A crushing disappointment came July 9 for a nationally-ranked local professional barrel racer competing in towns all around the western states when her horse caught himself on a farm implement, resulting in a huge gash to his right hind leg.
CJ Vondette, a Rifle High School graduate, competes in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) nationally as part of the Mountain States Circuit and has been doing really well on her favorite gray horse, Cache A Mount. In fact, she is rated first in the circuit and 42nd in the nation and climbing.
“I would love to have my horse back the first week in August for the fair run,” said Vondette, 23. “I will compete in fairs in Akron, Loveland, Rifle, Yuma, Sterling, Castle Rock and Steamboat in the first week of August, and I am coming to get him before then.”
No pressure. Except that the vet predicted that it would take until Aug. 10 for Cache A Mount to run barrels again.
It is funny that Cache A Mount was even really good at barrels. It might be the connection between the horse and its rider that makes the synergy for Vondette to win.
“When I was 12, my parents bought me a gray horse that nobody wanted. I rodeo-ed on him in high school, running barrels and poles,” she said. “He was not expected to be a performance horse.
“They say grays have more try or more heart than any other color. That might be a wives’ tale kind of thing, but he’s my whole world. It was not good when [the accident] happened; it just looked so bad, and I was upset. This is the first time I am competing without him.”
In 2012, Vondette won Mountain States Rookie of the Year with Cache A Mount and started her professional success with a stellar year that season. “That year. I won money at about everything I entered except five rodeos,” Vondette said.
This year, she made the finals at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. She made two barrel runs back to back, competing against 108 of the top barrel racers in the world in what is one of the top five rodeos in the world. She considers that a real accomplishment.
She has also recently won the Greeley Independence Stampede and the Elizabeth Stampede with record-breaking entries for these rodeos, two of the best rodeos in the world. She broke the arena record at Elizabeth, set in 2008, and won fancy spurs with a first place in Elizabeth.
The Greeley rodeo is limited to 170 girls, and Vondette says it may be considered as the nation’s largest Fourth of July rodeo. Vondette won third in the long go, second in the short go, and she won first the aggregate (the three times combined — what’s most important), tying with Shelley Morgan of Montana .
That was just before Cache A Mount’s injury.
“Now I am riding a goat-tying-turned-barrel horse; his name is Popper,” Vondette said. “I would like to win some money, but I am just seasoning horses now. My other backup is Mikey, a 5-year old that I started riding, but this is his futurity year, so he’s pretty green. He is not solid like my 18-year old gray horse. With him and Popper, I have only 13 years of age between them, and I have 13 years of experience on my gray horse alone!”
So, while she is headed around to rodeos from Colorado to Wyoming to Utah to Idaho, she is pining for Cache A Mount. And her green horses are doing their part to help win. She got fifth in Gunnison on Popper and qualified for the second round at Cheyenne .
And, when she gets Cache A Mount back out, and horse and rider bond together once again, she will whisper her goals in his muzzle — that is to make enough money to qualify for the winter rodeos in San Antonio, Austin and Houston, Texas, and to dream of their ride together in the National Finals Rodeo someday in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Vondette will ride again this year at 7 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Garfield County Fair and Rodeo. Tickets for the PRCA/WPRA ProRodeo are available online at www.garfieldcountyfair.com.