Chase it with Brandy: Jana Griemsman’s WPRA Badlands Horse of the Year
for Tri-State Livestock News
Jana Griemsman has the horse of a lifetime.
The Piedmont, South Dakota barrel racer and her husband, Paul, own Brandy, an eight year old sorrel mare who carried Griemsman to an eighteenth place finish for the 2016 rodeo year in the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association standings.
Brandy came from Jana’s sister, Jill Schimkat Moody’s, breeding program. Brandy’s dam, Corona Special (no relation to the Corona Cartel line), was purchased from Lyman Chase, who had good race horses off the Pierre, South Dakota, rack track.
Corona Special was a good barrel horse, Jill said, but never seemed to be healthy. “She was one of those hard luck horses for me,” she said. “Every time, it seemed like she was hurt.” She was also a “fruitcake,” as Jill describes her. “If you could get her to turn the first barrel, no one could outrun her. But if she didn’t turn, she’d hit the bleachers.”
At the time, Jill was married to Terry Moody, who owns TM Sakem Drift, Brandy’s sire. The stud is an eighteen-year-old sorrel the Moodys have done well with.
Jill crossed them, not sure what she would get.
The filly, whose registered name is Chase It With Brandy, was born at Jill and Jana’s parents’ place near Pierre. From day one, their mother, Ruby Schimkat, and Brandy Holzer, a neighbor, were paying extra attention to Brandy. “They spoiled her,” Jana remembered, and when she turned two years old, Jill sent the horse to Jana and Paul’s place.
She was an easy start for Paul, who broke her. She never bucked, Jana remembers, but she was spooky. “She was even terrified of the steers at the end of the arena. She’d spook at the neighbor’s cows on the hill.”
Jana started her on barrels as a two year old. “I don’t even recall having to work at it. We started loping circles, then loping circles around barrels. She was really easy to start and easy to train.”
The Griemsmans would train her a bit, then turn her out, giving her time off to “be a horse.”
In July of 2013, Jana caught a glimpse of what Brandy would be. At her first futurity, in Spearfish, South Dakota, Brandy didn’t win it, but she worked great. “I knew then she was going to be good, good enough that I was confident in her.”
After that, they competed at futurities close to home, paying a lot of late entry fees because she wasn’t sure how Brandy would do. “If she did good, I’d say, ‘oh, let’s go to this one.’” But Brandy placed at every futurity she was in. “I was very excited,” Jana said.
During Brandy’s futurity career, Jana was pregnant, and when their son Laken was born in February of 2014, she was ready for more with Brandy. Together with her team roping husband, they competed at circuit rodeos. She missed qualifying for the 2014 Badlands Circuit Finals by $120.
In 2015, she and her equine partner “eased around” again, making it back to the Badlands Circuit Finals but not doing well, due to “rider error. I didn’t have the confidence in her in little pens that I should have. I was being a little conservative,” Jana said.
Then 2016 came. Jana and Brandy hit the pro rodeo trail, and over the Fourth of July run, they won $14,000. It was a pivotal point for them, and she needed to decide if she should rodeo full time to try to make the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “At that point, my husband and I sat down and he said, ‘you need to go (full time on the rodeo road). You have a legitimate chance of making the NFR. I don’t want you to have any regrets, and I don’t want you to miss out because of me or Laken.’” She agreed, they hired a driver, and she hit the road, “harder than I wanted to, but we did.”
Brandy didn’t let her down. In the next two months, the pair stayed firmly in the top fifteen in the barrel racing world standings, and Brandy won lots of checks. “Every time I unloaded that mare from the trailer, we either placed or won the rodeo.”
They were on their way to their first WNFR when things took a turn. It was in Ellensburg, Washington, when Brandy made a perfect run, but didn’t clock – didn’t make the time she usually made. Jana knew something was wrong. After the run, she tied her to the trailer and went to the rodeo secretary’s office. When she came back, Brandy had “tied up” – her muscle enzymes had locked up and she wasn’t moving in her back end like she should have been. It resolved itself, but it was an indication of more to come.
Jana gave her a few days off, but with the end of the rodeo season in sight, she and Brandy were driving every day, most of the day, and making a run each night. Brandy wasn’t herself; she was tipping barrels and pulling off of the first barrel.
