Rosie and McDonald enter the arena like a rocket

By JOE KUSEK

August 19, 2021

Rosie likes it loud. The more noise the better.


That is when Alexis McDonald knows her seven-year-old sorrel chestnut is ready to run.


“She likes the noise,” said the Gardiner barrel racer. “When the crowd is loud, she gets super excited and starts prancing around.”


And on command, Rosie and McDonald enter the arena like a rocket.


“Rosie always leaves me behind on the first barrel,” McDonald added. “She’s a powerful little thing.”


The pair have given Mountain Health Co-Op Tour fans plenty to cheer about. McDonald and Rosie have earned more than $1,800 the past two weekends to take their place atop the ever-changing standings.


There is only one rodeo on the schedule this weekend the Tri-County Fair in Deer Lodge on Friday and Saturday.


McDonald started her rapid ascent up the standings with a win at Townsend.


She followed it last weekend with a victory against a tightly-bunched field at Twin Bridges. McDonald won by one-hundredth of a second over Gayleen Malone of Pray. The top four were separated by a scant five-hundredths of a second. McDonald also placed eighth at Darby.


“We put together two really good runs,” said the teenager of Townsend and Twin Bridges. “I just try to let her do her thing.”


McDonald and Rosie also won at Wilsall earlier in the year, along with placing second at Gardiner and Harlowton. Finishing second at her hometown rodeo was particularly satisfying.


“It was exciting to do well at the home town rodeo. You know everybody … except the tourists,” she said with a chuckle.


McDonald has also placed third at East Helena and fourth at Ennis.


“My goal was to be in the top five before the Finals,” McDonald said. “I wanted to have a consistent season and confidence-boosting runs.”


The Northern Rodeo Association/Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals are Oct. 28-30 in Kalispell.


She and Rosie are still in the process of meshing their talents. McDonald purchased the horse from Carmel Wright of Roy, a former WPRA national circuit champion.


“We are still learning things about each other,” said McDonald, who will be a freshman at Montana State University this fall. “Learning what I need to do to improve my side of it.


“She’s got a lot of grit, a lot of heart. She gives me a 100 percent every single run. That’s what I love about her.”


And Rosie knows she is special, according to the owner.


“She is crazy spoiled,” McDonald continued with another laugh. “She is always sniffing around for treats.”


McDonald has been barrel racing since the age of six and competing in the NWRA for half her life.


She won the junior barrel racing title in 2015, was second in 2012 and 2014 and fourth in 2013.


Her older sister Shai, by two years, won three consecutive NWRA barrel racing titles (2017, 2018, 2019). Shai McDonald, eighth in the current standings, tied for second at Townsend, giving the family a 1-2 finish.


“We support each other,” said Alexis.


Rosie also carried the younger McDonald to a fifth place finish at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Lincoln, Nebraska.


“At the high school finals, the crowd was so loud. She was bucking and grunting. I remember thinking, ‘I hope she doesn’t dust me,’ “McDonald said.


McDonald entered last weekend trailing Brooke Wilson of Helena by just $5 – less than the cost of a fast food meal – in the standings.


When McDonald pulled her rig into the driveway back home she was the new standings leader.


“I try not to look at them, I don’t want to overthink it,” she said of the standings. “My mom (Tami) is always keeping track and tells us. It is exciting (to be leading). I think I’ve looked twice at the standings.”


This weekend, McDonald will compete at Deer Lodge – the only rodeo on the schedule – with a lead of $166 over Abby Knight of Charlo. Knight earned $1,395 last weekend with a second place finish at Darby and a third at Townsend.


“What I like about the NRA, I think is the competition. The adrenaline rush,” said McDonald. “My game plan for the rest of the season is to keep having those consistent runs and be ready for the Finals.”


A few years back during the introduction of the junior competitors at the NRA/NWRA Finals in Butte, McDonald turned a front flip entering the arena.


Could the front flip return in 2021?


“You never know. I might surprise everybody,” McDonald said. “But I haven’t done one of those in a while. I need some practice.”



NOTES

Along with barrel racing, last weekend brought lead changes in the tie-down roping, team roping and the all-around cowgirl standings.


There are only five rodeos remaining on the regular season schedule and races at the top and the bottom of the 10 are tightening up.


Less than $200 separates first from second in four events and less than $300 in the all-around cowboy race.


J Billingsley of Glasgow tied for first at Darby to move into first place for tie-down roping. He leads Coltin Rauch of Essex by $162.


Team ropers Ian Austiguy of Dillon and Wolf Creek’s Sam Levine used a productive weekend, pocketing $1,320, to take over first place in the heading and heeling standings. The two won Darby and placed fourth at Twin Bridges.


Celie Salmond of Choteau tied for second in breakaway roping at Twin Bridges to pass Bella Fossum of Billings in the all-around cowgirl standings.


The top bareback score and fastest steer wrestling time of the season were posted last weekend.


Garrett Goggin of Otter won the bareback competition at Darby with an 84-point ride while Helena’s Logan Beattie put down his steer in 3.7 seconds to win Twin Bridges.


Following Deer Lodge, the Mountain Health Co-op Tour continues in Wibaux (August 28) and Boulder (August 28-29).

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