Lodge Grass’ Tara Stimpson gains pro rodeo barrel racing accolades

Thursday, January 31, 2019
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Tara Stimpson of Lodge Grass rides her horse through the Pro Rodeo Circuit barrel racing competition last year. Stimpson was named the 2018 Rookie of the Year.

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Courtesy photo

Tara Stimpson poses with a belt buckle and saddle earned from the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

Lodge Grass resident Tara Stimpson, 23, topped all other riders in barrel racing recently when she took home a title and cash prize from the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit finals (MPAF). The pro rodeo occurred Jan. 11-13 when more than 96 contestants traveled to Great Falls, Montana in order to “pit their wit and ability against the skill and heart of Montana’s finest PRCA rodeo stock, riders, wrestlers and ropers alike,” according to MPAF.

Event finalists were chosen on the last day of the rodeo. Finalists were those with the highest winnings or the highest average score times in an event. Only two finalists are chosen from the Montana circuit and all 11 other rodeo circuits will choose two competitors as well. Both titles qualify contestants for the Ram National Circuit Finals, held in Kissimmee, Florida from March 21-24.

While Stimpson may have won, things did not go smoothly for her at the start. Her main horse she was planning to ride went down and likely wouldn’t be ready for more competitions until around April. Thus, she was forced to use Reese, her younger and less experienced horse.

Even using the younger horse, she managed to not only come out with the highest average, but also earn the most money for that weekend at around $7,500.

“I started the weekend with a goal to just place in one round, but Reese must have had a different idea,” she said. “He ran stronger every round, placing fourth in the first round, second in the second and third round, and won the average, giving us a trip to Kissimmee, Florida at the end of March.”

Stimpson won the Rookie of the Year award in 2018 during her first time out of the college circuit and into the pro circuit. Before that, she had been practicing rodeo all the way back to the age of 14, when she gotten interested in the sport.

Stimpson said that jumping from college rodeo to pro rodeo is challenging. College rodeo is more based around a team, she said, while pro rodeo seems to deal more with “picking your battles” and going to locations that are going to be easiest on both rider and horse, not rushing from one competition to the other. She also has run into the problem of conflicting dates, where she needed to pick if she wanted to go to the competition or not.

To keep her horse ready for the times she could compete, it was necessary to always maintain Reese in top running shape. Stimpson wrote a Facebook post after the competition expressing appreciation for Ashley Lohof of Lohof Animal PEMF Therapy in Lodge Grass for their work with her horse.

“Reese was a little sore when we got to Great Falls, [Lohof] but got him feeling his best before the first go,” Stimpson wrote. “She worked on Reese before each round, picked stalls, watered horses, and most importantly kept me on track.”

Stimpson and Reese will be competing in Rapid City, South Dakota from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.