postheadericon Faith guides Winters to the NFR

Jean Winters of Texline, Texas, circles the cloverleaf pattern earlier this season at the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, Neb. Winters, the 2013 Calgary (Alberta) Stampede barrel racing champion, has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time in her career. She will run her sorrel gelding, Zan, at ProRodeo's championship from Dec. 5-14 in Las Vegas (WPRA PHOTO BY GREG WESTFALL)

Jean Winters of Texline, Texas, circles the cloverleaf pattern earlier this season at the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, Neb. Winters, the 2013 Calgary (Alberta) Stampede barrel racing champion, has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time in her career. She will run her sorrel gelding, Zan, at ProRodeo’s championship from Dec. 5-14 in Las Vegas. (WPRA PHOTO BY GREG WESTFALL)

TEXLINE, Texas – Tucked inside the New Mexico-Texas state line, just 10 miles from Clayton, N.M., is the home of Jean and Guy Winters.

It’s there that they have raised and educated their two sons, Pecos, 17, and Brazos, 15. It’s where they have focused their lives on the basics: Faith, love and family. You see, Jean Winters is a woman of great faith –in God, then in everything else.

“I rodeo to glorify God,” said Winters, a barrel racer who has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time in her career. “What drives me is knowing that I was created for a purpose.”

The family has been involved in rodeo all their married lives. In fact, Guy and Jean spent the first few days of their honeymoon at a rodeo in northeast Colorado, where Guy was working as a pickup man. They owned a livestock production company for about 15 years, with Guy running the show.

Jean Winters

Jean Winters

“He started his first contract in 1995, and he owned one bucking horse,” Jean Winters said. “In 2010, Guy got bucked off a colt and broke his neck. It was a wakeup call for us being able to do it and being able to do it correctly. I was rodeoing, and instead of being whole-heartedly in the rodeo business, he also loved going with me, so we had to choose.”

They prayed, focused on their faith and made the decision.

“We felt like we were there for a reason, and our season was ending, so we sold most of the rest of our stock,” she said.

Rodeo isn’t the most stable of businesses, whether it’s in production and owning bucking stock or racing a fast horse around the cloverleaf barrel pattern. That’s where the Winters’ faith pulls them through all the challenges and doubts that come the way of the rodeo trail.

“It’s a hard life, but I like a challenge of working with a horse,” Jean Winters said. “I like the adrenaline rush of working in the arena. I’m not going to be able to shine God’s light on everyone at every rodeo I go to, because I fall short of that. But I have a drive to do this – to train the horses and to run around the barrels – because I believe I have a purpose.”

She’s had that purpose all her life. Her mother and father taught Jean the power of God’s strength, and she believed it. From a little girl, when she worked to train her Shetland pony, there was a hunger.

“God put this drive in my heart, and I didn’t know what it was until later in life,” she said.

Winters secured her first invitation to ProRodeo’s grand championship in early July, when she won the barrel racing title at the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede. Just like everything else in rodeo, it didn’t come easy.

Winters competed in three preliminary go-rounds without success and failed to advance to the semifinals. Instead, she and the others tried to secure their place in the final day of competition through the wild card round, in which only the top two contestants advanced. Winters finished second in the wild card to qualify for the semifinals, where she finished third – the top four in the semis advanced to the finals.

That’s where Winters and her 11-year-old sorrel gelding, Crickets Peppy Zan, scored the best. They rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 17.40 seconds, one of the fastest times in the 10-day championship, and earned the $100,000 first-place prize – only half that counted toward qualifications for the NFR.

“I am just so very thankful for Calgary,” said Winters, who earned the right to compete at the Stampede by finishing well in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s inaugural qualifying tour in 2012. “I’m thankful I had the opportunity to go to Calgary because, all in all, my season was not very good. I would go to rodeos and not place at all. At San Antonio, I did well, then I went to Houston and could not win a dime. I’d finish just one hole out of the money at more rodeos than I care to remember.

“My year has been one of extreme highs with the win at Calgary and extreme lows with not winning money through the season.”

But the year was brilliant in that Winters shared time with Zan, a horse she has ridden for seven years and has owned for four.

“I just had a gut feeling the horse would work good,” she said, noting that he’s just 14.1 hands tall. “He is quick. He can get somewhere fast. He has a gritty attitude. You couldn’t wear him out.

“He’s a real kind horse, and he knows that when he’s with a little kid, they can lead him around, and he’ll change for whoever’s around him. But you don’t throw a little kid on him. He believes speed is a good thing, and it doesn’t matter who’s on him.”

So t how did she overcome the roller coaster that is the rodeo trail?

“It was a learning year, in that I learned to trust God more and to depend on Him more,” she said. “In the middle of all that, I can say, ‘At least I won one rodeo and did well in San Antonio.’

“If I ever really thought about the rodeos I entered this year and look at the money won, I could get really depressed. I choose to, instead, say God has a plan for it.”

It’s what works for Jean Winters. Her faith has carried her a long ways this season … all the way to Las Vegas and ProRodeo’s championship event.

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