WPRA News March 2020

system, it gives opportunities like this to people like me who do have a full-time job and can’t get off to go rodeo all the time. It gives us a platform to run with more professionals for bigger money.” Thomas won some big money – $9,130 – aboard her 14-year-old sorrel, Amos, at the circuit finals after finishing one-tenth of a second ahead of Kelley Carrington for the average title. It was a shock to the system when Thomas saw she and the horse she’d bought from Linda Gail Stewart as a 7-year-old had earned a trip to Kissimmee. “He’s always really liked that pen, and he just made three solid runs and gave me his all,” Thomas said. “I was really not expecting to win the average, because it was a really tough group of girls. We had girls who were going to the NFR and ones who almost made the NFR, and it was going to be a really tough group. “I was just going to have fun and do the best I could. So, it was a welcomed surprise.”

Thomas, who has master’s and specialist’s degrees from Lincoln Memorial University, loves competing in barrel racing as an escape from her non-stop schedule. “I work really hard during the week, and it’s something I look forward to on the weekend to take your mind off everything else,” said Thomas, whose sons, Tate and Logan, also compete in rodeo. “I think everybody should have something they love and look forward to.” Thanks to Amos, Thomas is realizing a dream she never thought possible. “He just really blossomed and took to the rodeo world really well,” she said. “It’s just turned into a lot more than I ever could have expected.” As for her game plan for Kissimmee, not surprisingly Thomas said learning is her chief goal. “I tell my boys all the time that you can learn from anybody, so I look forward to just being around (the other barrel racers), seeing the things they do and learning from them to make myself better,” Thomas said. “I’m very excited. I’ll just go and do my best.”

– and Kruse feels blessed to have had such a dreamlike circuit season that will culminate with her return to the prestigious event. “I think it was exciting just because I’ve had other horses that have won that amount of money in the circuit in a season, but I’d never been that far ahead of the girls behind us to know you’re going to win it,” she said. “So, that was cool. Having my previous good horse (Harley) die, you’re like, ‘I guess I’ll be lucky if I ever get to go back to the RAM Finals again.’ So, getting to go again is exciting.” Kruse said Cover Girl is dealing with an inflamed sacroiliac joint, but she fully expects the talented steed to be ready for the rest of the winter rodeos and their trip to Florida. Consistency and versatility, Kruse says, are what makes her mare special. “I think consistency is her strength,” said Kruse, who bought Cover Girl when she was 6. “The first year, I thought I had her figured out, as far as the ground she liked and everything. And then this last year, she was the opposite and didn’t mind ground I thought she didn’t like. Arena sizes didn’t matter, and she just excelled in both.” Money at this year’s RAM NCFR will not count toward the WPRA World Standings, so Kruse said she’ll be relaxed and ready for that first run. “In my opinion, there’s not as much pressure,” she said. “You’re just going to try and stick money in your pocket and try to get some good runs in. It’s a good arena, and it seems to have good ground in it. I think it’ll be good, and we’ll try to get some good runs in before Spring starts.” For a true “weekend warrior” like Julie Thomas – who won the average title at the RAM Southeastern Circuit Finals Rodeo in Davie, Florida, in November – the RAM NCFR is the pinnacle of her rodeo world. “For someone like me, even though I’m off in the summer, there’s no way I can rodeo year-round and try to have bigger goals,” said Thomas, a mother of two who works as a literacy lead in rural Northwest Georgia helping elementary school teachers hone their literacy instruction. “So, this is the highest level I can make at this time in my life with a full-time job. That’s what I love about the circuit Lindsay Kruse won the year-end title in the Montana Circuit to earn a trip to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo and what makes it even better is that her husband, PRCA Saddle Bronc World Champion Jesse Kruse earned a spot as well. The family is looking forward to a working vacation in Florida. Photo by Kirt Steinke

Julie Thomas is a true “weekend warrior” and exactly what the circuit system was meant for. Thomas won the average title in the Southeastern Circuit to earn a chance to compete at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo. She dominated at the finals and hoping to do the same at the RAM NCFR. Photo by Mike Rastelli


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