On The Trail with Tyler Waltz
Born and raised in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, Tyler Waltz was the oddball through high school, focusing on rodeo instead of other sports. “I grew up […]
“When I look back, it was God’s perfect timing on every aspect of my life,” said Shelley Morgan, the 2022 AMERICAN champion barrel racer. Winning $100,000 in Arlington, Texas, on March 6, was the most money she has won at a single event. She plans to take the money and “tithe 10% to the church and put the rest in my fuel tank.” The 49-year-old from Canton, Texas, has never craved the spotlight, but the stage she was on in Arlington was “pretty cool.” Canton is located an hour southeast of Dallas with a population of 3,805. Shelley grew up there and that is where she and Rex raised their two sons. Before competing in barrel racing full-time she taught school and coached basketball for six years.
After winning the 2008 barrel racing title in the United Pro Rodeo Association, Shelley and Rex made the decision to buy her pro card. “I had a great horse, Short Go, and we thought we could have a run at the NFR.” Short Go and Shelley made that goal in 2009. “The first year was a huge learning curve,” she admits. “We were kind of dumb – we entered a lot, mapping out where we went according to the rodeos and their location. Short Go got off his feed and I learned about ulcers. We got all that fixed and then in 09 we were going for it all. The boys (Zach and Tanner) went everywhere with us.” Shelley describes the adventure as amazing. “To be able to do what you love and do and have your family there; what more could you ask for. I stole my husband from his job and we probably didn’t make any money, but it was great.” Rex had built his own company, Eagle Security, from the ground up and thanks to reliable help, he was able to go with Shelley and the boys.
Shelley was 14th coming into the NFR in 2009, and finished the year 10th with $103,960. She placed in four out of ten rounds. In February of 2010, her run for another spot at the NFR came to a screeching halt. “I was at San Angelo; Lisa Lockhart and I had traveled back there from Tucson,” she explained. They turned their horses out in paddocks next to the arena and went to grab some lunch. While they were gone, Short Go kicked through the wooden panels and brought them down on top of him, breaking his back legs in half. “We sat there with him until the vet got there and put him down. I called my mom and dad (Bobby and Barbara Bridwell) who live in Canton. He loaded up his stock trailer and drove six hours to get him.” Short Go is buried outside the family’s arena.
Without another horse, Shelley went home to start over again. “The boys had gotten to the age when they wanted to stay home and get involved in sports, so the timing was perfect,” she said. “I went to all their games and started looking for, buying, and training horses.” She competed locally and eventually found the next horse, Radar, to take down the road. “We don’t have the money to go buy big named horses,” she said. Shelley has ridden her whole life and started competing in high school, training all the horses she competed on. “We buy prospects and I train them.” The family has 220 acres including a 55-acre hay meadow. Together with her parents, they run 75 head of cattle, and Shelley has around 10 horses on the place.
Her dad, along with other people they know, help find horses for Shelley to work with. When she found Radar, she admits she didn’t like him much. “That horse took up barrels like you wouldn’t believe and ran fast as lightning.” Shelley missed the NFR the first year aboard Radar by less than $1,000 – his feet got sore, and the duo had a hard time finishing the year strong. After that, Radar developed some bad habits, and it was back to searching once again for the perfect horse.
Kiss is the mount that took Shelley to the pay window at The AMERICAN, ponied into the arena by her former mount, Radar, who has turned into a rock-solid pony horse. “You can drop his reins and do something with Kiss – he doesn’t mind her wallering all over him. Kiss likes him – and that’s important – Kiss doesn’t like just everybody.” Kiss came to the Morgan’s via a connection from her brother-in-law. “He contacted me to train two three-year-old’s; both by the same sire, but different dams. When they led Kiss out of the barn and up the driveway, he said, ‘this is going to be the next world champion.’ She was this tall lanky filly with not a big hip at all. I would not have bought her – she was just sent home with me. I got on her and I thought she was going to dump me in the dirt. A Brazilian had started her, but she hadn’t been worked with in almost six months. If I had walked up to a barn, I would not have picked Kiss out.”
Within two weeks, Shelley changed her mind. “I knew she was the most like Short Go I’d ridden yet.” Their personalities were complete opposite, though. “Short Go was quiet and laid back; Kiss is high strung, moody, and doesn’t like crowds. I love her to death, but she is night and day different. They both trained themselves; natural from start to finish.”
