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Barrel Racing

What the horse wants, it gets

Badlands Circuit Finals barrel racers cater to their equine partners.

Written by Ruth Nicolaus for Badlands Circuit Rodeo

Minot, N.D. (October 3, 2022) – Some high-performing horses who are well-loved will be coming to Minot Oct. 14-16.

That’s when the best barrel racing horses in the Badlands Circuit, along with their riders, will compete at the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo.

And no matter the horses’ personalities and quirks, their temperament is usually tolerated because they are extra-competent at their job: barrel racing.

Hallie Fulton and ‘Rio’

Take, for example, Hallie Fulton’s barrel racing horse Boons French Stars, “Rio.”

A seven-year-old gelding, Rio has done so well, he brings his rider, Fulton, into the circuit finals in fifth place. 

Hallie Fulton aboard her gelding Rio. The gelding likes to chew his lead rope in half and can untie himself and his “friends.” Photo by Chuck Miner.

But Rio is a handful.

“He’s a Dennis the Menace,” Fulton said. “He’s a trouble maker. All of the screens in my trailer have been pulled out (by him), and he chews his lead ropes in half. He knows how to untie himself, and he’ll untie his friends, too. So I went to tying his rope so he couldn’t untie himself, and he went to chewing through his lead rope to get away.”

Nicole Bice and ‘Goose’

Barrel racer Nicole Bice, Killdeer, N.D., also has a barrel horse who makes sure his rider knows what he wants.

When Goose, a nine-year-old gelding, gets thirsty while traveling, he lets Bice know, from the back of the trailer.

“He paws, and that means he wants you to stop and water him. We carry water in the pickup,” she said, so they can stop and give him a drink.

Goose, whose registered name is Dial A Golden Goose, is “a lover, with a funny little personality,” Bice said.

“I’m definitely his peasant,” she laughed. “He likes certain things,” and she makes sure he has them.

Cowgirls are very conscious of their horses’ likes and dislikes, and cater to them, to keep them feeling healthy, happy, and able to make winning runs.

Molly Otto and ‘Chewey’

For Molly Otto, of Grand Forks, N.D., who comes into the circuit finals in sixth place, that means providing plenty of shavings for her horse Teasin Dat Guy, “Chewy,” for the mare’s stall.

Molly Otto competes at the 2021 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo. Her horse, Chewy, is always looking for attention from anyone who crosses her path. Photo by Alaina Stangle.

“Even if it’s a grassy area, she gets shavings. She appreciates them so much, she literally lays in them.”

The horse is “super sweet, kind of goofy,” Otto said. “She reminds me of a teenager. She always wants all the attention. She makes sure if you’re going to be standing by her, you should be doing something for her. She’s always touching you, touching your hand, and putting her nose wherever it doesn’t belong.” Otto rode Chewy at her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last year

Allison Pauley and ‘Dash’

Allison Pauley, Honey Creek, Iowa, brings a buddy horse for her barrel horse, Dashs Famous Fortune, “Dash,” as his companion.

The ten-year-old gelding is “very impatient and an anxious horse. He likes to have his buddy around him.” Dash is “very vocal and likes to whinny and nicker at horses. If he’s mad about something, he’ll let you know.”

Laken Bice and ‘Halo’

Lakken Bice, Killdeer, enters the circuit finals in tenth place, aboard an eight-year-old mare whose registered name is Nocrimetabe Unleashed, but who goes by Halo.

Halo is “sweet and kind and wants to buddy up to every single horse,” Lakken said. “She has literally zero mare tendencies.”

But Halo can get a little crazy at times. “She’ll get this random wild hair and think she’s scared of everything: the big screen in the arena, a dog, even grass on the ground. Then she gets all snorty and prancy.”

But Halo seems to perform better after she’s had a little outburst.

“I’ve noticed the more naughty and extra energy she has, is usually when she makes her better runs. I try not to get after her. I just try to keep her happy and keep her working.”

Summer Kosel and ‘Mini’

In Minot, Summer Kosel, the number two Badlands barrel racer, will ride her sixteen-year-old mare after her good horse, Apollo, was injured at the Ellensburg, Wash. Rodeo.

Docs Royal Win, “Mini,” is “all business,” Kosel said. Oftentimes, horse trainers like for barrel horses to do ranch work, so they can gain more experience in a non-competitive setting.

But not for Kosel’s Mini.

“If I use her for ranch work, she’ll buck and run off,” Kosel said. And Mini has a mind of her own, too.

If Kosel guides her too much through a barrel racing run, the horse will stand on her back legs as she heads to the next barrel.

“I have to be very careful how I run her around the pattern,” she said. “It’s more of a stay out of her way.” Kosel’s daughter rode Mini at the S.D. high school rodeos last spring.

Nikki Hansen and ‘Lady’

For Dickinson, N.D. barrel racer Nikki Hansen, her horse, Cowboys N Ladies, “Lady,” is very fast, with a big motor and a “big personality,” Hansen said. “That’s my biggest struggle, to keep that in check and keep her dialed-in. She over-tries. Everything she does is in a big way.”

Hansen says how a barrel racer understands her barrel horse can be compared to how a mother knows her child.

“It’s from time spent with them,” she said. “It’s amazing how you figure out what your horse likes. The only way to figure it out is to spend time with them.”

Jessica Routier and ‘Missy’

The 2021 Badlands champion barrel racer Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D., will be aboard the same horse that has carried her to four National Finals Rodeo qualifications.

Fiery Miss West, “Missy,” is an eleven-year-old palomino mare who is an easy keeper at home and on the rodeo road.

“She’s pretty adjustable to every situation,” Routier said. “She’s just a really good girl who tries hard.” Routier and Missy won money at sixteen of the eighteen Badlands rodeos they ran at this year.

Fonda Melby and ‘Heatwave’

The sweetest horse story might be from Fonda Melby, Backus, Minn.

When Melby turns the lights off in the barn in the evening, her horse, RF Back for the Cash, “Heatwave,” will come to the stall door “and I give him a kiss on the nose,” she said. “That’s our regular night routine,” she said. “He’s a snuggler.” 

Fonda Melby and her barrel racing horse have a sweet nighttime ritual. Every night, when the Backus, Minn. cowgirl turns the barn lights off, she gives her horse Heatwave a goodnight kiss. Photo by Chuck Miner.

Other Badlands barrel racers and their horses who will compete in Minot are Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., who will be on Promise Me Fame Guys, “Levee”, Cydney Peterson, Minot, on Oh What A Frenchman “Chrome;” and Kristen Zancanella, Aurora, S.D. on Im Kinda Famous “Little Bug.”

The 2022 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo will be held at the N.D. State Fair Center in Minot Oct. 14-16.

Performances begin at 7 pm on Oct. 14-15 and at 1 pm on Oct. 16.

Tickets range in price from $20-$30 for adults and $10-$30 for children. They can be purchased online at and at North Country Mercantile in Minot (2000 20th Avenue SE).

For more information, visit the website at or its Facebook and Instagram pages.

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