Taylor Earnhardt Putnam’s father, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., became famous for running in circles at NASCAR tracks.
But she aspires to become famous for running her quarter horse around three barrels at the rodeo.
Though the rest of her family on the Earnhardt side is devoted to NASCAR racing, she’s devoted to competing in rodeos in the barrel racing event.
Putnam, 26, was in Fort Worth recently to compete in The Patriot, a barrel racing show at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. She finished third in her division with a final time of 14.895 seconds.
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Throughout the year, the North Carolina cowgirl, and her stallion, Mr. C, compete in barrel racing in the Southern Rodeo Association and the International Professional Rodeo Association. She also competes in break-away roping.
Putnam is ranked ninth in the Southern Rodeo Association barrel racing standings and seventh in break-away roping.
Her husband, Brandon Putnam, is ranked ninth in the association’s tie-down roping title race.
The Star-Telegram caught up with Putnam at Will Rogers Coliseum:
Is there any pressure on you to win as a barrel racer knowing that your father was so successful in his sport? I have a big desire to win and I have a big competitive side. You kind of have to when you’re in my family. At rodeos, I run with my husband’s sister and he competes in calf roping, and we push each other to be better, and we help each other as much as we can. It just keeps it to where you’re trying to make yourself better.
What quality would you say you have that was passed down from your father that makes you competitive? I’m competitive, but I’m also kind of stubborn. I like to try to make everything better and not just roll over and let it happen. I do the best that I can, but when I don’t, I also learn from what I did wrong and try to do better next time.
If your father was alive today, how do you think he would feel about you being a barrel racer? I think he’d see it as my thing, unlike my brother and sister who got into the car racing side of it. When I was younger, I always enjoyed being outside and riding horses and he was the same. He would have enjoyed doing that type of thing with me and having a child that likes to be outside with horses.
What kind of advice do you think he’d offer you? Go faster.
On the mental side of it, what advice would he give you to be competitive? Always watch other people and what they’re doing and see if it would benefit you. Always try and learn and better yourself by seeing what your competitors are doing, because it may be something you haven’t thought of.
Outside of competing in rodeos, how do you spend your free time? My husband and I have about 45 head of mama cows, and I love closely tending to them. I also love spending time hunting, particularly elk hunting. I also do a lot with the Dale Earnhardt Foundation as time becomes available.
What’s your ultimate goal in barrel racing? My ultimate goal is to get to Las Vegas to the NFR [ Wrangler National Finals Rodeo]. But every day, I want to improve. I’m my biggest competitor. I want to beat myself every time, so I can get better.
Who is your favorite competitor? The barrel racer I look up to is (former Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champion) Sherry Cervi. She’s so quiet and she can jockey her horses so well. I would love to look like her every time I ride and not like a rookie. As a break-away roper, I look up to (former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world champion) Shane Hanchey. I love the way his horses work.
Barrel racing is not a dangerous event for the most part. But have you had any injuries? I’ve had some bumps and bruises when I’ve been training or working with young horses. But luckily I haven’t had any big injuries. We’ve had some scares and falls, but no major injuries.
How does it feel when you’re making a great run? It’s a confidence booster that makes you feel better after all of the training, the early mornings that you get up to feed your horses and all of the late nights to care of them. You reflect on all of the money you’ve put into a horse and how it all pays off. When you make a great run and you see that fast time, you know you’ve done what you have worked to do.