Few people can call themselves professional athletes in their lifetimes, and even fewer people can do so at 63 years of age. Dona Kay Rule, professional barrel racer and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier, is proving that dreams have no expiration date.
Rule, who spent most of her life as a horse trainer and saddle maker, has grabbed life by the reins: qualifying for the NFR three times in the last three years. After being unable to compete at the 2020 NFR because of a positive Covid-19 test, Rule made the most of her 2021 NFR experience.
“When I got to the NFR this year, I was just excited to be there,” Rule said.
Though older than her competitors at the NFR, Rule’s grit and humble confidence is unmistakable.
“I never thought I couldn’t do it,” she said. “Once my kids got bigger and we sold the saddle shop, I just decided I was going to start.”
For Dona Kay, success is about more than just talent and aspirations. It is about action and quality horsemanship. Her horse, Valor, a 12-year-old gelding and two-time American Quarter Horse Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association horse of the year, has carried Rule to the highest level the sport of rodeo offers. Making sure he is well taken care of and in good shape is her top priority.
“You ride when it’s cold, you ride when it’s hot, you ride when you don’t feel like it,” she said. “The end goal is to be the best you can be, and for your horse to be the best they can be.”
Whether she is making runs at the NFR, or competing in a small local rodeo, Dona Kay Rule is a fan favorite – and it is not hard to see why.
Hear more of Dona Kay’s story and journey as a competitor on this week’s episode of the Breaking the Barrier podcast, hosted by Rebel Sjeklocha.