The Cowgirl Who Doesn’t Give Up

Jimmie Smith
The 2018 WPRA Rookie of the Year on accomplishing her goals and overcoming a season that began “on the rocks.”

“Nothing is impossible. Never, ever give up.” 

Jimmie Smith repeated this phrase to herself over and over again during her first WPRA season. While the chase for the 2018 Rookie of the Year title was anything but easy, she and her special mare, “Lena,” accomplished the goals they set out to achieve.

Jimmie grew up near McDade, Texas in a family that was familiar with and supportive of rodeo. She began competing in youth rodeos around the age of four, and when she turned six, her mom took her to the bank and helped her open a checking account. Though her parents helped the young cowgirl get started, Jimmie began buying her own horses and paying for her entry fees at an early age, and all of her rodeo winnings went directly back into that checking account. 

The handy cowgirl was an all-around success, often taking home saddles, buckles, and prizes from multiple events at the youth rodeos. As a young competitor, she wasn’t certain that she wanted to be a professional barrel racer. She loved all of the events and didn’t consider herself first and foremost a “barrel racer.”    

Jimmie continued to compete in multiple events throughout high school and college rodeo. While earning her agricultural communications degree from Texas A&M University, she was an active part of the Aggie rodeo team. In fact, Jimmie qualified for the college finals in breakaway roping in 2016, goat tying in 2017, and barrel racing and goat tying in 2018. She says that while being an all-around cowgirl somewhat prepared her for the challenges of the WPRA, there’s nothing like getting out there and experiencing it for the first time.

“[Professional competition] is very strict. They don’t drag every five at the rodeos. You go when they say you go and that’s how it is,” says Jimmie. “Everything is ran way faster, but everyone out there is so great. It’s just one big rodeo family. Being around people has been awesome.” 

Leaving Texas in May with official WPRA earnings of $3020, Jimmie and her team of mares, CR Dees Play For Cash aka “Netty” and Lena On The Rocks aka “Lena,” started their summer run in Kansas. Jimmie elected to ride Netty, a young mare she was hauling for another owner, for many of her runs at the beginning of the summer. The talented mount helped Jimmie win a check at Reno, Nevada. Then, in true rodeo style, plans changed when Nettie was sold during the first week of August. With Netty no longer in the trailer, it became the Lena and Jimmie show. 

Jimmie Smith
Jimmie’s fashion choices are as bright and bold as her big smile and cheerful personality. She describes her style as “a walking rainbow.” Outside of the arena, her summer travel uniform favors Nike running shorts, t-shirts and tall, decorated socks. Christmas socks. Halloween socks. You name the holiday, she has the socks to match.

Finding Their Breakthrough

Jimmie purchased “Lena,” a nine-year-old mare by Firewaterontherocks out of Tourlena by Smart Cash Cutter during the mare’s six-year-old year. While she was trained on the barrels, the mare had only been to ten jackpots when Jimmie took over the reins.

“Being able to finish [Lena] out as a rodeo horse has been so much fun, but goodness, it was a roller coaster,” Jimmie recalls. “Sometimes we’d clock, sometimes we wouldn’t. I had to adapt to her running style and learn not to pull on her face during runs. Now, she loves the crowds. The louder it is the harder she runs.”

The seasoning process continued for both Jimmie and Lena during the first half of their rookie season. After Reno, Jimmie didn’t win another check until the end of July at Oakley, Utah. The determined cowgirl considered turning her rig around and heading home to Texas several times, but she could never talk herself into doing it. She knew she had the horsepower and the ability, but something wasn’t clicking. By the time Cheyenne Frontier Days rolled around, Jimmie was $16,000 behind in the Rookie race and winning wasn’t coming easy.

Then, a major breakthrough happened for Jimmie and Lena when they smashed the arena record at Seven Downs Arena during a tune-up run at the Dash N Dance Futurity in Spearfish, South Dakota.

“I’m not sure what it was that clicked in Spearfish, but something huge changed,” notes Jimmie. “Breaking that arena record was really cool and was our confidence booster. After that I thought, ‘We can do this.’”

And “do it” they did. The momentum began to roll as the pair started picking up checks at the pro rodeos. A few weeks later, Jimmie and Lena scored their first rodeo win at Cascade, Montana. By the time Moses Lake, Washington came around, they were only $10,000 behind the leader of the Rookie race. They continued on their winning tour of the Northwest as they pulled checks at Kennewick and Ellensburg, Washington, which qualified them for the Wrangler Tour Finale in Puyallup, Washington. 

Jimmie Smith
Inside the arena, she wears Rock N Roll Cowgirl denim from top to bottom. Jimmie says that after a recent trip to the Rock N Roll Denim headquarters, she’s armed and ready for her time in Las Vegas.

Competing at the finale rodeo was Jimmie’s chance to make a significant move in the Rookie standings. She and Lena made two fast runs in the qualifying rounds which advanced them to the semi-finals and then to the final round. Jimmie sealed her shoot-out round win with a blazing fast run of 14.41 seconds. Her winnings from Puyallup totaled more than $21,000, enough to jump her from third to first in the Rookie standings. Jimmie allowed herself to enjoy the victory, but not for too long. With three weeks left in the season, anything could happen. They needed to keep rodeoing.

“We came home after Puyallup, [Washington], and we just kept going. We won Abilene and Texarkana, and within three weeks we had qualified for the Texas Circuit Finals and finished 24th in the world,” says Jimmie with a smile. 

Looking Towards 2019
What does the future hold for Jimmie and Lena? The team is looking forward to running at the big winter rodeos including Denver, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. While the 2019 National Finals Rodeo is certainly on her radar, setting short-term goals is Jimmie’s first priority.   

“I’m taking it one run at a time,” she says firmly.

She’s also taking it one homework assignment at a time as she works on her Master’s Degree via an online program with Texas A&M University-Commerce. After the storybook ending to her 2018 season, it’s clear that vision, determination, and a tenacious attitude carry Jimmie through the ups and downs of her rodeo career.     

“The biggest lesson I learned from this year is ‘don’t give up,’” Jimmie says. “Nothing is impossible. I only had $7000 won at the end of July, and I wasn’t even in the Top 100 of the world standings. From the middle of August to October first, Lena and I won almost $53,000. Anything can change FAST. Never, ever give up.”

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Author Kelli Kissack is a writer, photographer, and cowgirl who calls the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota her home. She craves adventure and travels over 40,000 miles per year with her rodeo cowboy husband, Dane. Follow her escapades on Instagram (@KelliKissack) or learn more at KelliKissack.com.

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