Emily Miller rides Chongo into lead in barrel racing

The fast time in the barrel racing at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo came during the second performance on Thursday.

Barrel racer Emily Miller stopped the clock at 17.64 seconds to take the lead.

The Weatherford, Oklahoma, cowgirl was aboard her 10-year-old gelding Chongo.

It was the third rodeo back for the gray gelding, who was hurt at the Guymon, Oklahoma, rodeo in early May.

"He had two runs before this," Miller said, "Tonight, he definitely had his confidence back."

Barrel racing horses can sometimes show a preference for indoor arenas or outdoor, but Chongo does well at both. His owner and rider, Miller, doesn’t always.

"I don’t ride him as well outside," she said. "I have to really focus. He does his job. It’s just a matter of me doing mine."

Chongo was trained by Kylie Weast and purchased from Namgis Quarter Horses of Hondo, Texas. Miller has ridden him all winter, but it’s been hit and miss as far as winning. She and Chongo won a round at rodeos in Denver and San Antonio, but couldn’t put it all together with back to back runs. At Rodeo Austin, she won her biggest check of the year: over $13,000.

"That gave me a lot of confidence," Miller said.

Miller, who is a dental hygienist, is ranked 18th in the world standings with nearly $33,000 won.

The leader in the second round of the tie-down roping is an Oklahoma man, Caddo Lewallen.

Lewallen, of Morrison, Oklahoma, had a time of 7.8 seconds to top the scoreboard.

He was aboard a 10-year-old bay mare, a horse he bought as a 2-year-old and trained himself.

Lewallen, the son of Kerry and Vicki Lewallen, roped in high school and competed at the state and national levels, following in his dad’s footsteps as a tie-down roper.

"It was something I’ve always been around. It’s what I do," he said.

The 35-year-old cowboy competed in slack Thursday morning and left nearly as soon as he was done, headed for rodeos in Canada. He’ll spend the next two weeks in Canada, then come back to the states.

His family, which includes wife Christy and daughters, ages eight and four, travel with him during the summers.

"We take off and do our own thing," he said. "We’re together all summer, and when the kids go back to school, we have to be home."

They make sure to take time for the kids as they travel. In North Platte, the girls enjoyed Cody Park, and they visit parks, zoos and swimming pools along their travels.

Lewallen has qualified eight times for the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, the regional rodeo championship for Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, and has won the average there three times.

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