Reflecting on 2020 is a great way to count blessings. During a pandemic in a year of uncertainty, those individuals who often rise to the top are filled with optimism, respect and gratitude. That’s true of two young rodeo athletes who have had time to look back on each of their second appearances at the National Finals Rodeo and what it meant to them to each win two rounds in their respective events.
After moving the NFR from the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas to the Globe Life Stadium in Arlington, Texas, cowboys and cowgirls were thankful for the opportunity to have a place to showcase their talents as one of the 15 best in their sport.
“The atmosphere was a lot different [in Arlington], but we’re all just thankful we were out there and able to compete. Rodeoing all year, we didn’t know if there was going to be an end result, and we’re just thankful everything just pulled through. As far as competing, it was awesome getting to compete in that stadium and in front of that crowd,” said Haven Meged, Miles City, Montana, the 2019 World Champion tie-down roper.
Meged said with a shortened season and the unknown if a “finals” would happen, he was glad to have the chance to rope. He won two rounds at the 2020 NFR and set the Round 6 record.
Emily Miller-Beisel, Weatherford, Oklahoma, is a barrel racer who is pleased that the NFR still happened despite the year and the limited number of rodeos that were available. She has pivoted from a full-time dental hygienist who rodeos as a hobby, to a full-time barrel racer who can still work part-time in a career she also loves.
“Kudos, too, to my work family,” she said of the staff at the dental office where she works. “They are very flexible and very understanding.”
Both Meged and Miller-Beisel compete in events where they heavily rely on their horse to help them succeed. In barrel racing, Miller-Beisel relies on the speed and stage presence of her horse she is riding and also the fact that her horse knows the pattern and can complete it without turning over a barrel. Meged relies on his horse to help him get his calf roped and pulled tight so he can tie it with the fastest time.
Meged roped from his mare, Beyonce, all 10 nights of the NFR. He bought her off Facebook, and he claims that she is a fast learner that requires very little tuning up. Once she learns a skill, she knows it.
“She’s pretty special. She was young and didn’t know much when I got her, but she’s one of those horses that once you show her, she remembers and gets better every time. She’s really a blessing. You have to work at it, but you don’t have to show her again every day, she would remember it. It’s pretty awesome to have a horse like that. She’s a once in a lifetime horse. That you don’t have to practice on her every time; you can just take her to the rodeo,” he said.
Miller-Beisel rotated between two of her horses during the 2020 NFR, after realizing her very fast horse, Chongo, was experiencing some “stage fright” after the first two rounds. She let her powerful, grey gelding rest for two nights and rode Beau in rounds 3 and 4 and finished out her runs on Chongo, taking first place checks in both rounds 6 and 7. She explains the importance of the relationship between horse and rider.
“When every hundredth (of a second) counts, knowing yourself and admitting fault as a rider is huge. He (Chongo) was confused by the signals I was sending him. A lot of adjustments were made between rounds 1 and 2 and rounds 5 and 6 for that horse. I truly believe he’s one of the fastest horses going, but I’ve got to do my part and make sure he’s set up for success,” Miller-Beisel said.
Part of her success in the latter rounds came from rubber bands or “Beisel bands” around her arms, connected to her saddle swells. Although she has been using rubber bands since she was 9 years old, she chuckles when she said, it’s funny how when you win on a big stage something simple like a rubber band becomes such a big deal. Due to the size and shape of the Standard pattern and the size of the arena, Chongo wasn’t making clean first barrel turns. He also didn’t like the shift of weight that his rider was putting on him, so she pulled out the rubber bands, and they worked.
Another thing that works well for Beyonce, Beau and Chongo are the Vitalize® products from BioZyme. All four of Meged’s horses and all of Miller-Beisel’s horses receive Vitalize Alimend® twice daily in their feed as way to help prevent ulcers and prevent digestive upset. Miller-Beisel also gives Chongo the Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel for stress such as the stage fright he experienced at Globe Life.
“I was very surprised about how Chongo handled the arena, but it was more of an atmosphere thing that scared him. Chongo is very aware of his surroundings, which is part of the reason why I keep him on Alimend as much as I can because he is a little more influenced by atmosphere and the hype of the arena than some of my other horses are. Chongo also lives on the Vitalize Recovery Gel. It keeps him in check and helps him so much. It’s crazy how an upset tummy can stress them out,” she said.
With grateful hearts, healthy horses and an optimistic spirit for what lies ahead of them in 2021, Miller-Beisel and Meged are excited to continue perfecting their sports in the future. Both plan to keep their horses healthy, compete at the rodeos they can and have the fastest times they can in their respective sports with anticipation of another NFR.
“It’s the best 10 days of your life,” Miller-Beisel declares.
And it gets better with healthy horses with a #goodgutfeeling from Vitalize.