This article about Jordon Briggs appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Western Life Today magazine.
It’s not every day that the reigning world champion barrel racer heads into the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) sitting on top of the standings with more than $175,000 in earnings from the season. Jordon Briggs achieved that feat this year, and now she’s Vegas-bound to defend her 2021 title.
“It’s a blessing to even get to go to Vegas,” Briggs remarks. “It’s everybody’s dream. This will be my first time to make it two years in a row, and it’s awesome to go into the NFR at number one. That’s a big, big accomplishment, and it means we worked hard all year to get there.”
Despite her incredible success, humility remains her calling card.
“I think I’d rather be going in fifth,” Briggs laughs. “It’s big shoes to fill for sure. Last year, it was so much fun because I was so happy to be there. I had no expectations—I just didn’t want to fall off. This year is definitely going to be a little bit tougher on the mental side of it because of the expectations on me.”
As for her strategy to combat that challenge, Briggs isn’t focused on the win. Her goal at every event—even the NFR—is to lay down the best runs possible and trust her horse’s talent to carry them home.
“We just make one run at a time,” Briggs says. “One thing I’ve learned is when it’s your time, it’s your time. And if it’s not, then it’s somebody else’s.”
Destined for Greatness
That consistent mindset—and her skill in the saddle—is partially genetic, passed down to Briggs by her mother, four-time WPRA World Champion and ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee Kristie Peterson.
“I grew up ranching and rodeoing,” Briggs reveals. “I don’t know anything different, and I didn’t want to know anything different. I’ve never had a ‘real job.’ It’s always been horses. Waking up, and feeding animals, and just doing this.
“Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t do anything different. I would just do it under an indoor arena,” she continues, with a laugh.
Raised on a cattle ranch in Colorado, Briggs spent much of her childhood on the road with her parents.
“I loved going to the rodeos and traveling,” she recalls. “My parents were awesome about taking me sight-seeing all the time. I had history class in the back of the truck. They always took me to go see the historical places in whatever state we were in, and I saw a lot of country.”
Not only did Briggs get a hands-on education from the backseat of the truck, but she also found her passion.
“As I got older, my parents realized how ate up I was with riding and training,” Briggs shares. “Instead of my mom making me ride my horses, she had to make me give them days off. They realized that we needed to move to Texas so I could compete all year long with the biggest number of competitors.”
So, the family moved to Texas, and Briggs dove deeper into the lifestyle that has taken her all the way to the NFR.
“I knew I wanted to train horses when I was 10 or 12 years old,” Briggs reveals. “Towards the end of my mom’s career with Bozo, she let me run him and get that feel, which set me up to know what a barrel horse is supposed to feel like now.”
The Perfect Partner
Now, as a ProRodeo athlete herself, Briggs credits her recent success to her current horse, Famous Lil Jet, fondly known as ‘Rolo.’
“It all comes down to Rolo,” she says. “He’s the only reason that I want to sit in the truck for hours on end and travel across the country with a toddler. He’s such an incredible horse. He’s always been confident, and last year it was just amazing to see what he could do.”
Prior to Rolo’s entrance into her life, Briggs focused primarily on riding and training young horses to compete in futurities, a circuit of barrel races specifically for 3- and 4-year-old horses.
“I love being at home with my family and riding colts. That’s my passion,” Briggs admits. “But Rolo came into my life when I needed a break from the futurity world. I already go through all the highs and lows of training a colt. To have a horse like the Rolo that just pretty much just stays on that high, as long as I do my job and don’t get in his way, is amazing.”
As Briggs shifted her focus to the pro rodeo circuit, she knew proper maintenance played a major role in helping a horse of Rolo’s caliber achieve consistent success.
“It’s a lot of responsibility to take care of an animal as special as he is,” Briggs admits. “I focus on keeping his stress low. He loves to run barrels, but not spend too much time in the trailer or have too many runs where he gets tired. I’m very conscious of planning my rodeos where he’s not in the trailer for very long. Six or eight hours is the longest trip I want to take. I always take him to the vet before we leave to make sure he has no soreness.”
The key to a successful NFR campaign for Rolo and Briggs is balance—entering enough rodeos to qualify, but not over-running to the extent that the pair is spent before Vegas. This year, they aced that goal.
