More than 2,000 barrel racing runs. Three days. Three and a half, long days. Five saddles. Countless gallons of diesel in the John Deere tractors.
That's the tape on the 2014 National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Las Vegas Super Show. Held May 30-June 1 at the South Point Hotel and Casino's Equestrian Center, the barrel racing event handed out better than $100,000 in prize money during its run. With seven hundred entries per day, the event is one of the largest barrel races of the year.
The Super Show is one of about ten large events that the NBHA produces each year. The world's largest barrel racing organization, the NBHA has over 30,000 members in nearly a dozen countries worldwide. Only members are allowed to compete at Super Shows, which are divisional format races whereby monies and prizes are distributed based on a scale using time off the fastest run.
Although runners come from across the West to compete in Vegas, it was a Californian -- by way of Montana and Minnesota-- who stole the show. Kris Gadbois and her horse, CRCS Regaldash, aka Snoop, earned the saddle for the first division, the 1D, after placing all three days including a huge win of the Saturday race, the most lucrative of the three races.
Gadbois and Snoop had competed in Vegas before, earning checks during the 2013 race as well.
"He acts like he likes it here," Gadbois says of the eight year old son of A Regal Choice out of Dashin Flashin. "I was excited to get back here."
Though she started her equestrian career riding jumping horses, Gadbois quickly moved to speed events in rodeo and barrel racing, eventually earning a spot on the rodeo team at University of Montana Western in Dillon.
"My mom had a barrel horse and I just transitioned into it; I started roping, running barrels and poles," she explains.
Perhaps it was fate that Gadbois ended up in the US Navy. Maybe after watching commercials for years which promised, "You and the Navy . . . Full speed ahead!," the avid barrel racer who loves speeding around the barrel pattern thought it was a logical fit. She joined right after 9-11, taking advantage of national health scholarships offered by the Navy to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota.
"I rodeoed while I was out there as well. Then the Navy moved me to California and I just continued rodeoing and running barrels," says Gadbois. "And I just never stopped."
Gadbois finished six years of active duty for the Navy, becoming a dentist along the way. Today she works for the Navy as a civilian. Her husband Kyle is still active duty, serving as a general surgeon.
"We love being Navy providers. We love giving back; it fits us really well right now," Gadbois says. She notes that her husband often loads up Friday after work to help her drive to events to compete. That is, when he's not deployed elsewhere.
Fate likely also had a hand in Gadbois owning Snoop. The gelding was owned by Wrangler National Finalist Danyelle Campbell, whom Gadbois met when she brought another horse to Campbell for training.
"My husband bought me Bugs through the Frenchmans Guy sale as an anniversary present," laughs Gadbois, noting that Kyle is very supportive of her barrel racing habit. "We took her to Danyelle to futurity for us."
Gadbois liked Snoop but, at the time, Campbell wasn't interested in selling. When she finally decided she might part with him, she gave Gadbois the opportunity to try him out. While in her care, Gadbois discovered that a wound that wasn't healing right on the big gelding was actually a fractured splint bone in the hind leg. The injury required surgery and both Gadbois and her husband helped with the recuperation effort.
"We hand walked him for two or three months while Danyelle was at the futurities [with Bugs]," she says. When the time came for the gelding to go home, Gadbois was heartbroken. "I had gotten very attached to him but the prognosis was very guarded for him to return to competition."
The tables turned a short time later when Campbell called Gadbois to come try the gelding again, saying he was sound.
"She said she'd been riding him and he felt good," she remembers. The deal was made and Snoop came back to Gadbois permanently in January of 2012. "He is a hearty-souled horse. He's all business and has a great work ethic. There's nothing about him that I don't love."
Gadbois has had her share of big wins with the gelding, including a victory at the Women's Pro Rodeo Association's California Circuit Divisional Finals last fall. She finished second in the California permit standings, earning her card as a professional.
Though her rookie year has been a bit disappointing, much of that was erased with the big showing in Vegas.
"It's been a struggle for me," says Gadbois, saying she'd made it a goal to win the California Rookie of the Year title in 2014. "When I get to go, he's been very competitive but it's hard to take the time off. I work five days a week and a lot of the rodeos are seven or more hours away."
"My job is first and foremost so that's how I have to do it."
In fact, Gadbois' husband joked that Snoop had made the Vegas win possible as a consolation prize.
"He told me maybe Snoop knows the rookie thing is kind of out, maybe this is his way of giving you a present," she laughs.
What a present it was. Gadbois was fifth in the opening round but blew the doors off in round two. Her run of 14.193 seconds was the third fastest run of the entire weekend but the best on Saturday. On Sunday, she continued her consistency, placing third with a 14.295. All tallied up, she earned $4,076 aboard Snoop.
"He continues to amaze me every day," she says.
Gadbois also earned some dough aboard Bugs, who is registered Sheza Frenchman Guy.
"She's just gotten better and better and she was awesome this weekend," Gadbois says. She won fourth on Sunday aboard the mare, taking home a total of $1,003 after also placing Saturday.
Other saddle winners were: Dawn Fletcher in the 2D (half second off the winner), $2,259; Shyann Garcia in the 3D (full second), $1,887; Jana Perry in the 4D (second and a half), $1,666; and Constance Benally in the 5D (two seconds off), $1,243.
In Thursday's youth and senior races, WPRA World Champion Junior Barrel Racer Lake Mehalic rode Monday's Buddy to the win while Wendy Platts and Frenchman Bit of Luck captured the senior championship.