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5 Star Champion: Jessica Routier

Jessica Routier hit a momentous $1 million in career earnings in the summer of 2023. But the barrel racer from Buffalo, South Dakota, was paying much closer attention to the career earnings of her gritty palomino mare, Missy, who has carried Jessica to many of her pro rodeo checks. “My goal the last couple of summers has been to get Missy to a million dollars because I feel like there’s a lot of people who have hit a million, but not a lot of horses.” Missy secured her $1 million halfway through the 2023 WNFR. She and Jessica placed in six rounds and sixth in the average. The duo’s 2023 season highlights also included winning the NFR Open and the year-end title in the Badlands Circuit.

Additionally, Missy was voted 2023 WPRA Horse With the Most Heart and took third in Purina’s Horse of the Year barrel racing category. “She’s really gritty,” Jessica says of the 13-year-old mare, owned by Gary Westergren of Lincoln, Nebraska. “She’s always been one that, the more impossible the situation may seem, the harder she’ll try. She’s really good in all different types of ground and patterns and really adaptable no matter the situation. She’s lived at my house since she was two, and I futuritied her as a five-year-old. She started her rodeo career as a six-year-old and won the Badlands Circuit that year, which propelled us into our first NFR in 2018. She’s taken me back there ever since.”

All of Missy’s barrel runs are made with a 5 Star Equine saddle pad on her back, which has been a longtime staple in Jessica’s tack room. “I used 5 Star pads for a long time before I became a sponsored rider in 2018. I love how they fit, and they keep my horses’ backs feeling really good. And I love that they last forever.” Jessica also uses 5 Star’s cinches and sport boots. “A lot of boots, to me, are too cumbersome and bulky on the horse’s leg, but I like that these conform to the horse’s leg and protect really well without that bulk.”

Jessica, her husband, Riley, and their five children run 300 head of cattle on their ranch, along with rodeoing and school sports. The two oldest, Braden (18) and Payton (15), compete in high school rodeo, while twins Rayna and Rose (8) and Charlie (7) compete in local youth rodeos. “There’s a lot of days where we’re all out in the barn practicing,” says Jessica, who’s had temperatures of 60 below zero to contend with this winter. “I bet we ride 20 horses a day. Five or six of them are young ones that don’t have a job yet, and the rest are ones that I or the kids compete on.” Jessica continues to ride several young horses for Gary Westergren, whom she started working for in 2011. She also has a full sister to Missy, who is excelling in breakaway roping with Jessica’s daughter Payton and several sons and daughters of Missy.

Jessica and Missy’s 2024 season kicked off with Denver, with Fort Worth to follow. “I don’t go to a lot of rodeos in the winter, but I try to hit the big ones and still be home if I can. These winter rodeos, not everybody gets to go to them, so if I get the opportunity to go to them, I go. You don’t know if you’ll get the opportunity again.” Her three youngest daughters travel with her most of the season, taking their school on the road. “They have awesome teachers who are really good about sending work with them. My oldest two don’t get to go as much, but at the NFR, they were all there most of the time. We’re definitely not a traditional family in that we do as much as we can together, but most of what we do is going in different directions. We have lots of extended family and friends and the community on the rodeo trail that help make it all work.

“I don’t really set a lot of goals, as crazy as that is. Every year, the goal is to make our circuit finals and the NFR, even though that’s not a do-or-die situation for us. I take things one rodeo and one week at a time. If we’re doing good, we keep going. One of my life goals is to get my kids mounted on good horses,” Jessica adds. “I’ve had so many opportunities in my life because of good horses, and that’s my goal. It’s for each one of my kids to have those same opportunities if they want them. I believe good horses can create great opportunities.”

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