15 Moments to Reflect, Remember and Rejoice about Year 2017

This year brought several firsts, as well as shock and sorrow to an equine industry no stranger to shifting times. And yet again, the Western community focused on the positive and came out stronger on the other side.

By Katie Frank
December 27, 2017


john-swales kfPhoto by Katie Frank

1. Northern Horseman: In February, John Swales of Millarville, Alberta, became the first non-American to win the title of World’s Greatest Horseman. He and the 2005 stallion Heza Diamond Spark (by Diamond J Star and out of Sheza Shinette by Shining Spark), owned by Jesse and Elyse Thomson of 7P Ranch, slid into the 10th and final spot in the finals, and came back to win it with a composite score of 874, despite loosing a stirrup.

171014 sbf 275Photo by Ross Hecox

2. Snaffles in Fort Worth: The Snaffle Bit Futurity moved to its new home in Fort Worth, Texas, in October after more than 30 years of being held in Reno, Nevada. The event was held in Las Vegas in 1989, and Fresno, California, from 1993 to 1998. After making the finals five years in a row, California trainer Jake Gorrell rode Plain Catty, a 2014 stallion by Bet Hesa Cat and out of Miss Plain Plain by Just Plain Colonel, to the coveted open title and $125,000.

ch 2017RTTH Sun MG 0400Photo by Christine Hamilton 

3. Paving Roads: March saw the first all-female line-up at the colt-starting competition Road to the Horse. English rider Vikki Wilson of New Zealand clenched the win with her Four Sixes colt Boon River Lad. Texas trainer Kate Neubert won the 2017 Jack Brainard Horsemanship Award.

Read "Kiwi Cowgirl Wins"


170219 The American kf 562Photo by Katie Frank 

4. Powerhouse Youth: Five members of the National High School Rodeo Association qualified for The American, the world’s richest one-day rodeo held in February. Riders were Texas teens Paden Bray, Ty Harris and Sophie Palmore, Oklahoman Brenton Hall and Nevadan Wylee Mitchell.

171214 nfr 0531Photo by Ross Hecox 

5. Come Together: With the Elite Rodeo Association on hold, cowboys and cowgirls reunited at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada this last November. Former ERA competitors had success: Tuf Cooper was the All-Around Cowboy champion, and barrel racer Kassie Mowry ran a 13.36 on Firewatermakemehappy, breaking the former arena record. What’s more, Hailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday ran a 13.11, and currently hold the arena record.

See the "Top 10 Shots from the 2017 NFR"

171215 nfr stressmanPhoto by Ross Hecox

6. Retirement Ready: Karl Stressman, commissioner of the PRCA, will retire after serving for nine years, effective December 31. Among his accomplishments, he is credited for helping with the inception of the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign at the NFR and other rodeo events to support breast cancer awareness. He was also an advocate for keeping the rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, and signed a record $175-million contract that keeps the event there until 2024.

prorodeohofPhoto courtesy of Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame
7. Leading Ladies: In August, Charmayne James and Wanda Bush are the first barrel racers from the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to be inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Eleven-time world titleholder James is the first barrel racer to hit $1 million in career earnings. Bush received the posthumous award for her prestigious career, having won 32 world titles and being the most decorated cowgirl in the history of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.


141017 rhc billings 019Photo by Ross Hecox

8. Cowboy Honors: Dusty Burson of Guthrie, Texas, brought an American Quarter Horse Association ranch horse versatility world title back to the Four Sixes ranch, where he works. Burson rode Paddys Prince, a 7-year-old Burnett Ranches-bred gelding by Playin Attraction and out of Cowgirl Paddy by Paddys Irish Whiskey.

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Tags: arenaEventsRodeoRanchingYear in Review2017