Malone enjoying best season of career
By JOE KUSEK
August 1, 2023
Gayleen Malone was getting a little nervous.
Her granddaughter, Mya Dailey, had qualified for her first Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals presented by nuWest Builders with a second-place finish in barrel racing at Gardiner.
And Malone wasn’t worried about her daughter Milee Dailey, Mya’s mother, qualifying. Milee Dailey has been a regular at the Finals, winning back-to-back breakaway roping titles in 2011-2012 and the all-around cowgirl crown in 2012. Milee Dailey has been among the top four for barrel racing, breakaway roping or the all-around six times since 2006. She finished sixth a year ago in the final barrel racing standings.
Malone herself is no stranger to the Finals, being a regular participant over the years. She was eighth in the final standings for 2022.
But the start of 2023 wasn’t exactly going to plan for the competitive grandmother of four.
“Oh yeah, I’m competitive. I try to beat Milee all the time,” said the Pray cowgirl with a friendly laugh. “I wouldn’t go if I wasn’t. You’ve got to win to go. That’s my philosophy.
“The summer started out kind of slow. When Mya qualified at Gardiner, I thought, ‘I better get going.’ We got it figured out this year.”
Malone did more than get it going.
She kicked it into high gear, placing second at Ennis and Choteau by the slimmest of margins during the Fourth of July run for the Mountain Health Co-op Tour to earn $1,905 and followed with consecutive wins at Malta and Three Forks for another $1,872.
The money won vaulted Malone to the top of the barrel racing standings where she has been since mid-July.
“It’s really exciting,” said Malone. “It’s my best season ever so far.”
She is guiding her horse Fly, an 11-year-old sorrel mare, tight around the barrels through the cloverleaf pattern.
“I’m a jockey, Milee is the trainer,” Malone said. “Fly is a quirky horse. I had to learn about her. I learned the hard way by landing on the ground.”
From a ranch family, Malone is a graduate of Park County High School and earned her degree in ag production at Montana State.
“I’ve been barrel racing since I was little,” said Malone. “The folks made sure I got to go to events and I made the decision to keep going.
“I just have that desire to do better. You never quit learning. You learn something every time and I try to use it.”
Malone and Fly placed second at both Ennis and Choteau by two-hundredths of second.
“Oh Lord, that’s always kind of hard. But it’s OK,” she said. “A hundredth of a second, that’s fine. As long as you’re in the top four, it’s OK.”
There are three generations of rodeo competitors in the truck with Malone, traveling with Milee and her children, nine-year-old Mya and six-year-old Macee. “She’ll be racing soon,” said the grandmother.
Malone’s 14-year-old dog, Marley, also accompanies the group.
Another granddaughter, Ava, recently signed to compete for the rodeo team at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming.
“I really don’t get nervous but it’s hard not to have fun watching them,” Malone continued. “To see them run on my horses, it’s cool.”
Malone plans to stick to her game plan for the rest of the summer.
“I don’t practice. I ride the horses around the sage brush,” she said. “You just have to keep getting better. I’m not going to worry about it (the season). It’s going to be good. It’s fun.”
The Sheridan Saddle Club Rodeo in Plentywood was the only rodeo for the Mountain Health Co-op Tour last weekend.
Both high school state champion Devyn Hundley of Darby and Charlo bareback rider Jordan Larson went a long way to earn their second wins of the season. Both traveled more than 600 miles one way – west to east – to compete at the rodeo in northeast Montana. Ben Ayre of Glendive kept moving up the all-around standings, adding a win in steer wrestling.
Plentywood winners: Jordan Larson, Charlo, bareback; Ty Brenna, Keene, N.D. and Gavin Nelson, Wibaux, saddle bronc; Devyn Hundley, Darby, bull riding; Ben Ayre, Glendive, steer wrestling; Cass Cairns, Sidney, tie-down roping; Luis Lahoz-Dillon Alvarez, Bismarck, N.D.; Mikell Hougen, Melstone, barrel racing; Georgia Orahood, Malta, breakaway roping; Bailey Billingsley, Glasgow, junior barrel racing, junior breakaway roping.
The Broadwater Rodeo and Fair in Townsend along with the Superior Lions Club Rodeo are both August 4 and 5.
The Townsend event will have 7 p.m. performances each night while the action begins at 8 p.m. each night in Superior.
On the horizon are the Madison County Fair in Twin Bridges and the Darby Wild West Rodeo. Both are August 11 and 12.