The timing is perfect for Shelley and Rex to hit the road again. The boys are grown and pursuing their own lives. “Zach (25) is working with the family company – he’s amazing and allows Rex to be gone and stay gone. He’s building a house – God knew all along what needed to happen with Eagle Security,” said Shelley. Tanner (21) is working while pursuing an education in the IT field. They both help take care of the place while Shelley and Rex are on the road. Rex and Shelley are high school sweethearts, meeting when they were juniors in high school. “He was a city boy,” admits Shelley. “His family came to the country, bought a calf roping horse and a few cows and Rex tried calf roping and team roping. I was a cheer leader, and he was a football player.” They dated for four years and got married in 1992. Rex went to college but didn’t go to class.
“I had a job, but I didn’t like school,” he said. “I’m smart, but I didn’t try. I worked for an alarm company for 6 years and decided to open my own company. I took a pay cut for the first few years until I got it up and running.” Rex could have pursued team roping, but he devoted his time to Shelley, his family, and business. “My job on the road is to drive – I drive 99.9% of the time,” said Rex. “I do all her entering and help her on the road. I don’t do a whole lot at home with the horses, but I can fix a shoe and I can map out where we’re going. “When she wins, I win; when she loses, I keep my mouth shut.” Rex also helps keep Kiss calm when she’s being a dragon. “She likes me to rub her between the ears. Sometimes I’ll lead her away from Shelley when she gets too wound up – Kiss that is, not Shelley.”
The couple will celebrate 30 years of marriage and while on the road they spend 24/7 together. The secret to their long happy marriage is simple.
“She does what I tell her to do.”
“He knows I’m always right.”
• 2021 – Entered the Wrangler NFR ranked third with $94,229 and finished the year ranked 4th with $202,202 after winning $107,973 at NFR. Finished seventh in the average in a total time of 147.19 and placed in five out of 10 rounds
• 2020 – Won $63,308 at the Wrangler NFR after placing in five rounds. Finished the year ranked 9th with $116,383.
• 2019 – Finished the year ranked 29th in the world with $50,283. Won California Salinas, Longview (TX) PRCA Rodeo, the Rose City Roundup (Tyler, TX), the Great Plains Stampede Rodeo (Altus, OK) and Apache (OK) Stampede. Finished second at Oakley City (UT) Independence Day Rodeo and at the Rodeo of the Ozarks (Springdale, AR)
• 2018 – Finished with $11,224
• 2017 – Finished with $1,438
• 2016 – Finished with $6,513
• 2015 – Finished with $29,106
• 2014 – Finished 17th in the world with $69,447
• 2013 – Finished the year ranked 95th with $10,269
• 2012 – Finished the year ranked 35th with $30,537
• 2011- Finished the year ranked 48th with $24,433
• 2010 – Finished the year ranked 34th in the world with $25,937
• 2008 – United Professional Rodeo Association Barrel Racing Champion; 2008 Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association Finals – average champion and year-end reserve champion.
5-Star Equine Products – Best pads ever created, create great support for my horses under their saddles, they are never back sore from saddle pressure and pads’ effectiveness as well as appearance hold up like new after years of hard day to day use. So many options to choose from to fit everyone’s style and needs.
Eagle Security Systems – amazing clear cameras (even at night) on all my horses so I never miss a moment with my special equine partners as well as can keep an eye on the ones at home when I’m gone.
Rock & Roll Denim/Panhandle Western Wear – keep me looking sharp in and out of the arena. Most comfortable jeans I have to ride in.
Bluebonnet Feeds and Stride Animal Health – provides quality feed and supplements that I have been running Kiss on since the beginning of her career. Always one phone call away.
Shiloh Saddlery – the best saddle I have ever sat in since I have started riding. I didn’t know I was missing out so much until I got my Shiloh.
The Muffler and Hitch Shop in Canton – squeezes me in and helps me with all the accessories my truck needs to haul up and down the road, the gooseneck ball, bed liner, bumper replacement and best of all, big nice extra fuel tank….. troubleshoots any problems I have with my trailer .
Western Dove – amazing tack set, my mom always says Kiss looks like she is wearing a sparkly crown!
Resistol – giving us some of the most amazing hats at the NFR and American.
There are so many more others who have been so key in helping my team succeed down the road, thank each of you so much, I appreciate each and every single one of them.
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