2X Horse of the Year, Shelby Boisjoli’s “Onna”

Shelby Boisjoli’s 8-year-old mare “Onna” has garnered the breakaway Nutrena Horse of the Year title for the second time after carrying world standings leader Boisjoli through the 2023 ProRodeo season to the NFBR.

Shelby Boisjoli's Onna was rock-solid throughout the 2023 rodeo season, leading her to be voted the Horse of the Year.
Shelby Boisjoli's Onna was rock-solid throughout the 2023 rodeo season, leading her to be voted the Horse of the Year. Photo by Click Thompson

Shelby Boisjoli’s mare No Wimpy Turns, lovingly known as “Onna,” has been named the 2023 Breakaway Nutrena Horse of the Year.

This is Onna’s second time to be honored as Horse of the Year, the first coming in 2021 when she carried Boisjoli to the No. 1 position ahead of the National Finals Breakaway Roping—a feat she repeated this year.

With $164,548 in 2023 earnings won almost exclusively on Onna, Boisjoli’s breakaway peers voted the 8-year-old mare into the spotlight once more.   

“I really didn’t expect for her to win Horse of the Year a second time,” said Boisjoli (soon to be Meged.) “I was so excited that we won it the first time, and then this year I was thinking, ‘It’d be super cool if she could be top three.’ I was seriously shocked when they called me and told me that she had won it again. This is extra special because everyone thinks their horse is the best. There are so many talented horses out here right now.”

The beginnings of Onna

Born in 2015, Onna was pointed toward becoming a reining horse. But according to Boisjoli, she had more “go” than “whoa.”

“She couldn’t lope the small slow circle they needed for the reining,” Boisjoli said. “When I went to look at her, they’d actually started her on the barrels.”

Boisjoli first laid eyes on Onna in 2019 when she was 4 years old.

“I was raised with the idea that, ‘You don’t ride papers.’ So, I was always more focused on the horse in front of me. When I bought Onna, I didn’t care what was on her papers. I was sold on her when I tried her.”

– Shelby Boisjoli

“I vividly remember the day I tried her,” Boisjoli said. “I was just hugging on her in her stall, petting her and stuff. And I thought, ‘She has to come home with me.’ I loved her so much. She was like the sweetest thing ever. To ride, she had a good stop and a good turnaround. She felt like a lot of horse, really strong and really powerful.”

The Definitive List Of Horses Headed To The National Finals Of Breakaway Roping

The transition from barrel prospect to breakaway horse wasn’t instant, though. Boisjoli recalled how Onna was terrified of the noise the chute made, leading to hours of being tied out in the arena to get acclimated to the sights and sounds of roping.

“Finally, it got to where I could just push up calves and work the chute off of her,” Boisjoli said. “Then I had to get her used to the rope—she didn’t like the rope going by her head. I remember spending hours and hours just pulling my slack up and down just trying to desensitize her.”

Once the idea about being a rope horse clicked for Onna, it was game on. Boisjoli started hauling her to amateur and ProRodeos in 2020, just a year after she purchased her.

Onna’s turn in the limelight

Sexy Lil Blue Blood (Smart Lil Guy x Blue Bloods T B x Blueblood Presitge), known as “Root Beer” was Boisjoli’s main mount as Onna was coming up. The pair won hundreds of thousands of dollars together and advanced to the NFBR in 2020.

“Root Beer was it for me,” Boisjoli explained. “I loved her so much, I really jived with her. I never really treated Onna like she was going to be anything special, she was just another young horse that I had.”

But as fate would have it, Root Beer got sore and Onna got the call for the 2020 Johnny Wayne Hampton Memorial in Stephenville, Texas, where they won it with a 1.7-second run.

“From then I kept riding her and getting more and more confidence in her,” Boisjoli said. “When Root Beer got better, it became a struggle, not knowing which horse to ride. I ended up taking Onna for the summer of 2021, and that was the first year that she won Horse of the Year. It was her first year out there.”

(Root Beer is still around. She gets the call for all the Canadian Rodeos while Onna takes care of business South of the border.)

Onna’s day to day

Now, Onna’s a veteran on the road, only needing one practice session during the 2023 summer run.

“We hit up a practice pen after the Fourth of July, and all I did was score a couple calves, walk-started a couple, roped and just kicked her through [our usual stop],” Boisjoli said. “That was all she got for the whole summer. She was dead solid for me.”

According to Boisjoli, Onna’s defining characteristic as a breakaway competitor is her confidence.

Shelby Boisjoli and Onna’s top 2023 checks:

Governor’s Cup in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: $25,000

San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in Texas: $17,583

Reno Rodeo in Nevada: $12,035

When Boisjoli’s riding Onna, she focuses on keeping the mare’s shoulders up and front end moving freely—which is a factor in her ditching the tiedown on her sometimes.  

For all of Onna’s strengths, she has some tricky spots, too. Boisjoli noted that you must untie her from the trailer when saddling and walk her a few circles before cinching her up. She has her quirks, but Boisjoli is so accustomed to them that she hardly notices the accommodations she makes for her—and the work is well worth it.

Now, Onna is getting a well-deserved break ahead of the 2023 NFBR, where Boisjoli will take a run at her first WPRA Breakaway World Championship.

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