She was telling Jana she didn’t feel good.
At the Blackfoot, Idaho rodeo on Sept. 5, Brandy broke the pattern and her time was disqualified. Jana took her to the veterinarian, who found inflammation in her lungs. It wasn’t anything life-threatening, she wasn’t deathly ill, and it wouldn’t end her career, but it wasn’t something Jana couldn’t go on with. “If I pushed her any more, it could get worse. The vet said I could run her, but it would be with risk.”
Jana was lost at this point. “I was searching for answers from my family and my vet. ‘I’m sixteenth in the world right now,’” she thought. “Do I say, there goes my year? I know she’s tough, and I know she can do it. Do I push her to save face?”
She gave Brandy two weeks off, and by this point, there were only two weeks left in the rodeo year. She decided to stop. Paul flew to the Northwest, and together they drove home. “It sucked. It was the hardest decision ever. I shed a lot of tears, and I was mad, but I tried to be positive.”
A month later, she was running at the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in Minot, North Dakota. Jana won the year-end and average at the circuit finals, and Brandy won the WPRA’s Badlands Horse of the Year award. This year, money earned at all circuit finals counts towards the 2017 world standings, as does money earned at the Ram National Circuit Finals, at which Jana will compete in April. Her goal is to have enough money won before the busy summer rodeos start, that Brandy won’t have to run at so many rodeos towards the end of the season. Because Jana finished in the top twenty in the world standings, she’ll be able to enter the big winter rodeos, running at more money earlier in the year.
Brandy, like all good horses, has her quirks. She can’t be left alone and has to have her friend, Jana’s other barrel racing horse, Daisy, with her, all the time. “She’s content if there are other horses around, but she’s much happier if her best friend Daisy is with her.” If they could be in the same stall, Brandy would be happiest. At rodeos where stalls are provided, Brandy has to see her friend Daisy, and Daisy needs to be in the next stall. At the Odessa, Texas rodeo, stalls are from floor to ceiling, and Jana knew Brandy wouldn’t handle it. She stalled the friends side by side, and then hooked up the gates so they could see each other. It wasn’t enough. “Brandy was a lathered mess ten minutes later,” she said. So she found a broken stall so the horses could see each other. “You do that because they win for you, and you want to keep them safe and happy.”
Brandy gets the best care possible. “I don’t sleep at night unless I know my horse is happy,” she said. “She’s the last thing I check before I go to bed, even if I have to go outside in my pajamas, and she’s the first thing I check in the morning.”
The stud who sired Brandy lives at the Moody place in Letcher, S.D. He has other offspring who have had success. Tyrell Moody, Terry’s nephew, rode a TM Sackem Drift foal as a team roping horse, winning the Badlands Circuit’s Head Horse of the Year a few years ago.
Jana is grateful to her sister for giving her Brandy. “Horses like this come along once in a lifetime. It’s true, and I’m lucky. I was given an opportunity by my sister to have this horse, which I am so thankful for. She knew I had a special bond with her.”
Brandy’s future is safe and she is well taken care of. “This place revolves around Brandy. Is Brandy happy? Is Brandy safe? Does she need anything?
“Paul always jokes with me, that I’m not happy unless my horse is happy. We had a great summer. We gave the NFR a heck of a shot, but unfortunately, because she was the bread winner in the trailer, and things got hard on her, she told me she wasn’t feeling well. I had to give her a couple weeks off. In that couple of weeks, I got too far behind in the standings to where I couldn’t realistically catch up, and I didn’t want to push my horse that hard to do it.”
Jill doesn’t regret giving the horse to her sister. “Honestly, I’m a big pay it forward person. I am so appreciative to the Thomas Ranch (owner of Dolly, the horse Jill rode at four Wrangler National Finals Rodeos and was reserve champion twice on), to give me the opportunity to ride Dolly. If someone felt that strongly about a horse, then fine. If people feel that strongly about them, then who am I to stand in the way?”
She also realizes that Brandy might not have done so well with someone else.
“The right horse is in the right hands,” Jill said. “Everybody came out winners.”