By Tammy Gray
“It was pretty awesome. It was very unexpected,” Pat Wood of Snowflake said of becoming a world champion in the Senior National Finals Rodeo for barrel racing.
The finals were held in Las Vegas over the first weekend in October, and Wood did not think she had a chance of catching up with her closest competitor over the course of the weekend.
“I went in knowing that the girl ahead of me was quite a bit ahead,” she said.
In the three runs during the finals, Wood explained that the first place competitor beat her in the first run, but Wood managed to tie her with the second run.
“In the third, I out-clocked her and won,” she said.
Wood estimates that she has been barrel racing for about 50 years, but this is her first major win. In fact, she only recently joined the senior pro rodeo circuit and only at the urging of a friend.
“My friend tried to talk me into joining the Senior Pro Rodeo for years. And now that I’m retired I decided this winter, why not? So I did,” she remarked.
Her friend and rodeo traveling partner Anita Mills placed sixth in barrel racing at the national finals. Along with Anita’s husband Jeff, their trip to the finals took them through seven states and between 20 and 30 rodeos over the course of the season.
“We traveled 8,000 miles. It was a lot of fun,” she said. “We met some awesome people and saw some beautiful country.”
Besides the big win, Wood noted that one of the highlights of the season was making new friends along the way. She even discovered a distant relation to some of the rodeo friends she made in Wyoming.
The path to the championship was not easy, as Wood and her horse, Cowgirl, had a few difficulties along the way.
“We missed the first eight rodeos, so we got kind of a late start, but we did some catching up and came up first in points right away,” she said. “Then we had some problems.”
Cowgirl had an injury and then, Wood explained, they had a short spell of knocking down barrels. They overcame both problems, however, and got back on track to race for the win.
Wood noted that she has had Cowgirl since she was born and had high expectations of her as a barrel horse.
“When she was born and I saw that L-shaped mark on her forehead, I told her, ‘That means you’re going to be one ‘L’ of a barrel horse.’ And she has been,” she said.
Although winning the national finals was the culmination of a long-held dream, Wood notes that one of her most thrilling moments in barrel racing was her 2009 win at the Navajo County Fair.
“That winner’s victory lap was almost as much fun as the run itself,” she recalled.
Wood thanks everyone who has helped and supported her along the way, noting that friends and family have offered moral and financial support.
“It reminds me of how blessed I am,” she said. “I had a lot of family at the finals and it was even better not coming home with them feeling bad for me because it didn’t happen.”
At 66 years old, Wood explains that she plans to continue barrel racing and hopes to defend her championship next season. She noted that it came as a surprise to her to hear that people are inspired by her win.
“Age and all considered, it’s never too late to go out and live your dream,” she said. “It’s never too late to learn something new, or go do the thing that you love.”