WINNER — Always wanting to be the best in what she competes in, Dori Hollenbeck is adding champion barrel racer to her accomplishments.
This past weekend, Hollenbeck clinched her fourth rodeo association championship for barrel racing by winning out at the South Dakota Rodeo Association finals held at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls.
Hollenbeck, who lives on her ranch with her husband Rod Buckley about 17 miles southwest of Winner near the Nebraska border, said she’s put on roughly 17,000 miles on her truck this year to compete in the numerous rodeos across the Midwest, making as much as an 8- to 9-hour drive one way to compete in a single race.
Hollenbeck — who won the Nebraska State Rodeo Association, Mid-States Rodeo Association and Wyoming Rodeo Association — has already secured enough wins that she’ll come out the champion of the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association with the finals scheduled in November giving her five titles this year.
She already has a list of accolades that include titles in calf roping, breakaway roping and all-around titles. So she set out to add barrel racing to her resume, but what has made this year more special for her is that Taffy, her horse, is the first horse that she’s trained entirely by herself.
“It's real special because I raised her from the time she was a baby," Hollenbeck said. "I did all the training on her, everything, so it is very special that she's done this well. And it's remarkable.”
Last year was Taffy’s first season running for Hollenbeck due to health issues with her previous horse.
“At the first rodeo I ran her at, she won money. And I thought, 'Wow, OK.' So, I was a little disappointed that my other horse wasn't going to be able to compete. So I set a goal that I could make finals on her in maybe some of the associations.
“She just stepped up to the plate. It was unbelievable. And last year, her very first year competing at rodeo, she won three amateur rodeo associations. So that in itself is quite a feat. That does not happen very often ever.”
Hollenbeck said she was nervous that she might not even get a chance to compete this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic having caused many rodeos to either postpone or cancel.
In early June she went to Wyoming for her first rodeo of the summer, but it wasn’t for a few weeks later, around the Fourth of July weekend, that she was able to compete again.
That weekend was the first slate of SDRA rodeos for 2020, which traditionally start around Memorial Day weekend.
Dori has spent almost her entire life around rodeo as the daughter of Maureen and Squeek Hollenbeck, owners of the Hollenbeck Rodeo Company, which celebrated its 50th year of operation in 2018.
“We used to go along every weekend with our parents, me and my brother (Scott) did. I was the arena cleaner. So I chased the calves and steers out of the arena at every rodeo, after the people calf roped or breakaway or whatever. So we were very involved in it early on.”