a picture of Chasin Firewater, her sire, and Kassie on a magazine cover and Kassie had the wire nose combo on him. I dug one up out of the bottom of my bit barrel and it’s worked ever since.”
When asked if Birdie was sort of carrying the load for her this year, Pozzi Tonozzi says there’s no kind of about it.
“She’s really carrying the load this summer,” said Pozzi Tonozzi. “With Katniss dying this year Birdie’s been my main horse. I’ve got two 5-year-old backups in Rock On Guys (Lefty) and Blazin Babe Olena.”
Rock On Guys is sired by Pozzi Tonozzi’s stallion A Guy With Proof and out of Vital Rock by Firewaterontherocks. Blazin Babe Olena is by Blazin Jetolena and out of the great producer Streakin Six Babe by Streakin Six. Streakin Six Babe is the dam of big-time earners like Ima Super Fly Guy, Smoke N The Babes, Babe On The Chase and Ima Famous Babe among others.
“We’ve got more than I can count out of her,” said Pozzi Tonozzi. “I have a full sister to Katniss that’s a year older and my futurity horse for next year is out of her, and I absolutely love her.” Before leaving for the Northwest Pozzi Tonozzi shared that she plans to hit Idaho Falls, Idaho; Heber City, Utah, and then home to Colorado for Steamboat Springs and Castle Rock to kick off the run of fair rodeos in the Mountain States Circuit.
Pozzi Tonozzi thanks the stable of sponsors on her team: Teton Ridge, Tanner Equine, Roper Apparel & Footwear, Purina Performance Horse, Conquer Equine, Professional’s Choice, Oxy-Gen Equine, Double J Saddlery, Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boots, Manzanola Feed, Team RenoVō, Summit with Brittany, Signature Quarter Horses & Creations, Tranquility by Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi
First round: 1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 16.05 seconds, $2,532; 2. Michelle Alley, 16.15, $2,171; 3. Jamie Olsen, 16.29, $1,809; 4. Sherrie Jones, 16.34, $1,568; 5. Brittney Barnett, 16.39, $1,206; 6. (tie) Kris Gadbois and Savannah Wirth, 16.41, $844 each; 8. Megan Champion, 16.43, $482; 9. Sissy Winn, 16.45, $362; 10. (tie) Jordan Driver and Latricia Mundorf, 16.46, $121 each. Second round: 1. Shelley Morgan, 16.04 seconds, $2,532; 2. Bayleigh Choate, 16.15, $2,171; 3. Kris Gadbois, 16.23, $1,809; 4. Margo Crowther, 16.24, $1,568; 5. (tie) Katie Pascoe and Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 16.25, $1,085 each; 7. (tie) Meghann McNulty and Sheena Robbins, 16.26, $603 each; 9. Katie Halbert, 16.29, $362; 10. Savannah Wirth, 16.30, $241. Third round: 1. Michelle Alley, 16.04 seconds, $2,532; 2. Sissy Winn, 16.09, $2,171; 3. Bayleigh Choate, 16.12, $1,809; 4. Katie Pascoe, 16.18, $1,568; 5. Ashley Castleberry, 16.22, $1,206; 6. Margo Crowther, 16.23, $965; 7. Christina Gould, 16.25, $724; 8. Latricia Mundorf, 16.26, $482; 9. (tie) Brittney Barnett and Katie Halbert, 16.31, $301 each. Finals: 1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 15.99 seconds, $2,680; 2. Margo Crowther, 16.10, $2,010; 3. Sissy Winn, 16.13, $1,340; 4. Bayleigh Choate, 16.18, $670. Average: 1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 64.79 seconds on four head, $5,065; 2. Bayleigh Choate, 65.03, $4,341; 3. Margo Crowther, 65.09, $3,618; 4. Sissy Winn, 65.28, $3,135; 5. Latricia Mundorf, 65.43, $2,412; 6. Payton Schoeppach, 65.58, $1,929; 7. Katie Halbert, 65.60, $1,447; 8. Kathy Petska, 65.84, $965; 9. Megan Champion, 65.93, $724; 10. Kris Gadbois, 70.37, $482.