Conrado seeks consistency at WNFR

Ivy Conrado has had more tipped-barrel runs than she has had clean runs at her first NFR, but she said she and her horse are improving with each run. Photo courtesy of Jackie Jensen

Ivy Conrado headed into her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo already a winner. Her horse CFour Tibbie Stinson earned the title of American Quarter Horse Association Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Barrel Horse of the Year.

The Hudson, Colorado, cowgirl has had some ups and downs this week but has accepted each performance in stride and blazed forward. Ivy’s father Kelly has posted each night’s barrel run on his Facebook page, including Ivy’s debut at the NFR which resulted in a no-time due to wrong pattern.

“The first three rounds were really nerve wracking,” Ivy said. “It’s really stressful in the alleyway. Last night (round 4) it eased up and everybody got more comfortable. So many of us are new so there’s a lot of anxiety. I definitely had some.”

When asked about the bobble in round one, Kelly said, “It was a disaster, it was no bobble. It was a pilot error; it wasn’t a horse error. Some people are saying the mare spooked, but the mare did not spook. When Ivy hit the second barrel, she was disappointed and headed to the wrong side of the third barrel. The mare then was trying to get to the right spot but when she looked up, the barrel was in front of her and Ivy didn’t help. They went to the left instead of the right and that was that.”

“You never know what is going to happen, but you can only do your best. I need to remember not to over-try. These first four rounds I’ve been trying too hard. I need to do what I did all year.” Ivy Conrado, first-time WNFR competitor

At the time of the interview, she was only at the halfway mark of the rigorous 10-day finals aboard her trusty Tibbie, a home-raised and trained mare.

“Tibbie’s got a whole lot more gears than a lot of the horses here, and she has one of the softest mouths of all the horses here; that makes it hard and the timing is hard,” Ivy said of her seven-year-old mare. “I haven’t been super confident. Tibbie hates flags and wagons, those are the two things that will blow her. The flags and wagons come through as we’re sitting in the alley so she was anxious. She’s really young and really particular; it just is what it is, but she’s definitely getting better each and every round.”

Kelly posted on his Facebook page, “I am posting all our runs, we want to keep our journey authentic for everyone who has been there for us. Ivy and Tibbie were amazing tonight and are truly beginning to find themselves. So many times all people see on here are the happy highlights. I want the real and whole journey to be seen and know we appreciate all of it.”

Kelly trained the sorrel mare under his daughter and had his own successes with her. The pair won seven futurities before he turned her over to Ivy as a five-year-old.

“He trained Tibbie and knows the ins-and-outs of her, so it’s good to have another opinion,” Ivy said. “This is his dream also, and I sometimes wish it could be him running Tibbie down the alley. I wish I had done the mare and his training more justice, but there are five days left. It’s a very big accomplishment for our family.”

With her back number matching her age, the 22-year-old pulled in some checks at her first WNFR. Her run in round two of 13.9 seconds placed her sixth and put $4,230.77 in her pocket. A quicker run of 13.79 in round three helped her tie for fourth with Amberleigh Moore and earned $8,884.61. She was a mere .07 of a second behind round winner Lisa Lockhart, of Oelrichs, South Dakota.

Tibbie’s dam, fondly known as Racie, is in attendance at the WNFR as well, not as back-up barrel horse, but Ivy’s grand entry star.

“She’s awesome. I want to run her so bad; she’s my comfort zone, and she just makes me happy,” Ivy said. “It’s awesome to have her here. I love her.”

Accompanying a photo of Ivy and Racie, Kelly posted on his Facebook page, “This is my all-time favorite horse of my entire life, she has made every dream possible, her and the hand of the Lord. We couldn’t be here and not bring her. Love you Racie!”

The 17-year-old mare encountered an injury while leased to another family, changing Conrados’ original plan of Racie being Ivy’s back-up horse in Nevada. This isn’t Racie’s first WNFR though; she was a back-up horse to Liz Pinkston in 2005.

Racie has been in the Conrado family since she was two years old.

“She was raised by Kay Bumguardner. I’ve known Kay my entire life,” Kelly said. “Kay sent me Racie to break. During that time, my ex-wife and I divorced and Kay gave Racie to Ivy; Ivy had been in an accident with a runaway horse. Ivy trained Racie herself.”

Their first year together, Ivy and Racie would trot or slow lope to each barrel then walk around each barrel upon arrival, but Ivy gradually gained confidence aboard the brown mare.

“That first year they gave her an invitation to finals since another girl broke her arm,” Kelly said. “In each go-round of finals, Ivy actually loped to and around the barrels and got faster and faster.” She placed fourth in the last round of Colorado Junior High Association Finals.

In 2016, Ivy has won RAM Circuit Finals Rodeo; The NILE in Billings, Montana; Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, and Mile Hi Barrel Horse Association Finals in Loveland, Colorado, and more.

Although Ivy’s first WNFR experience has not gone as planned, she keeps picking herself up and pressing on.

“You never know what is going to happen, but you can only do your best. I need to remember not to over-try. These first four rounds I’ve been trying too hard. I need to do what I did all year,” Ivy said. “I think it comes with age and never being here; it’s just a learning curve, it definitely is. I think it was hard for me to understand everybody’s journey here is different. Like Amber Moore has been placing in every round, it’s not going to happen for all of us.”

Moore is aboard a mare named CP Dark Moon, who is sired by Conrado’s stallion Darkelly.

“It’s a win-win for us,” Kelly said about his daughter competing against and alongside one of their own. “This is Darkelly’s second NFR qualifier. The other is Kellys Chick, Michele McLeod’s horse that ran the fastest time at the NFR in 2014.”

“I had a very special place in my heart for Skye [Kellys Chick], and we just learned she died last week. That mare was so good here,” Ivy said.

And she cheers for her competitor.

“I’m excited for Amber. We went to the buckle ceremony for Amber last night. She has such a beautiful style; I wish there were more horses like that. We have the stud and that makes that nice to watch.”

For the rest of the week, Ivy just hopes to replicate her year leading up to WNFR.

“I’m going to try to ride right and make good runs. That’s about it,” she said. “I’ve been struggling and trying to get back in my groove and get comfortable, there’s going to be no stress. I’m just going to get comfortable.”