Change in Gameplan For Her Horse, Chongo, Propels Emily Miller to Go-Round Win
BY BRETT NIERENGARTEN
Barrel racer Emily Miller was ready for the Wrangler NFR. Her horse, Chongo, however, was not.
Miller had high expectations for herself and Chongo coming into the National Finals as she had won a majority of her money on him on standard patterns.
The first night she brought her 10-year-old grey gelding into Globe Life Field a little earlier than usual, in the middle of tie-down roping, in an attempt to get him acclimated. The giant stadium didn’t play nice with her horse, the lights and the crowd had him a little intimidated, and Miller and Chongo didn’t put together their best run, an 18.06, placing her 12th.
It was a far-cry from the previous year, when Miller and Chongo teamed up to win her debut Go-Round at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The next night, she tried to get Chongo to the stadium even earlier to see if that helped settle him down. That plan “absolutely backfired.”
“It was quite the opposite effect, it made him extremely nervous,” Miller said. “I never really accounted for the atmosphere change......He got a little bug-eyed on me. I learned a lot about my horse the first two rounds.”
Once again, the pair finished out of the money and Miller knew she had to do something a little different if she was going to run him again.
After a few runs with Beau, her 7-year-old gelding, she switched back to Chongo Monday night and barely tipped a barrel in what she called a good run.
And on Tuesday, her decision to ride Chongo again finally paid dividends as the pair won the round with a 17.01 time, the second fastest of the rodeo.
MILLER AND CHONGO’S WINNING RUN
The spark both she and Chongo needed came from a change in routine to keep things as quiet as possible for her horse.
They warmed up about a mile away in the tent stalls, where they were the only two. She didn’t bring her horse into the arena until the saddle bronc riding started and didn’t bring him to the tunnel until they set the barrels.
“So basically, we walk out of the tunnel, walk straight to the alleyway, make our run and leave,” Miller said. “It seems to be working really well for him, he’s stayed really good the last two nights.....We’re cutting it a little bit close on time, but it worked really well.”
Now, she’s feel confident herself and Chongo the rest of the way. Her horse has had an easy year, so there’s no soreness or health issues with him. Most importantly, the weight is off her shoulders.
“Every round it kept adding and kept adding. I kept thinking ‘when am I going to catch a break,’” she said. “I knew I had a good draw, I was really confident, my horse warmed up good. I thought, “alright, this is our chance.’”
Miller may still go back to Beau, who handled the crowd much better, at some point. She said it’s awesome to have two great options to choose from for the rest of the NFR.