story by Siri Stevens Jerry Berentis grew up in Maybell, Colorado, riding bucking horses. “Whenever you start riding bucking horses it’s every rough stock riders […]
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Meet the Member Nicole Waggoner
story by Lily Weinacht
Nicole Waggoner didn’t expect to be the CPRA Barrel Racing Champion last year. The 22 year old from Pueblo West, Colorado, went into the finals sitting second, aiming to win the average, but she climbed to first place in the year-end standings after winning the first round. Her horse pulled a shoe, but she was able to finish out on her bay mare, who was just coming back after a summer of pasture rest. The pair placed third in the second round, then clinched the title when they won the short round. It was an emotional win for Nicole, who last ran at the CPRA finals in 2013. Her horse at the time broke its leg, and she had to start over with seasoning several young horses. “That was a huge setback,” says Nicole, who grew up riding over to the local arena to compete in playdays with her siblings. “To haul to everything but then go back to starting colts was eye opening. It made me realize how each run is a blessing.”
While Nicole’s dad comes from a horse racing background, she and her brother and sister took to the rodeo trail growing up. Nicole competed in junior high rodeo and a year of high school rodeo for Colorado before joining the CPRA in 2011 as a sophomore. She sold her rope horses and decided to focus solely on barrel racing. “I love the adrenaline that goes with it and the bond you have to have with your horse. I just like being with my horses. They’re good at their job, and I like taking them to the arena to shine.”
Another highlight for Nicole last year was qualifying for the PRCA Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo, where she finished second in the average. “My sister was pregnant last year, so she sent me two of her horses to run, and I had a nice selection of horses for every setup and ground type. She’s going to get her CPRA card again this year. I definitely look up to my parents, Vic and Gina, and my brother, Tyler, and sister, Jenna. My mom and brother have always been there to cheer us on and my dad’s helped us drive everywhere. My sister is my partner in crime—we go everywhere together.”
The bay mare that carried Nicole through the CPRA finals is Vickie, named after Nicole’s dad. “She’s his horse, and my sister’s two horses I rode are Fuse Box and Quiz. We seasoned all three of those horses.” Since all her horses know the barrel pattern well, Nicole prefers to take them out on the trails around Pueblo West for a change of scenery between rodeos. Her German Shepherd, Nikita, also hauls to rodeos with her, and Nicole’s dad enjoys traveling with her as well.
During the week, Nicole is working to finish her last semester of student teaching. “Right now I’m in a third-grade classroom and I love it. I’m a full classroom teacher, and I believe I was put here to do elementary education—I really like it, just seeing the kids every day and the relationships you build with them. I also have a side photography business. I do a lot of engagement photos and kid and family photos, and of course I like the action shots at rodeos.” Nicole also enjoys going to sporting events with her boyfriend, such as Avalanche and Rockies games.
“Coming in as a first-year teacher, I’m super excited to get my own classroom and teach here in Pueblo,” she finishes. “For rodeo, I would definitely like to qualify back to the Mountain State Circuit Finals and the CPRA finals. I had a fairytale year last year making both of those. The finals are probably my favorite (CPRA) rodeo, just with the amount of money the association and directors got for the rodeo. They took really good care of the contestants. They’re super good people, and they’re welcoming, and it’s a good association to be a part of.”