Barrel racing is in Jordon Peterson's blood-and it's definitely in her horse's blood.
Just a toddler when her mother, Kristie Peterson, was training the legendary French Flash Hawk ("Bozo"), Jordon grew up watching them win four world titles-and five National Finals Rodeo average titles-in the 1990s before competing on the aging superstar herself at junior rodeos.
This December, 21-year-old Jordon will run at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on a 7-year-old gelding whose sire is a three-quarter brother to Bozo.
"I've always wanted to be there, since I was very little," says Jordon. "When I'm standing in the alleyway is when it will sink in that I'm actually there, following in my mom's footsteps."
Jordon's horse, Frenchman's Jester, has Easy Jet and Ettabo breeding on the bottom, and is by Frenchman's Guy (by Sun Frost and out of Frenchman's Lady). Bozo was by Sun Frost and out of Casey's Charm, a sister to Frenchman's Lady.
Although "Jester" differs from his famous uncle in that he's smoother and drops more at a barrel, he shares the same power and love of the game. When he was just 4, Jordon set an event-record fast time on him at the Barrel Futurities of America World Championship Futurity.
She gave him some time off in 2007, then last year the duo got their feet wet at 12 pro rodeos-of which they earned money at 10. This season, Jordon, who has picked up her mother's philosophy of aiming for longevity with her horses, just planned on "testing this rodeo thing out." She was only hoping to make her circuit finals and get qualified for the 2010 winter rodeos.
Instead, she made her first Wrangler NFR after having competed at fewer than 50 rodeos (not including limited winter rodeos like San Antonio and Houston). Her horse split the win at the first rodeo of the year in a tiny arena not much different than the Thomas and Mack Center, and he excels at a similar arena in Fort Worth, so big expectations rest on his young shoulders.
He might be joined in Las Vegas by Jordon's 5-year-old in training, Rebel Colours ("Fonzie"), but you're unlikely to see Jordon step off Jester during the Finals.
"He's really tough and has a lot of heart and likes his job," she says. "I think in 10 runs, he'll just like it even more."
Jordon says Kristie will be her number-one cheerleader in Vegas, because she jokes that her dad, Chuck, who held his breath through eight straight NFRs with Kristie, will be outside the Thomas and Mack Center, pacing.
But then it will be back to Jordon's true love-riding colts. She and Kristie have incorporated a tandem training program based in part on the moves that made Bozo so great. At last year's BFA Futurity, Jordon made the finals on all five colts she was riding, giving much of the credit to the trainability of Frenchman's Guy prodigy.
Regardless of the outcome of her first NFR, Jordon's all grown up and she's in the business to stay. She's planning a spring wedding to Justin Briggs; she has a continuous stream of Jester's brothers and sisters to train; and she just built a large steel house and barns on 20 acres in Lott, Texas (about 15 miles from Chuck and Kristie's place).
In addition to support on the road from Briggs and her parents, Jordon is supported by Bill and Deb Myers, Oxy-Gen, Classic Equine, Shiloh Saddlery, and RodeoRigs.com.
Winning Ellensburg, Washington
Jester's form here is perfect to me. In fact, I ordered this picture while I was in Ellensburg. Because it's a big outdoor arena and he was running a little freer, I'm coming back more with my hand, using some outside rein pressure.
Sometimes he gets a little ratey and buries up too much in the back end, so my goal is to run him all the way into the hole before I bump him, which is his cue to get underneath himself and bend in the ribcage. He has so much bend and follows his nose so well that my knee can touch the rim of the barrel the whole way around it.
Jester has a tendency to get anxious before a run, so I warm up mostly by long-trotting, and then I get off of him. If it's a long alley like at Cheyenne, I've learned to bring his nose to my knee and sidepass him up there to keep him from running too early.
Placing Second at Puyallup, Washington
I really sit down deep on Jester and push forward with my body, because if I get hung over the top too much, he'll stop reaching forward with his front end. I also try to really drive his hind end to encourage him to keep that forward motion.
I usually keep tension on my inside rein. It seems like if I squeeze that rein and hold, it makes for snappier turns. I was in "push" mode here because this was a small pattern and he'd already made four runs on it in two days.
I usually always use rubber bands on my feet to make sure I don't lose a stirrup. My mom always said there's just too much money up to take the chance, because when you lose your stirrup, it hurts you.
I hadn't wanted to go to the Northwest, and I hadn't wanted to chase the NFR. But I'm glad I changed my plans and went; it worked out awesome.
Placing Second at Greeley, Colorado
Jester had gotten a little short after the second run at Greeley, so I got in the arena and tuned on him and freed him up. As you can see from this short-round picture at the second barrel, he really listened to me!
I wasn't expecting him to be so free, and I didn't sit down and check him like I usually do. I just didn't ride very well. Luckily, this round kind of fell apart and it didn't hurt me too bad.
I run Jester in two bits. In small pens, I use a Sherry Cervi short-shanked twisted snaffle with about an inch and a half gag, so that I can adjust him as needed but it's a slower reaction.
In big outdoor patterns like at Greeley, I use the one you see here-an Ed Wright twisted snaffle with a locked gag, because I can run him up in there harder and get a hold of him and he has to listen.