Tilly Jenski – American Girl
By: Bonnie Wheatley
For Tilly Jenski, winning her qualification to the 2022 Women’s Rodeo World Championship (WRWC) aboard CP Minny represents the culmination of her genuine American dream coming to fruition.
“I’m honestly just so thankful and grateful,” said Jenski, “like, to even be able to have the opportunity to do any of this! I’m an immigrant, I was born in Poland and my family escaped communism. I was 6 years old when I came to the United States. I didn’t know how to speak English, but I learned the language. We couldn’t afford horses when I was young, but I was that kid hanging around at any barn or stable we could find. I’d volunteer to ride anything, and I got bucked off a lot!”
Fast forward to January 2022 and Jenski has earned her spot at one of the most lucrative and widely viewed network television events in rodeo history—and most definitely in the history of women’s rodeo—the WRWC in Fort Worth, Texas, at Cowtown Coliseum on May 16-18. There Jenski will be among the elite ladies in rodeo gunning for a piece of the $750,000 payout.
“I thank the United States and my faith! I am the American dream,” said Jenski, adding, “I believe in a strong work ethic and that if you want to do this, you’ve gotta work for it. I’m so grateful to do this and to even be interviewed is an honor.”
Jenski nominated through the Virtual Rodeo Qualifier (VRQ) and won via two separate Qualifier Series Events (QSE), both held in Buckeye, Arizona. On both occasions she rode her 2013 black mare CP Minny, by Delightful Corona and out of Cute N Easy Too by Jonathon Too, to the wins—first at the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Super Show where she dominated the average and next at the Royal Crown Open on February 18. (Per WRWC policy, each athlete is only eligible to compete once in each discipline despite the number of generic qualifications earned through QSE.)
“I purchased CP Minny before she was put on the clock from Cody Hyde,” said Jenski. “I’d sold a couple of horses and was in the market, so he sent me five or six to look at. I flew out to try her because he said, ‘You need to ride her, she’s different.’
Jenski says Minny is definitely opinionated, but when it comes to running barrels, the mare is all in. Orphaned as a foal, Minny was bred by Deanna Stout and trained by Cody Hyde then campaigned by Jenski successfully in the futurities before advancing to the ranks of professional rodeo. Minny wins, but she is not for the faint of heart.
“She’s extremely difficult to keep your seat in a run. You rip clothing and bust knuckles,” exclaimed Jenski. “She left me on the backside on that run in Arizona [at the Royal Crown], I ripped my jeans too! She’s extremely hard to ride, her hind end is disconnected from her front-end and she has a zero-gravity move.”
Jenski, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Moriarty, New Mexico, says her focus has shifted from the futurities to placing more emphasis on rodeos, World Champions Rodeo Alliance and WRWC.
“I’m currently third in the Turquoise Circuit and recently finished fourth out of 150 at our last circuit rodeo. I’m blessed to have three finished barrel horses. This is one of the first years it’s been possible for me to devote my efforts to rodeoing and WCRA,” she said.
A passionate equestrian and entrepreneur, Jenski operates a full-time horse training and youth coaching business where she teaches barrel racing and roping. Jenski uses the master’s degree in education she earned from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to fulfill her passion for teaching youth riders, and she is committed to using her knowledge and experience as a platform to help others.
“I’m almost 43 now and I’m a first-generation rodeo person. I didn’t come from this, but I fell in love with it so in the beginning I bought two Quarter Horses for $1,500 and $2,500, those were my first two barrel prospects,” Jenski explained. “I didn’t buy a horse trailer until I was 28 or 29 years old! I’ve made horses and sold them to be able to do this. This is the first year that it’s been possible for me to keep three finished horses, so I’ve kept my three mares.”
Jenski credits hard work and one particularly gracious mentor for helping her in the pursuit of her goals.
“When I was a grad student at UNLV, I had the chance to meet Jill Moody,” said Jenski, “and, she literally made me. She never charged me a penny, she said, ‘OK kid, if you want to learn, show up tomorrow morning,’ so that’s what I did and that’s why I believe so much in paying it forward. That’s why I tell kids that come to me to learn to run barrels, ‘I will help you and I will teach you, but you’re going to clean stalls and help with chores, you’re going to work at this.’”
Jenski’s passion is teaching the youth of our sport and she is particularly proud to share the journey with her daughter Madelyn, age 6, who is her co-trainer.
In further pursuit of her aspirations, Jenski has purchased a 2-year-old stallion prospect that is a full brother to one of the mares she runs,Don’t Need No Chrome (“Anne Bannanie”),a finished 1D barrel horse and solid head horse that can pass from making a competitive barrel racing run right into the head box at an 11.5 slide—and carry Jenski’s daughter through a pee wee run, all with ease. Jenski’s stallion, Aint Seen Red Yet is sired by the popular Aint Seen Nothin Yet and out of a daughter of On The Money Red, One Hot Red Head. She also plans to have embryos from Minny bred to Aint Seen Nothin Yet this year.
Jenski says the platform she is gaining thanks to her success in barrel racing would not be possible without the help of other supportive professionals.
“I thank Elliott Bit ‘N Spur as well as Dr. Darla Moser, who is the veterinarian I work with in Nevada, and Dr. Emily Johnson in New Mexico, as well as my farrier Kenny Schultz,” she said. “I have to thank my diesel mechanic, Jacob Tillack, he fixes everything and keeps all my stuff road worthy. He literally keeps my program running and that right there is worth its weight in gold.”
Last, but certainly not least, Jenski said, “I thank my mom and dad for leaving out of their homeland in hopes of freedom and opportunity, which the United States has given us.”
A record 2.3 million viewers tuned in to the 2021 WRWC when it was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the Fort Worth installment aims to bring women rodeo athletes into that many homes or more in 2022 as the WRCA and WRWC continue their efforts to transform the sport of rodeo via mainstream viewership and rich payouts.