Looking through the list of contestants who will enter the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the top spot in the world standings, I couldn’t help but wonder about barrel racing leader Kaley Bass and what took her to the No. 1 position this year.
The Kissimmee, Fla., cowgirl is reserved and almost shy, humble and appreciative of the season she’s had, and I found her to be quite a delight during our phone chat. She has ridden a 14-year-old gray gelding named Wonders Cowboy Dan most of the season, and the talented steed was recently named the AQHA/WPRA Barrel Racing Horse of the Year as a reward for his prowess in navigating the cloverleaf pattern better than any other mount in 2014.
Bass, 21, is on top of the world in more ways than one as she heads into Las Vegas leading the 15 best barrel racers on the planet.
“It’s just been an awesome year for my horse and I,” said Bass, who also qualified for the Wrangler NFR the last two years. “I couldn’t be any happier.”
The season didn’t look so promising for Bass and Cowboy early on, as she was 38th in the world before June 30. But that was before Cowboy Christmas.
Bass and her talented horse went wild during the weeklong extravaganza, banking an event-best $28,814 to vault to 15th in the world. From there, they just kept winning and winning and Bass’ goals changed from simply qualifying for the Wrangler NFR to chasing down the No. 1 spot.
“We started out slow, but my horse always does well in the summer,” she said. “I’ve never had a summer this good, though. I was just going to try and make the NFR and didn’t really care where (in the rankings) I was going in.
“After seeing how well my Cowboy Christmas went, I just decided to keep going. There was no point in stopping.”
Bass also rode a 6-year-old mare she bought at the beginning of the year named Wonders Moon Song at different times during the season, and those breaks helped Cowboy stay fresh and strong. The Floridian will enter this year’s Finals with $155,280, $23,809 more than second-place Fallon Taylor, and she admitted that keeping the No. 1 spot will be a nail-biting challenge.
“It will definitely be nerve-racking, but it’ll be fun,” said Bass, who has owned Cowboy for 11 years. “Already having been there (in Las Vegas) doesn’t make it as nerve-racking, and to be able to go at such a young age is really cool.”
But she feels confident in her four-legged dynamo and knows he will give her everything he has night after night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“On the horse I’m on, he makes it a lot easier for me, because I know him so well,” she said. “He’s pretty much the same every time and never does anything new, so it’s nice to get on a consistent horse that will take care of you.”
Bass will celebrate her 22nd birthday on Dec. 21, and she would love to give herself the gift of a gold buckle eight days earlier when the Wrangler NFR concludes.
“Everyone would like to win a world title,” Bass said. “That would be a great birthday present.”