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By Amy Wilson

KING CITY, CA – A little red mare who was originally supposed to be a reining horse, helped Rachel Dice win all three rounds and the 1D Open Average at the West Coast Barrel Racing Association Finals in King City.

In Round 1, Tivitos­atthegogobar “Katey” and Dice were 17.151 seconds. They got even faster in Round 2 with 16.974. “The third round, I was about to go into the arena and they said I only needed to run a 17.9, so I said, ‘Ok, I’m just keeping the barrels up.’ My friend Vickie looked at me and said, ‘No! You’re going to go out there and win the round!’ So I listened to her, and we won the round,” Dice said laughing. Their Round 3 time of 17.106 gave them 51.231 in the average to win by nearly 9 tenths of a second, and brought their total money won to over $13,500. It was a repeat win for Dice and Katey as they also won the WCBRA Finals in 2014. 

Held at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds, the WCBRA Finals feature a 5D format with three full rounds. It’s known as the richest race in the west and the numbers prove it with over 625 open entries and $171,435 total added money, plus tons of prizes including giveaways of three ATV’s and a trailer. Owners, Taylor and Bailey Nahrgang designed the WCBRA with producers’ and members’ best interest in mind, and have expanded throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona. Dice appreciates the great prizes and said, “Everyone is so friendly and everything is organized. It’s run really, really well. I cannot give them enough praise for how amazing of an association the Nahrgang’s run.” 

Dice also ran her mom’s horse at the WCBRA Finals because her mom isn’t able to ride due to breaking her leg earlier this year. They won enough to cover their fees and even let someone borrow the good-minded gelding for the men’s race. Not only was Dice’s mom there to offer support, but also to help with J.J., her 10 month old baby boy. “He’s my first kid. He’s amazing,” Dice said. “He’s completely changed my life.” The Byron, California horse trainer was on the road going to prorodeos nine months out of the year before she had J.J. “I’ve been home now…a lot,” she said laughing. But she’s enjoying being home, “I loved being on the road and rodeoing, but now I don’t know if I can do that again.”

Since having her baby, Dice admits that she’s had a hard time getting back with her mare since she is such a push style. “I have to two-hand around the first barrel just so I stay forward to keep pushing her hard. I’ve had a hard time with that fearless mentality you need going into the barrel full blast with no rate at all.” Her goal this weekend was to run 17.3-4’s and stay steady to win her entry fees back and get with Katey better. The weekend far exceeded those expectations. “We finally clicked back to where we were when we were on top in 2016 and doing amazing,” Dice said referring to the success they had while prorodeoing. 

Dice’s favorite rodeo accomplishment was making the shootout at Rodeo Houston. Just short of the NFR, she’s competed at nearly every major rodeo in the country, and it’s because of Katey. Dice grew up riding horses, “When I was about 4, we started at the local gymkhana. My dad said he tried to do lead-line with me the first time and I yelled at him the whole time, so he let me do it by myself after that.” In high school she competed in some local junior rodeos. “I loved barrel racing, but I started doing the rodeo queen stuff and fell in love with reining and wanted to try that out,” Dice remembers. When she was in college, she rode reiners, and that’s when she got Katey, who was three years old and started as a reiner.

“My reining trainer said, ‘She’s not going to make a reining horse, go ahead and take her and turn her into a kid’s gymkhana horse and flip her and you can have the money.’ As I rode her, I really liked her. The first time I ever ran her on a standard pattern we ran a 24. That was when she was four. I was so excited because I hadn’t ran barrels in a couple years so it felt so fast, even though I know it wasn’t,” Dice said laughing as she told the story. When Katey was 6 years old, Dice tried to take her to a jackpot once a month but sometimes it wasn’t even that often. Dice was the rodeo queen at Livermore and was running flags on Katey at her hometown rodeo, “All of a sudden, running towards the gate as I was carrying a flag, she had a new gear – she stretched out and ran for the first time in her life.” Katey then went from being the 4D to the 1D. “I had told myself if I ever had a horse that won the 1D I was going to buy my [WPRA] permit. When she won the 1D, I bought my permit the next week,” Dice said. 

The little reining horse brought Dice back to running barrels again and helped her as a rider in the process. “I became a much better rider when I rode reiners. I learned all the nuances of how you want the horse’s body to move and everything. I wasn’t just out there running barrels – I understood how the horse needed to move around the barrels,” Dice explained. “I’ve had barrel racer trainers tell me to do maneuvers but they never described to me how the horse should feel under me while I’m doing that. When I started riding reiners, the trainers really explained to me how the horse should feel. Then I was able to translate that to barrel racing.” 

Dice somewhat joked as she described what it’s like to run the 11 year old mare, “Around that first barrel every time, it’s always a gamble – am I coming off or staying on?” The cowhorse-bred 14hh mare is smart, as she always keeps herself safe if she knows the ground isn’t good which has helped her stay sound. And for as little as she is, she still has a big stride which makes the pattern smooth. But her best asset is her heart, “She puts her heart into it every single time that we go out there and run. It’s exciting to run her,” Dice said. As for her personality, Dice explained, “She’s like a puppy dog – very friendly to people. She talks to you every time you go out to feed her. She loves being scratched. She has a sassy, I’m-better-than-everyone personality in her too.”

And this past weekend, she validated that attitude! “All the glory goes to God. I wouldn’t be where I am with the blessings He’s blessed me with,” Dice said as she she also talked her appreciation for her family and friends who were there to watch and support her on this journey, as well as her sponsors, CSI Saddle pads, 4 Flat Tack, and Rustic Beauty.

Complete results can be found at www.wcbra.com

Editor’s Note: Special shout out to Deb Mann whose great eye has captured beautiful barrel racing and team roping shots for years. Thank you for your dedication to our sport Deb! Her fine photos can be found at https://shutttterbug.instaproofs.com/gallery/#events