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Rule, Smidt sent home from Wrangler NFR with positive COVID tests

By Ruth Nicolaus
TriState Livestock News

Two contestants have been dismissed from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Before the rodeo kicked off on Dec. 3, barrel racer Dona Kay Rule, Minco, Texas, ranked third in the world standings, and tie-down roper Caleb Smidt, Bellville, Texas, eighth in the standings, tested positive and were sent home and will not compete for the remainder of the Wrangler NFR.

In the last few weeks, the PRCA issued COVID-19 protocol for all contestants and contractors to compete at and work the Wrangler NFR, held Dec. 3-12 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Everyone was subject to a COVID-19 test upon arrival, with random tests to take place during the ensuing days of the finals.



Contestants and personnel were told that if they tested positive, they would be dismissed. If a contestant tests positive, he or she is replaced with the next person in the world standings.

Rule tested positive, and on her Facebook page on Dec. 3, posted a video of herself, telling her fans that she had no symptoms and felt fine. She stated that the fans attending the rodeo won’t be tested. “The 22,000 people they let through the front door, they’re not going to test those people…. Surely they can isolate me, let me make my run, and not keep me out.”



A few hours later, she posted her gratitude to the response her fans gave her.

She posted, “I want everyone to know how much your support had meant to me….. Covid19 is not the fault of the PRCA or the WPRA…. No matter the decisions made please be kind to each other and use good sense before saying mean things to or about anyone. God’s got this.”

Jessica Telford, Caldwell, Idaho, the number 16 cowgirl, replaces Rule; Cory Solomon, the number 16 tie-down roper from Prairie View, Texas, replaces Smidt.

Rule was aboard High Valor, “Valor,” the 2019 and 2020 AQHA/WPRA Barrel Horse of the Year, a horse owned by her and her husband John. Smidt owns and rides the 2020 Purina Horse of the Year, Pocketful of Light, “Pockets.”

Each WNFR qualifier receives a $10,000 appearance fee; if a contestant is sent home due to a positive COVID-19 test, he or she receives an additional $10,000. If that contestant has competed, $1,000 per round he or she competed in is deducted from the COVID-19 monies.

The Wrangler NFR continues through Dec. 12.