What a difference a year made for Kelsey Caldwell.
At last year’s Junior National Finals Rodeo, Caldwell and her horse Shine On A Dime finished in the middle of the pack in senior barrel racing. Saturday at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, the two won a world championship.
“The Junior NFR last year was the first big rodeo we competed in so it was really cool to come back on him and compete here again,” Caldwell said. “I was really excited to come back for a second year and be able to ride him again. I know that he knows his job so I just have to do exactly what I know to do. And it worked out pretty well.”
Yes it did.
The 17-year-old from Oakdale, California, entered Saturday’s short go-round leading the average on two runs and turned in a 14.1-second run to secure the title with a time of 42.046 seconds on three runs. Emma Smith from Pleasanton, Texas, finished as the reserve champion with a 42.250.
“We were a lot more comfortable this year,” Caldwell said. “Last year I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to do so I was nervous. But this year I wasn’t as nervous.”
A lot of that was thanks to Shine On A Dime. Caldwell estimates that she made at least 40 runs on the 9-year-old sorrel since last year’s Junior NFR.
“He goes through this thing where he hops around before he goes,” Caldwell said. “My friends call him ‘Happy Hopper’ and he was doing that so I could tell he was excited.
“He felt really good before I went in because he wasn’t too excited and he wasn’t too calm, he was perfectly in the middle.”
So was Caldwell, who won a trailer for having the fastest average time along with a saddle and other items for her tack room. After returning to California, she and Shine On A Dime will be on the road again.
“Next month I go to Chicago for the WCRA finals and then to Texas for the semifinals in the Junior American,” Caldwell said. “We’ve had a pretty good year.”
Saige Smith from Touchet, Washington, won the short go with a time of 13.889 seconds, with Jayci Lee Byler from Belleville, Texas, finishing second in 13.981.
Colorado cowgirl wins junior division
Aspen Autry spent the majority of Saturday morning with a smile on her face, and for good reason. The Kim, Colorado, native won the Junior Division of barrel racing at the Junior NFR with an average time of 42.224 seconds on three runs.
“I like smiling,” Autry said with a smile.
Autry had her fastest time of the week in the short go with a 14.112-second run to finish third in the go behind Lyndee Moser from Las Vegas (13.973) and Madison Murphy from North Fort Myers Beach, Florida (13.983). Murphy also was the reserve champion with a three-run time of 42.553 seconds.
As for Autry, the 11-year-old sixth grader was confident in her abilities this week, but she was unsure how her horse Jag would respond to the challenge.
“I was ready,” Autry said, “but I didn’t know if my horse was because we normally go against people that compete in bigger rodeos. So going against kids my own age is a little easier, but it’s still a challenge.
“But he knew what he was doing and his first run really helped him.”
Now Autry and Jag, along with the saddle and all the stuff they won Saturday are ready for the drive home to Colorado.
“My trailer is going to be very full,” Autry said, once again with a smile.