Hailey Kinsel

Hailey Kinsel seemingly came out of nowhere to take the rodeo world by storm in 2017. The truth is, the Cotulla, Texas, barrel racer has been preparing for success in the arena all her life.

Hailey has always had a competitive spirit and she fueled that with gymnastics and barrel racing as a youngster. While gymnastics taught her a lot and she was successful, that wasn’t her passion. When she was 11 years old, she focused solely on barrel racing.

hailey and sister
Hailey Kinsel and Sister

That decision led to a Texas High School Rodeo title and two qualifications for the National High School Finals Rodeo. When it came time to continue her education, she went to her mother’s alma mater, Texas A & M University at College Station. When Hailey was 19 years old, they purchased a two-year-old horse that would be the lightning in Hailey’s rodeo storm. That horse, DM Sissy Hayday, “Sister,” trained by Hailey and her mother, took her to a win at RFD-TV’s The American in February of 2017.

They left that rodeo with a $433,000 check and headed back to College Station where Hailey was finishing her degree in agriculture economics. She was juggling classes and college rodeo along with competition in the WPRA. Her second qualification for the College National Finals Rodeo saw her leaving Casper, Wyoming, with a new saddle and title. Now it was time to concentrate on that lifelong goal of running down the alley at the Thomas and Mack Center.

17-350 Hailey Kinsel
Hailey Kinsel accepting her awards as the 2017 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association barrel racing champion. Photo by Dan Hubbell

By the middle of July, Hailey was still outside the top 20 in the world standings. She went to the WPRA Qualifier at the Days of ’47 Rodeo in hopes of advancing and having a chance at another big payday. She and Sister entered that rodeo ranked 24th and moved all the way up to seventh after winning over $50,000 in Salt Lake.

That is the place she entered the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR). The palomino mare with supersonic speed and her jockey finished as reserve world champions after winning four rounds in Las Vegas. The third round was the pinnacle as the dynamic duo set a new arena record at 13.11 seconds. The previous record was of 13.37 was held by Amberleigh Moore and Taylor Jacob.

hailey kinsel, san antonio
Hailey Kinsel, riding her mare, Sister, was the high money earner in the barrel racing at this year’s San Antonio Rodeo. PRCA photo by Greg Westfall.

Their success is continuing in 2018. They won the San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo, just 100 miles from their home, a rodeo that Hailey had attended as a child and dreamt of competing at. And, they set another arena record along the way with a 13.60-second run. The previous record was 13.67 set by Sydni Blanchard in 2013.

hailey victory
Hailey Kinsel was congratulated by fans when she took the victory lap as the champion barrel racer at the San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo in February. Photo by LeaAnn Gardner for the San Antonio Rodeo.

San Antonio was good to the dynamic duo to the tune of over $25,000, special for both of them as they had a lot of fans in the building and Sister seems to respond to the crowd. The first of March saw her second in the world standings and she is a likely candidate for another trip to Las Vegas.

Get to Know the Wrangler NFR Contestants — Hailey Kinsel

Favorite movie:  Top Gun. I like the intensity of it and it’s a super competitive movie.

Favorite current TV show:  Friends – It’s my go to on Netflix. My last two roommates in college – we summed up the three girls on friends.

Dogs or cats: Dogs – I have a lot. I have a blue heeler named Niña that goes everywhere with me. I call her Niña because I like Spanish words and she is extra small. 

Favorite dessert: Anything chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

Favorite board or card game: Probably 21. I didn’t play at all in Las Vegas, but I play at home. I’m a chicken with real money. I gamble enough in my chosen profession.

Favorite sport, other than rodeo:  It’s a tossup between football or basketball.

If you weren’t in rodeo, what would you be doing:  I probably would be a gymnast. I was a pretty successful competitor as a youngster. It wasn’t one of my favorite things to do, but I love sports and competition, so if it wasn’t for rodeo, I might have pursued gymnastics.

Best gift you ever received:  People have sent me Edible Arrangements several times and those have been very much appreciated.

Best childhood memory: First time I got bucked off when I was 4. I was in the arena turning a barrel. My horse was going around at a trot, bucked me off and I immediately started trying to figure out how to get back on. It makes me smile every time I think about it.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be: To jump high or to fly – I’d really like to be able to reach tall things.

Favorite thing about Las Vegas: The NFR for sure. There is nothing like running in the Thomas & Mack Center and the energy there. I felt it and I know that Sis felt it every time we ran into that arena.

What do you like to do in your spare time:  It seems like if I’m not on horseback, I’m driving. But, I do like to do adventurous things with my friends. When we get to a new town, we try to find something interesting to do. I haven’t been skydiving yet, but I see that in my future.

What would you do if you won the lottery: Buy more horses. When I’m home I ride five or six a day and usually have three with me on the road. We are always on the lookout for the next superstar.

My role model is: I have had a lot of really good influences. The biggest one by far is my Mom. I’ve watched every NFR pretty much since I could, and all those barrel racers have had an impact on my life. Sherry Cervi was pretty much my all-time idol growing up.

What would people be surprised to learn about you: I can play the piano and the guitar. I don’t do it very often. I took piano and fiddle lessons growing up and can read music.

Music: I appreciate just about anything and listen to a big variety of music.

Best horse you’ve ever ridden: My first few horses, kid horses, taught me so much. There are two that stand out.  Josey, a Thoroughbred mare that we got off the track when I was in junior high. She was the first horse I had a lot of success on. She is the horse that I won the Texas High School Rodeo Finals on that took me to Nationals.

The hardest horse I ever learned to ride came into my life about the same time. His name was Tripod and we got him as a yearling. He didn’t have an easy style and was a challenge. He was the first horse I had a real hand in training and he taught me that a good horse is worth working for.

Sister, of course is the most athletic and has the biggest heart of any horse I’ve ever ridden.

How do you name your horses: Things that my horses experience generally earns them their names.  Sister got her name because I had a half sister to her. She was the little sister and that stuck. I had a horse named catfish, because he cut his lip when he was young, and because of that he reminded me of a fish.

If you could live anywhere, where would that be: I love Texas, but I could be happy just about anywhere that I could have my horses with me.  I really like Montana and Wyoming.

What piece of advice would you share:  Work hard and when you think you are working hard, work harder. Compete against yourself and don’t pay attention to what other people are doing. Listen to people that are smarter than you. Always have a few coaches and take their advice, even when you think you have it all figured out.

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