Shannon McReynolds Tops Turquoise Circuit Finals and Year-End Standings Aboard Minie Gun, aka "Harley."
For many barrel racers, the lure of the rodeo business is like a siren’s call, beckoning them to hit the road with the challenge of hauling and competing across the nation in all types of conditions with crowds cheering.
Shannon McReynolds has never been one of those barrel racers.
“I never had the desire to go down the road,” McReynolds said. She mentioned watching the recently concluded 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which featured an incredibly competitive barrel race. “It’s a lot, I couldn’t imagine what they go through. It’s a lot of work.”
McReynolds may get a little taste of rodeo life, however, after earning $8,006 at the Ram Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo (CFR), money which counts towards the 2022 season and has McReynolds inside the top 10 of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) World Standings as the calendar rolls into January.
“I’m going to try to hit a few more rodeos this winter,” she laughed, noting she got the push from friends who told her the big win might qualify her to some of the lucrative, limited rodeos in the winter. “I entered Denver (Colorado) and Fort Worth (Texas) for the first time ever. And San Antonio (Texas).”
McReynolds grew up in New Mexico; her father, Cleve Griffin, was a trick rider, part of the famous Four Little Men at one point.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” she said. “My whole family has rodeoed. My parents hauled us everywhere.”
“I roped and tied goats mostly and went to college in Odessa, Texas,” McReynolds said. College led her to a career as a registered nurse, working now at the Scenic View Surgical Center in her hometown of La Luz, New Mexico.
McReynolds enjoys the challenge of training horses and campaigning them through aged events, a career that has long fit her lifestyle with a full-time job and raising her family.
“Usually, I train and sell them. I don’t really have time working full time as a nurse,” she noted. One of her graduates made the 2016 Wrangler NFR with Cayla Melby, Shameon U, also known as “Gator.”
McReynolds notes she won the Odessa Stock Show Rodeo one year, one of her few forays into pro rodeo over the years. “I was pregnant with Hadley at the time and she’s 18 now.”
Hadley Tidwell is off to college now on a rodeo scholarship at Ranger College in Ranger, Texas. Riding horses her mother trained, Tidwell won the New Mexico state high school rodeo title in June and is currently leading the Southwest Region National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) standings as a freshman.
Meanwhile, McReynolds rodeoed inside the Turquoise Circuit the last two seasons, earning berths at the circuit finals in both years.
“I didn’t get to go to very many, I think I went to the minimum number,” she said, noting the required rodeo count to qualify which was eight. The 2021 edition of the Ram Turquoise CFR was held November 5-6 in Camp Verde, Arizona.
Climbing the Ranks
“I wasn’t thinking about winning [the year end title], I was wanting to maybe try to win the average and qualify for the NFR Open, now that it’s being held in Colorado Springs instead of Florida,” she said, referring to what was known as the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, a national championship event open only to the year end and circuit finals average winners from each of the country’s 12 circuits.
McReynolds entered the finals ranked eighth but fired a shot across the bow early on after posting the only sub-17 second run to win the opening round. Her 16.96-second effort on the full WPRA pattern in the outdoor arena gapped the field.
“She worked good,” McReynolds said of equine partner, Minie Gun, known around the barn as “Harley.” “She’s run several 16’s before at Andrews and Socorro.”
“I just focus on riding into the backside of the first to push my hand forward and kick because she comes back so hard,” McReynolds noted of her strategy. The format of one round Friday night and two Saturday was a first for the duo and McReynolds wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
“The second run, I was trying to look past the second and ride, and I ended up with my right hand on the rein,” she laughed. “Usually, I go two hands across so I don’t know how that happened, but she handled it all good.”
The tiny oops led the duo to a still respectable 17.52 second run, good enough for second in the round behind Kaitlin Schuck’s 17.44.
Prior to the final round that night, McReynolds says a friend remarked to her that she had a chance to win the year-end title along with the average.
“I didn’t want to hear that!” McReynolds laughed. “I just wanted to stay clean and make nice runs.”
Harley was thinking of going fast again under the lights of Camp Verde, blazing the pattern in under 17 seconds for the second time in three tries. Her 16.93 was the fastest of the weekend, netted the pair their second-round win and easily clinched the average with 51.41 seconds. Schuck, a 2021 rookie, was second with 52.74 seconds.
With her circuit finals earnings added in, McReynolds claimed the year end title for the first time in her career, earning $11,750 in just nine rodeos. Reserve champion Tarryn Lee will join McReynolds at the NFR Open as the second Turquoise Circuit rep for barrel racing.
“The Finals were great. The girls were amazing, very supportive, and the ground was good,” McReynolds said. “I had a good time.”
Harley is just 6 years old, a daughter of Fiestas Gotta Gun out of the Marthas Six Moons mare Blazen Martha. McReynolds purchased the mare through the Texas Best Futurity Sale in Waco as a yearling.
She didn’t have the filly picked out of the catalogue ahead of time but liked what she saw when Harley walked in the ring.
“I thought she was cute,” McReynolds said. “I liked Fiesta [Firewater Fiesta, Fiestas Gotta Gun’s dam who carried Kelly Yates to multiple aged event and rodeo titles] and I had a Martha Six Moons that was pretty fast.”
McReynolds broke and trained Harley, hauling her to a few futurities as a 4-year-old.
“She’s always been a nice mare,” she said, joking that she’s so laid back that no one wants to ride her around the house because of her laziness. “She’s been fun.”
Harley was also a favorite of McReynolds’ father, who sadly passed away not long before the circuit finals triumph.
“She was his favorite mare,” McReynolds noted. “I hated that he wasn’t here to see her … he would have been pretty proud.”
Harley has enjoyed a long break since the finals in early November, “She’s a fat girl,” McReynolds joked. But the pair will soon be swinging back into action with the start of the winter rodeos in January.
“2020 was my first time to go to enough rodeos to even qualify for the circuit finals,” McReynolds said of hitting the road. “I’m kind of hooked now. I like them and I’m thinking maybe I’ll try to go to them.”
Camp Verde, AZ – November 5-6, 2021 – Turquoise Circuit Finals
Go 1: 1. Shannon McReynolds, 16.960, $1,883.74; 2. Jana Bean, 17.440, $1,412.80; 3. Sharon Harrell, 17.710, $941.87; 4. Christina Gould, 17.720, $470.93.
Go 2: 1. Kaitlin Schuck, 17.440, $1,883.74; 2. Shannon McReynolds, 17.520, $1,412.80; 3. Jana Bean, 17.560, $941.87; 4. Tarryn Lee, 17.580, $470.93.
Go 3: 1. Shannon McReynolds, 16.930, $1,883.74; 2. Tarryn Lee, 17.350, $1,412.80; 3. Lisa Anderson, 17.370, $941.87; 4. Kassidy Dennison, 17.450, $470.93.
Aggregate: 1. Shannon McReynolds, 51.410, $2,825.61; 2. Kaitlin Schuck, 52.740, $2,119.20; 3. Sarah Kieckhefer, 53.460, $1,412.80; 4. Carly Todd, 54.620, $706.40.