By Greg Price
For Taberite and defending Canadian Finals Rodeo barrel racing champion Nancy Csabay, much like the Academy Awards, Csabay was just happy to be there in the 2016 version in Edmonton this past weekend.
Coming into the very last rodeo of the season, Csabay was sitting in 14th place where it looked like the Taberite would be on the outside looking in to even compete at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton which concluded on Sunday.
“I wasn’t even in contention to go to the CFR, but we pulled off the win on that last rodeo, and Wicked and I and ended up seventh overall. You only take the top 12 for the CFR,” said Csabay.
Any accomplishment Csabay has made in barrel racing in recent years she refers to as a ‘We’, because of her trusty horse Wicked, having qualified for the Canadian Finals seven times, with 2016 being her fifth straight qualification.
“It is a oneness with my horse. It is being in tune the whole time I am on her back. When I am warming my horse up before a race, I tend not to visit a whole lot with other women,” said Csabay. “I try and focus to put my time and energy on Wicked. I feel she does the same for me, where she doesn’t gawk around and she’s pretty much focused on her job. When you are going around those barrels at a high speed, it is a oneness with a split second. It feels like you are going in slow-motion, but when it’s over, you’re like ‘Holy crap, it’s already over’. That’s a feeling I have when I’m on her back and doing a run. It’s no different than any other athlete, when you are in the zone, all the outside noise and chatter is gone.”
There was still work to do in Edmonton on the weekend, and Csabay and Wicked did just that.
The dynamic duo continued to rocket up the overall money standings with consistently high finishes which gave the Taberite the Canadian championship and CFR aggregate winner with $72,010.65 in overall earnings, beating out Callahan Crossley narrowly ($70,849.06). Sunday’s result was a third-place time of 14.828 seconds on Wicked, giving her $6,004.23 in winnings, leap frogging Crossley in the process for the title.
“Going from seventh to first, I didn’t expect that either. I was probably $15,000 behind the season leader,” said Csabay. “There were two girls ahead of me heading into the last day with more money, the one girl’s horse ended up getting hurt the night before on Saturday, so she couldn’t run him and that took her out of the race. The other girl, Kirsty White, she tipped her second barrel so that took her out of the money that day plus the average. I was third and I won the average.”
Whether Csabay is the leader going into the CFR like she was in 2015, or a longshot in 2016, the long-time barrel racer noted she treats every event the same in her preparation and outlook.
“I try to run my races the same always. I don’t pay attention to the people behind me and I don’t pay attention to the people ahead of me. For me, it’s Wicked and those three barrels. It’s our own race,” said Csabay.“It has nothing to do with those other girls there. Let the cards fall where they may. If it is meant to be that I win the Canadian championship, so be it. If I didn’t, it doesn’t define who I am. I was just happy I could go, seeming show I was sitting in 14th at one point.”
What also makes Csabay happy is being able to share her accomplishments with her family. Csabay’s father, Arnold Haraga, was the 1970 All-Around Champion and was inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame while her mother, Kaye Thierman, was a Miss Rodeo Canada.
Csabay would go to rodeos as a kid watching her father compete, a family tradition now passed onto her daughter Kate and husband Tony as part of Nancy’s cheer squad.
“I won’t go without my husband Tony and my daughter Kate, that’s for sure. They are my main support system, they are my rock,” said Csabay, who has also battled breast cancer successfully, being originally diagnosed shortly after the CFR in 2013. “They keep me going and make sure I don’t forget anything. They are so supportive and I wouldn’t want to be on this trail without them.”