National Finals Rodeo barrel racer Michele McLeod departed Las Vegas the morning after NFR’s conclusion, and her first stop was Bonsall.
McLeod left Las Vegas the morning of Dec. 15 and visited Bonsall’s Linda Stenerson that afternoon. Stenerson was the National Barrel Horse Association district director when McLeod lived in Temecula. “My girls were really young and we became a family. She was like my mom and a grandma to the girls,” McLeod said of Stenerson.
McLeod now lives in Whitesboro, Texas. She picked up a three-year-old colt from Stenerson and will train that horse before returning him. McLeod arrived at her house in the early hours of Dec. 17.
McLeod finished fifth in the final 2013 world standings. “I’m happy with it,” she said. “Overall it was a tough, tough barrel race and I’m happy to be in the top five.”
McLeod earned $109,591 during 78 regular-season rodeos and entered NFR third in the world standings. The top 15 barrel racers in earnings for the regular season which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 qualify for NFR.
The 2013 National Finals Rodeo took place Dec. 5 to 14 at the Thomas and Mack Center. NFR earnings are added to regular-season earnings to determine the final world standings. McLeod fell to fifth due to four five-second penalties for knocking over barrels. “I was just a little disappointed,” she said.
McLeod hit barrels during the fifth, sixth, ninth, and tenth go-rounds. Prior to her first five-second penalty she stood second in the NFR average (aggregate) with a time of 55.71 seconds for her first four runs. McLeod finished eighth in the NFR average with a time of 158.08 seconds on her 10 runs. She won $41,766.83 during NFR to bring her total season earnings to $151,357.49.
During the daytime, McLeod appeared on the Alexis Blower Show and the Anthony Lucia Show and also signed autographs at the Professional’s Choice, Oxy-Gen, Cruel Girl, and Deuces Wild Tack vendor booths at the gift shows in Las Vegas coinciding with NFR.
“It’s been great. It’s been exciting,” she said of her first NFR. “It’s a really neat feeling to be here.”
Whitesboro is about 65 miles northeast of Dallas and has a population of approximately 3,800. Stenerson noted that Whitesboro is about the size of Bonsall. “A lot of good horses there,” she said.
McLeod lived in Temecula from 1993 to 2005. She was born in Valencia and grew up in Camarillo. She attended Camarillo High School but did not compete in high school rodeo. McLeod was 16 when she learned to barrel race from Bess Chaney, whose move to Temecula was one of the reasons for McLeod’s relocation there.
McLeod participated in National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association competition while at Pierce College. She studied at the fire academy and had plans to become a firefighter prior to starting a family.
McLeod was living in Santa Maria before moving to Temecula due to equestrian opportunities. “I had some friends down there and moved there to barrel race and team rope,” she said. “I actually roped before I ran barrels.”
McLeod has trained horses in Texas since moving there in 2005. She obtained her Women’s Professional Rodeo Association card that year after earning the $1,000 she needed to fill her WPRA permit which she obtained in 2004. McLeod had $17,655 of career earnings prior to the 2013 season, which was the first in which she competed full-time. “I was just basically training and seasoning horses, so I never went to the rodeo full-time until this year,” she said.
She never placed in a California rodeo until the winning the May 17-19 Ramona Rodeo. “It was neat. I got to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time,” she said of competing in Ramona.
McLeod worked her way into the top echelon of the world standings and increased her rodeo activity. “We didn’t start going until June,” she said. “I thought I’d go June, July, and August and be home in August.”
McLeod and Slick won July rodeos at Belle Fourche (South Dakota), Laramie (Wyoming), Colorado Springs, and Nampa (Idaho). They won the August rodeos in Loveland (Colorado), Hermiston (Oregon), and Missoula (Montana). “He caught on fire this summer,” McLeod said.