Heading into the 2010 National Little Britches Rodeo Finals, Kinlie Brennise, of Craig, was sitting with a comfortable lead in barrel racing.
If Kinlie could hold the 100-point lead, she would be the barrel racing world champion.
However, rain the night before dampened the course, and Kinlie’s horse, Peppi, wasn’t great at competing in mud.
As a result, Kinlie didn’t have a solid run and ended up reserve world champion.
Fast forward a year and Kinlie, now 10, was sitting in a similar situation July 30 in Pueblo.
Her lead was smaller, but she was still at the top and still riding her trusted horse, Peppi, or “Pepperoni” as Kinlie sometimes calls the horse because of its red spots.
To give Kinlie a little motivation heading into the final run — or short go — Kinlie’s mom, Sheila Brennise, told her she wasn’t first, but second.
“I didn’t want her to be nervous going in trying not to give up the lead again,” Sheila said. “So, I told her she was second and would have to step up if she wanted to be world champion.”
As Kinlie and Peppi trotted onto the course, they saw a familiar foe — mud.
But, this time the two won the battle, posting a time of 16.2 seconds, just off her first- and second-go times of 15.6 and 15.5 seconds, respectively.
“I competed the best as I could,” Kinlie said Thursday. “At first we heard I finished third, but my mom’s friend called her and said they messed up and I actually took first.
“There was lots of excitement and it was pretty awesome.”
After disappointment a year before, Kinlie and Peppi had redeemed themselves in the same event and at the same venue to capture the Junior Girl’s 2011 Barrel Racing World Title.
A girl and her horse
Kinlie started competing in barrel racing when she was 5.
Two years later, Sheila said they purchased Peppi from Hayden resident Kay Brooks.
Before she ever had ridden Peppi, Kinlie said she knew they had an instant connection. After all, horse and rider were the same age.
“The relationship with your horse is important when you are competing,” she said. “If you know what (your horse) wants to do, they will do better for you. If they don’t like you, they won’t do well.
“I know other (athletes) who talk about how inconsistent their horses are for them, but Peppi is pretty consistent.”
Kinlie said they keep in contact with Brooks, who helps prepare Peppi when they are heading to an event.
But, the real preparation comes every day at the Brennise house.
“I don’t always practice barrels with Peppi, but I ride him every day to get in his exercise,” Kinlie said. “Whether it is just riding or tracking cattle, I get him out every day.”
Peppi’s strength isn’t just in barrels, however.
About a year ago, Kinlie said she tried him in pole bending.
“He did pretty well and I think I am going to try him out again next year,” she said. “But, for this year, his focus was barrels.”
While Kinlie and Peppi have only been partnered for three years, Sheila said the horse is one of a kind.
“(Peppi) is a blessing,” she said. “Kinlie and him work great together.”
Thrill and success
Heading into the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals, rodeo athletes were allowed to have their top five performances count toward their overall score.
Kinlie said she had no problem choosing her performances — she had five first-place finishes.
For the short go, the top five best averages and the top 10 in points were brought back to compete for theworld title.
While Kinlie’s best shot at a world title was in barrel racing, she also qualified for the short go in goat tying and team roping with her brother, Kasen Brennise.
“I competed in my barrel racing short go first, but I didn’t have time to see how I finished right away because I had to do my other two events,” she said. “My brother and I ended up taking first in the second round in team roping and I had my best time in goat tying at 8.6 seconds.”
With about 275 competitors in the junior girls barrel racing division alone, Kinlie said nerves played a factor.
“It was really fun and it pushed me to compete at the hardest level,” Kinlie said of all the competitors. “I was nervous, but I had to believe in (Peppi) and I knew we practiced a lot and had gotten a lot better.”
Another source of nerves came from the Moffat County rodeo athletes’ recent success in barrel racing.
In 2008, Kasen took home the Little Wrangler’s Barrel Racing World Title.
A year later, Jaidyn Steele, who Kinlie and Kasen practice with often, won the Little Wrangler’s Barrel Racing
No matter, Kinlie said she felt confident heading to Pueblo.
“I had competed pretty smoothly all year,” she said. “I placed pretty high in both the first and second (rounds), so I felt confident.”
The rodeo athletes have already started preparing for the 2012 Little Britches Rodeo series, and with the junior girls division ending at age 13, Kinlie will have three more years in the same age group.
But, Kinlie said she would remember this world title for a while.
“It was a good overall year,” she said with a smile. “I’m grateful for all my parents help, but I’m really grateful for my horse.”
Joshua Gordon can be reached at 875-1795 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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