For a 23-year-old college student destined to wrap up her bachelor’s degree while entering her last year barrel racing on the college rodeo circuit, 2017 began as a typical year for Hailey Kinsel.

Then in March, the tides began to change.

In an astounding turn of good fortune, she qualified for RFD-TV’s The American and was one of three contestants to split a $1 million side pot, giving Hailey and her six-year-old palomino mare DM Sissy Hayday, aka Sister, a boost of confidence and a chunk of extra spending money to take it down the road.

Back at school, she qualified for her third consecutive College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, and came home with the championship buckle in her possession.

Then in Salt Lake City, a successful qualification at the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo led to a gold medal and $60,000 to count towards the world standings placing Hailey 7th in the world, clearing the path to her first NFR qualifying trip to Las Vegas.

Call it good fortune or call it anything you like, but it is no coincidence that this headstrong South Texas barrel racer is anything less than determined.

Hailey and Sister compete in Las Vegas earlier this year.

Records are Made to be Broken

At the WNFR, two amazing things happened. Hailey not only moved from 7th in the world to Reserve World Champion, winning $189,385, she and Sister also set the new arena record, shattering the existing WNFR record—13.37 set by Taylor Jacob in 2013—with a blistering 13.11.

And the streak is not over.  As of August 2018, Hailey sits in the No. 1 standing position with a whopping $191,437 in winnings and a number of record-breaking arena runs notched in her belt.

There isn’t a hotter barrel racer in the land right now and Hailey has just one thing to prove—that she and Sister have what it takes to be the best in the world.  Hailey Kinsel is barrel racings girl on fire.

Hailey at home during an early summer break from rodeo.

Small Town Cowgirl

Growing up on a small working cattle ranch in Cotulla, Texas, Hailey cut her teeth in the ag industry by working her family’s cattle ranch while falling in love with horses and rodeo.  Both of her parents, Dan and Leslie, competed in high school and college rodeo, and always encouraged Hailey and her older brother Matt to follow in the family footsteps.

“When I was 13, I had my first real barrel horse, that for us basically means ‘can’t be used on the ranch,’” says Hailey.  “Josey was off the track, and she was one that mom and I kind of brought along together.”

Hailey and her first barrel horse excelled in junior high, then high school rodeo becoming the Texas champion.  After an injury sidelined Josey, Hailey moved on to a powerful and strong-turning gelding Thunder Stones, aka TJ, as she entered college rodeo.

“I made college finals on TJ, and he’s who I filled my permit and made my first check on.  He’s kind of the reason I got my feet wet in pro rodeo.”

Hailey and Sister taking a quiet moment to themselves.

Along Comes Sister

“We bought Sister as a colt and trained her,” says Hailey.  “Mom and I have always brought up young horses together and trained a few, and we did buy a couple to fill in the gaps, but Sister was one that we worked on ourselves all the way through.”

Sister, a 7–year-old palomino mare, is sired by barrel-racing legend Sherry Cervi’s PC Frenchman’s Hayday, aka Dinero.  “I grew up watching Dinero and Sherry, and I always loved Dinero.  We bought her because we had an older half sister to her out of a Royal Shake Em mare that we just loved.  We tried to find that lineage and follow that bloodline and thought, ‘Well, if she’s crossed with Dinero, this could be good.’”

And very good she is.  In July, Sister passed the $1 million earning mark, coming off a $100,000 win at the Calgary Stampede and further solidifying her prowess by taking home their second consecutive gold medal in the barrel racing at the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo.

“Sister and I are very close, I know her like the back of my hand, and coming from having her from so young and just spending everyday with her, I feel like I know her every move,” says Hailey.  “She really is that fast and that athletic, and I can’t take credit for that.  Some horses just have it, and she has that “it” factor.”

Hailey before the summer thrust of rodeo and the road, a part of her carefully planned strategy for taking it all the way to the National Finals Rodeo.

An Agricultural Education

Hailey graduated from Texas A&M University this past May with a degree in agricultural economics, finance, and real estate.  At first, not sure about where in the ag curriculum she wanted to focus, it was her love for economics that drew her in.

“I knew I wanted to do something ag and business-related, but I didn’t know exactly what until I got into college, and just fell in love with economics,” says Hailey.  “That’s how my brain works, so it made sense to me.  My dad’s a real estate broker, so I knew enough about that track to go that way, and finance is something I needed to be better at.  My long term goal is to have my own breeding and training operation that will come at the end of rodeoing.  I want to have a strong business plan for that, be able to make money doing that, and be smart about it.”

Family and faith play a major role in Hailey’s life outlook.

Private Life

Family and faith play a major role in Hailey’s life outlook.  “My parents have always been very influential with my horses, making me a better person, and allowing me to homeschool,” Hailey reflects.  “If it wasn’t for the foundation they laid, I would not have put near as much work into my schoolwork at college.  Same with rodeo.  They gave me the tools to do what I wanted to do, but they didn’t make it easy on me.  For that reason, I learned to make the best of what I had, and that goes for every little thing, but especially each individual horse, just bringing them into their full potential.

“Mom and I still ride together everyday when I’m home, and my dad’s still very supportive and likes to go and watch and help when he can.  It’s nice to be able to do it with them.  My brother is the most supportive person out there.  He doesn’t have as much involvement with his horses, but he’ll still show up in a suit to watch a barrel race if he can.  Having those people in my life make a big difference.”

Her Icons and Boyfriend

“I grew up watching Charmayne James and Scamper, and Sherry Cervi is my all-time idol.  She and Lisa Lockhart both,” says Hailey.  “I remember at The American in 2017, in the long-go, I drew up right between them, and I don’t know if it would have mattered if I won, I was so happy to run in between Sherry and Lisa.  That was surreal for me.”

And the feelings are mutual.

“I think it’s so impressive how she handles the pressure of running at all the big-money rodeos and stays so consistent with her riding,” says Cervi.  “No matter how much of a high-pressure situation you put her in, she stays quiet and rides her horse awesome.  I think she’s a great rider and her mental toughness is amazing.”

Hailey’s boyfriend is professional bull rider, Jess Lockwood, and the two have a lot in common when it comes to the rodeo area.  “I thought the rodeo was over after the barrels, but I’ve learned otherwise,” Hailey says playfully.  “It’s been fun watching him and learning from him.  He’s a good businessperson and takes care of his stuff very well.  He is a good athlete, so it makes it easy for me, we’re in a similar industry and we get to help each other work on our own stuff.  I didn’t date much through college, I was pretty tunnel-vision focused, and then I got sideswiped and set up with a dang bull rider, but oh well, it’s worked out good.”

“Rodeoing for me was always more than a hobby,” says Hailey.  “I started in high school keeping my books and keeping track of what I was doing, because I didn’t want it to be just a pastime.  I wanted it to be productive, I wanted it to be a business for me long-term.  It’s what I love to do.  That’s what I want to do everyday, so if I could find a way to make money at it, wonderful.  In the end, I’d rather be dirt-poor and rodeoing and trying to make the right decisions than working a nine-to-five and doing this for fun.”