Take a quick glance at Brittany Pozzi-Pharr's resume of just five years and you'll skim through Rookie of the Year, Four-Time NFR Qualifier, Single Season Earnings Record Holder, back-to-back NFR Average Champion and Defending World Champion.
Still, little is known about the 24-year-old herself, except that she has a drive to win few have seen since Charmayne James was on the road. As a kid, the My Little Pony fan spent two years conning her dad into buying her a real horse. Assuming the fascination would fade, he didn't even buy a horse trailer. Unfazed, the girl he calls "very, very, very strong-willed" rode five miles to her first barrel race at age 9, and that only cemented her addiction.
She scrapped gymnastics and went on to win a national high school barrel racing championship and regional college championship for Texas A&M. At age 19, she hit the road and landed at her first NFR just six months later on an old bay gelding named Leroy.
People assumed she might be done along with Leroy when he was injured through 2004. But even before barely missing the '04 Finals, she'd sniffed out a sorrel 6-year-old named Sixth Vision and bought him from then-80-year-old Sonny Suttle. She backed "Stitch" up with a little buckskin rope horse and has gone back to Las Vegas every year since.
Pozzi-Pharr's strategy has always been to "win a check every time," but she came up just one short in 2006, losing the gold buckle by an agonizing $2,500. Since nothing less than first will do, last December she marched back into Vegas towing a new earnings record, snappier bridle and Stitch's veterinarian to leave nothing to chance.
Now 11, Stitch still loves to show off. By Streakin Six out of a Dash For Cash mare, he slings his head, prances and craves a big crowd. The 2007 AQHA Horse of the Year and Horse with the Most Heart is also Mr. Consistency, known for his funky, bouncy turns on hard ground. But Pozzi-Pharr cares less how a horse gets around a 50-gallon drum than whether he gets a check.
"The perfect style to me is the one that wins," she says. "Stitch has a turn that isn't very pretty, but it's effective and he gets the job done."
Today Pozzi-Pharr eats, sleeps and breathes it more than ever. Aside from launching her own line of Double J tack with her signature five-leaf posey (a play on her maiden name), she's jumped full-bore into the futurity and breeding business with her husband of a year and a half, calf roper Doug Pharr.
A big part of the duo's south Texas breeding program is based on the heart and speed of 15-year-old Magnolia Bar-bred Potato Chip, the only horse in recent memory to have competed at the NFR in two different events ("Chip" was the 2003 AQHA Heel Horse of the Year with Dugan Kelly).
Pozzi-Pharr's already won a futurity on a 4-year-old half-sister to Chip, and will anchor her program with three young Magnolia Bar-bred stallions and five impressively bred broodmares. The cowgirl who's taken unconventional rides to the very top is now chomping at the bit to see what she can do with her hand-raised babies, including one by Charmayne James' late sire Black Dash-a three-quarter brother to Stitch.
Check out Pozzi-Pharr's archive of winning runs, horses for sale and rodeo diary at www.brittanypozzi.net.
Running a standard-pattern 16.9 to win Reno's short round
This run at Reno is the fastest Stitch has ever clocked on a standard set of barrels, and I was super proud that night. He just laid down one of those once-in-a-lifetime runs. It was a night performance with a big crowd, and I think Stitch runs faster in a performance than at slack or a jackpot.
He's a little out of position in this picture, but you can really tell that he's running, turning, and trying his heart out. The one thing about Stitch that makes him so great is he's so consistent and he usually makes the same run every time. I stopped buying a lot of my pictures because every one of them looks the same.
Winning the average in Laughlin
This is during slack and they had just watered the ground, so it was a little wet and sticky. Here, Stitch is really using his hind end and you can tell he is really trying. You can see I'm using my Professional's Choice splint boots and bell boots, and my leather over-n-under is always on my saddle.
Stitch's body is really round here and he's really snappy in his turns when his body's in this shape. I'm riding him with a long-shanked Jim Warner hackamore. A hackamore usually stiffens a horse up, so to round Stitch up at this rodeo I also ran him in a long-shanked Ed Wright twisted-wire snaffle. Plus, I always warm him up in a Loomis bit and I do a lot of bending exercises.
Splitting third in Greeley's short round
In this shot, Stitch is a little more upright than normal. Greeley is known for having hard ground, and because of that he's being a little more careful than usual. He's not the type of horse that's going to put his body in a bind and hurt himself.
The first barrel is really hard for lots of horses at Greeley but Stitch has never really had a problem with it. I just send him and he turns!
This is the short round and I have a great chance at placing in the average, so during this run, I'm looking at the ground to make sure I take the right steps to not hit a barrel. I have my weight in the outside stirrup, which helps keep me and my horse balanced on the hard ground.