Fleck looking forward to more success in 2013
Mandan native Britany Fleck made rodeo history in December 2011 when she qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. She was the first North Dakota woman to qualify for the WNFR in barrel racing.
Fleck says, “That was a year that I will never forget. In Las Vegas, my heart was racing, my muscles were tense and my mind was running in all sorts of directions. It’s not possible to explain how nerve-racking it is to be running in front of large live crowds, plus the millions of people watching from their homes.”
She says, “This was always my goal and dream since I was a little girl. This was a dream that I know I shared with almost every other barrel racer out there.”
“It was so tense walking down that long holding alley. Fifteen barrel racing horses crammed into a narrow alley is not the most ideal place to be. All I remember is Rootie constantly pawing at the ground and spinning around a bunch while we were waiting for our turn. It was so intense and then you had to come running into the bright lights of the arena.”
The first three rounds were tough, but Fleck had clean runs in the fourth and fifth rounds. The best were rounds seventh, where she was in the money at 13.99 seconds, and eighth, a solid run and placing eighth.
Growing up on the ranch
Fleck grew up on her parents’, Duane and Terri Fleck’s, ranch near Solen, along with two older sisters. The family used to have dairy cattle and raised registered Charolais cattle.
She says, “We had the opportunity to show cattle and be active in 4-H. We helped in the fields, fixed fences and moved cattle. We were always busy. That’s where I gained my work ethic, and I wouldn’t change any of it.”
Her rodeo interest comes from growing up in a farming-ranching family that always had a lot of horses around. Fleck says, “When I was little, we attended youth rodeos in Raleigh, and we entered every event we could, including steer riding. And my dad used to do some team roping.”
High school rodeo
She says, “My freshman year of high school, I team roped. The next year, I added breakaway roping, barrel racing and pole bending. I was the Reserve Champion Pole Bender that year in the North Dakota High School Rodeo Association and qualified for the nationals in Gillette, Wyo.”
Fleck went to the nationals in her junior year in both barrel racing and pole bending and, in her senior year, she qualified in barrel racing, pole bending and breakaway roping and barely missed qualifying nationals.
Fleck graduated from Flasher High School in 2001 and attended Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont., from 2001-2003 on a rodeo scholarship. After graduating with an associate degree in agriculture business, she transferred to Chadron (Neb.) State College on a rodeo scholarship from 2003 to 2006. She double majored in speech communications and journalism and waited tables and worked as a telemarketer while in college.
Fleck says, “After college, I worked on a ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills and at a golf course in Mullen, Neb. I moved back home in 2006 and working at Northland Financial, Bismarck, for 3 1/2 years as communications coordinator until I ventured out on my professional barrel-racing career.”
Professional barrel-racing career
In 2007, Fleck participated in some amateur NDRA rodeos and took the Reserve Champion barrel racer title. She bought her PRCA and WPRA cards in 2008 to become competitive at circuit rodeos. Over the years, she has also been a member of the Northwest Barrel Racing Association, Northwest Ranch Cowboy’s Association and National Barrel Horse Association.
Fleck credits Lisa Lockhart, fellow barrel racer, for bringing her to the decision to go professional. She says, “In 2009, after winning the Badlands Circuit Finals Championship, I had enough money to qualify for the big rodeos down south during the winter. Lisa offered for me to travel with her.”
She says, “I took a leave from the bank and went to Texas with Lisa. The rodeos went better than I expected. Doors opened, and I was invited to an invitational in British Columbia.”
At that point, Fleck decided to leave her job that offered steady income, insurance and retirement, to gamble on making money with her barrel-racing horse.
She says, “That decision has changed my life. I am now able to compete and look at my hobby as a business. Thanks to Lisa, I took a huge step and am living my dream. I am so grateful to her for the chance.”
Fleck travels to anywhere from 60 to 80 rodeos and about 30,000 miles throughout the U.S. and Canada each year. She says, “I put on a lot of miles and sometimes don’t get a lot of sleep. It’s a lot of work because we have to stop every six hours or so to let the horses rest, clean the trailer, get a haybag ready, put in new shavings and water the horses.”
Fleck’s other traveling companion, Dasher Dude (also known as Rootie), helped carry her to the WNFR. She says, “It can take years to train a horse for barrel racing.”
She saw the potential in Rootie when they first started working together. She pointed out there are several factors that make a good barrel-racing horse: speed is important; a smaller horse can turn more easily; and the right conformation – build, straight legs and low hock set.
“When I am home during the winter, I work at Northland Financial days, wait tables at Red Lobster nights and weekends and also teach Junior Achievement. Professional rodeoing is a very expensive sport so it’s nice to save money all winter to start the new season.”
She says, “I live most of the year in my horse trailer on the road and the rest of time in a condo in Bismarck with a childhood friend. When I’m home, I also spend much of my time near Solen on my parents’ ranch, where I keep my horses.”
She rides colts and trains horses. She tries to keep one extra horse with her on the road to start training it on the barrel-racing pattern.
Some of Fleck’s significant winnings have been:
• 2009 – Badlands Circuit Champion Barrel Racer, WPRA Badlands Circuit Horse of the Year Winner, finished 49th in the World Standings;
•2010 – Badlands Circuit Reserve Champion Barrel Racer, finished 17th in World NFR Standings, qualified for Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) Finals in Alberta, finished 4th in the CPRA, won over $14,000 over the 4th of July and in Top 20 Money Earners of WPRA and PRCA, and barely missed qualifying for WNFR;
• 2011 – Won San Antonio and British Columbia, was go round winner in Omaha and Denver, qualified for first WNFR in Las Vegas and finished regular season 12th in World Standings and 14th in WNFR.
Besides rodeo, Fleck likes to run, sing karaoke and fish. But rodeo takes up much of her time. She’s learned that nothing in life comes easy.
She says, “I am a very driven person. My goal is to be good at what I do. I don’t like doing things halfway. If you don’t put everything into it, you are only cutting yourself short.”
Fleck says, “No matter what the outcome of the 2012 season, I am just thankful every day for the opportunity to make a living doing what I love to do. I work with young horses in my free time and hope that one or more of them will be able to step up someday. The people I meet and the places I see are things that make all the long drives and sleepless nights worth it.”
Though she did not qualify for the 2012 WNFR, Fleck looks forward to a successful year in 2013.
(Reprinted with permission from the October 2012 Cowboy Chronicle, a publication of the
North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame)