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When Nellie Miller’s dad told her as a kid that “you can’t win them all,” he meant it as an inspiration to be consistent and dedicated to whatever his daughter would choose to pursue in life. Not only did Nellie “win it all” at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas last December by securing the 2017 World Champion Barrel Racer title, her horse, Sister, also won the prestigious PRCA/AQHA Barrel Horse of the Year.
The Cottonwood, California, native started her rodeo career at the age of 12. From the first pattern she ran, Nellie knew that she had found her passion. She joined the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association in 2008 and made it to her first National Finals Rodeo in 2010 at the Thomas and Mack Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus where she attended college.
After getting married to husband James, who is general manager for the Red Bluff Roundup Rodeo, and having two children, Payton, five, and Hadley who is two, Nellie was at first reluctant to take the family on the road. “I was really concerned about taking my family on the road,” says Nellie. “But the more I got into it and the more rodeos we went to, I realized this is the best thing for them, they need to be out there experiencing things and seeing me do this.”
Nellie’s mother, Roxy, is often a traveling partner as she traverses the country with Nellie and her two young daughters. Her dad, Sam Williams, is a prominent horse trainer who raised and prepared Sister for Nellie’s win as well as Sister’s prestigious honor of Barrel Horse of the Year, which is voted on by Nellie’s fellow competitors. “What people see in Sister is her consistency,” says the proud partner. “She will make the same run over and over again.”
While it’s a long road to the WNFR, and early mornings and being on the road become your constant companions, Nellie and Sister’s ability to “annie up” and the support of her family led them to barrel racing’s ultimate victory.
What advice does Nellie have for barrel racers? “It takes a lot of different things to make it, but the most important thing is to have a goal. Starting at the beginning of the year, have a goal and a plan. When I’m under pressure, safety up is not in my vocabulary, so I really just go for it.”
We can’t wait to see what Nellie “goes for” in 2018!