“My biggest thing was just not entering too much,” Briggs reveals. “I have to keep in mind that one rodeo might be three or more runs, so I can’t enter a bunch of other rodeos. I was really conscious this summer that I never wanted to run him more than four times in a week.”
Briggs also emphasizes the importance of paying attention to her mount. Like any high-caliber athlete, Rolo loves his job. Briggs uses that baseline to detect any potential issues with her horse before they have a chance to worsen.
“You have to know your horse so well,” she explains. “Rolo never quits. If there’s any inkling that he doesn’t want to do it or he’s slowing down a little bit, I know something’s up, and I take care of it right then and there.”
The stars aligned for Briggs and Rolo after an incredible 2021 season that ended with their first NFR victory. In early 2022, the pair earned victory after victory on the rodeo trail, putting them in the running for another stellar year on the rodeo trail.
“I was third at Fort Worth and won $15,000,” Briggs shares. “That really set me up for the year. I won fourth at San Antonio, and then I went straight from San Antonio to Houston and won Houston.”
After racking up wins—and prize money—from three of the biggest rodeos in Texas, Briggs gave Rolo a well-earned break.
“I was very fortunate to win Houston and not have to run my horse’s legs off this year [to qualify for NFR],” she explains. “I feel really fortunate that Rolo had several months off.”
Although some might view the opportunity to enter limited rodeos—events like Rodeo Houston that only allow entries from ProRodeo athletes who’ve qualified to run—as pure advantage, the reality of competing at an event of that scale involves its own set of challenges.
“Just because you get into the limited rodeos doesn’t mean that it’s not really hard,” Briggs divulges. “You have to run your horse five to six times in the same arena. Luckily my horse likes that, but some don’t. It’s a lot of runs. Just between Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston, we figured that I ran in like 16 times.”
Additionally, high-level events attract the best athletes, both human and equine, who share the same goal of finishing at the top.
“It’s stressful with those rodeos that are just fast time, fast time, fast time,” Briggs says. “You have to be perfect every single time to keep getting back. No matter where you’re at, it’s a lot of pressure.”
Life on the Road
Competing at the highest level of a nationally acclaimed sport takes a toll, even for an athlete like Briggs who’s spent most of her life on the rodeo circuit. Briggs relies heavily on her family and sponsors for support, especially now that her daughter, Bexley, accompanies Briggs on the road.
“Seeing the world through her eyes is really fun,” Briggs shares. “I try to do a lot of sight-seeing with her, like what my parents did with me, and we go find all the playgrounds. But I’m not going to say that it’s all rainbows and butterflies, because raising a toddler is the hardest job I have ever had.”
Briggs credits her husband, Justin, for helping her chase her dreams without sacrificing her daughter’s upbringing.
“My husband is not only a wonderful husband, but also a wonderful father,” she says. “He understands that when the rodeo starts, that’s my job. He takes Bexley so I can get focused on my job and why we’re there.”
As she prepares for another trip to Las Vegas, Briggs looks forward to sharing the experience with her family.
“I’m going to enjoy all the fun with it—buying outfits and planning for all of my family to go out and enjoy Vegas,” she says. “Last year, I bought all my outfits from Ross and Marshalls, because that’s just the kind of person I am. I might go to the mall this year and get a little bit fancy with it.”
Paths to Pro
As she reflects on her career and the opportunities she’s earned along the way, Briggs remains thankful for her upbringing. At the same time, she also recognizes that many of her fellow athletes followed very different paths others to pro status.
“I’m very fortunate with how I grew up and knew what I wanted to do,” she shares. “But there are so many stories that aren’t like that. And we all end up in the same place. Honestly, that’s one of my favorite things about Pro Rodeo. I feel like that’s not something you see in a lot of different industries.”
While she appreciates the benefit of her mother’s experience as a world champion barrel racer, Briggs also notes that every athlete who qualifies for NFR must put in the same amount of effort to reach those goals.
“At the end of the day, you still have to work,” Briggs asserts. “You still have to have the right horse. You’ve got to put in the hours and take care of yourself.”
If you enjoyed this feature on Jordon Briggs, be sure to subscribe to Western Life Today so you don’t miss any print features!