What started out as a way to support their horse addiction has turned into a full-time business for an Arizona family. Melanie Edwards of Buckeye, […]
Molly Otto – 15th Barrel Racer
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Barrel racer Molly Otto’s horse was on the sheriff’s patrol at 2 years old and set an arena record on her first run out at 3 years old. Now five years old, she helped Molly qualify for the National Finals Rodeo on the cowgirl’s first season of hitting the rodeo road hard.
Not bad for a horse who was named for chewing the tails off all the horses in her pen.
Chewy (registered name Teasin Dat Guy) is owned by Katie Lindahl but was turning heads and barrels all over the country with Molly. Molly, 34, attributes some of that success to Chewy’s background on patrol.
“She was so broke and easy and not afraid of anything,” Molly said. “She’s just very confident in herself.”
Confidence is a quality the horse and rider share. Nobody in Molly’s family competed in rodeo or rode horses, but she was determined to follow her dream.
“They were all terrified of horses … well, that may be a little dramatic,” Molly said. “They’d say it was a phase, and that I would grow out of it. I’d been asking for a horse for as long as I could remember. It was at the top of my list for any holiday, but my parents always said no since we didn’t live on a farm, so I would cut out ads of farms for sale.”
Persistence paid off. Molly started riding lessons in seventh grade and her parents leased a horse for a year when she was 14 years old. But Molly knew she was destined to do more and was willing to work for it. She got her first horse at 15 and worked at a pet store and cared for other people’s horses to fund it.
Now she trains horses professionally and qualified for the RAM Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo the last three years in a row. She joined forces with Chewy in July 2019 and the North Dakota cowgirl knew she had something special on her hands after her first run out. They broke the arena record at a jackpot in Solway, Minnesota, with a 13.9-second run. But this was no ordinary jackpot record.
“I previously held the arena record there on two different horses, one of them won three rounds at the Canadian Finals (Eyema Rare Bug, ridden by Cayla Melby) and another was a pro rodeo winner (Famous Charm, ridden by Sydney Forrest, Andrea Busby, and Michelle Alley),” Molly said. “It was cool she went out there and beat those horses’ records her first time out.
Molly filled her WPRA permit in 2011 but as the saying goes, “life happened.” Living in Grand Forks, N.D., it takes a few hours of driving to reach a jackpot, so it was nearly a decade before she felt ready to give the NFR a shot. Katie was surprised that Chewy did so well, but Molly’s success didn’t surprise her.
“I don’t know of Molly setting a goal and not accomplishing it,” Katie said. “I was excited when Molly was willing to put in the time to go for it. I’d asked her what her thoughts were on rodeoing more even though futurities were her bread and butter. We decided to see how the spring goes and then it was a quarter-by-quarter thing since neither of us has the resources to go when you’re not winning. She needed to win enough to stay on the road.”
It wasn’t until after the Fourth of July run that Molly felt she’d reached a turning point as she jumped from 25th to 17th in the world standings. Tensions were high as the season’s end drew close and the race for the Top 15 was tight. It got worse when Chewy had to take the sidelines in September due to an abscess and Molly hadn’t qualified for the ProRodeo Tour Finale in Salinas, California.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Molly said. “There were so many people from 10th to 20th that weren’t too far apart.”
Molly won her 12th rodeo of the season on Allison Ness’ horse, aptly named Mr. Right Now Guy. A 17.39-second run at the Wild Rides Rodeo Dickinson (North Dakota) was a hometown win of sorts, and the Sept. 18 win for $869 gave her a boost in maintaining the No. 15 spot. Molly qualified for her first NFR by a margin of $4,761.
“I was relieved…Like, I went through all of that hard stuff all year and made all of those sacrifices and it all paid off,” Molly said. “I feel like it’s God’s purpose for me and this is the platform he gave me to use. All year, when I’d feel unsure if I was supposed to be out there, it was like ‘bam,’ he would give me something huge and my horse would win a rodeo.”
The encouragement from her family and friends also helped throughout the season. Now her husband, Andy, and their sons Sterling, 15, Rowdy, 12, and daughter Blaisy, 5, will be cheering her on at the Thomas & Mack.
“I wanted to show my kids that with God anything is possible, and I hope to inspire them to have a ‘no quit’ attitude in life and that if they work hard enough, they can achieve anything,” Molly said.