Joel Harris won both the average and year-end titles on the Columbia River Circuit with a time of 28.6 on three head and $32,316 earned on the circuit.
He did it alongside his closest competitor, his older brother, five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualifier Ty.
“I had a small lead going into the finals,” Harris, 20, said. “We knew it was going to be me or Ty to win the circuit.”
After hauling together all season, the brothers finished the regular season with Joel, the 2023 rookie, just $2,832 ahead of Ty for the circuit’s year end championship.
Ty is the 2023 The American Rodeo champ who ended the ProRodeo season ranked fifth in the PRCA | RAM World Standings after setting a new earnings record over the Fourth of July–and if anyone thought he was going to let his brother coast to the title, that thought was quickly dispelled. The elder Harris jumped out and split the win in the opening go round on October 20, 2023 with Chase Joyce with a run of 8.4 seconds.
“It was really fun,” the younger Harris, who goes by Braden to family and friends but Joel in the PRCA, said. “We were excited that it was going to be one of us.”
The brothers have been helping each other all season, from Ty lending Joel horses and giving him guidance in his first year on the road, to Joel helping Ty make the miles that led to the Fourth of July record.
“It’s really everything,” Harris said of his brother’s help during a springtime interview. “I really can’t quantify what it means to have his help.”
All brotherly camaraderie aside, neither has any backup when they ride in the box and Joel kept pace with his brother with an 8.9 second run that took third in the first round at the circuit finals.
Nod to Sally
Both brothers rode Ty’s Sally, the palomino mare that was recently voted Reserve AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year for 2023. Chuchara Sal has been critical this year for both ropers and the circuit finals was no different.
“She’s so consistent,” Harris said. “She’s the best scoring horse I’ve ever rode and the fastest. She’s good at so many things but the main thing is she was the same horse at the start of the summer that she was at the circuit finals.”
“I can always count on her,” he added. “She’s just a special horse all around.”
With Sally doing her thing, Harris followed up his first round effort with another check winning run in the second go at 9.0 seconds, taking second behind Jake Pratt while Ty had some bad luck, taking a no time in that round.
Staying amazingly consistent, Harris closed out the finals with another 8.9, picking up second in the round and sealing the average by half a second over Bo Pickett. He roped three calves in 26.8 seconds.
“I was able to come out and place in all three rounds and I won the average,” Harris said, “so I was able to win it.”
All totaled up, Harris banked an event best $7,532 in Redmond to close out the year end championship with $32,316 won in Oregon and Washington alone.
“It was good,” Harris said. “It’s a really good circuit with lots of good rodeos. I’m glad I chose that one.”
Columbia River is Harris’ place to play
After making his first circuit finals in Texas as a permit holder a year ago, Harris has no regrets on his change of venue and plans to stick with it in the future.
“They both have great circuit finals but they’re totally different. The calves are different, the ropers are different,” he said. The scales tipped Northwest due to the lucrative summer run of rodeos. “They have so many good rodeos and you don’t have to go out of your way to get to them.”
Along with the circuit championship, Harris also finished as the reserve Rookie of the Year in the tie down roping, earnings $61,576 in 2023. He was 32nd in the World standings.
“Countless lessons learned,” he said of his rookie experience. “There’s something about being comfortable at these rodeos. The first time there, you aren’t as comfortable but the second time, you’re ready to roll.”
Still, Harris had luck at some big rodeos, especially Columbia River Circuit rodeos, to help him earn the year end title.
“My favorite run was Pendleton. Obviously, it helped me take the circuit title but it’s also a really cool rodeo and just a lot of fun,” he said. “And St. Paul. I did good there and that’s another really good rodeo.”
Harris wasted little time getting started towards his ultimate goal of competing beside his brother at the Wrangler NFR, adding to the money won at the circuit finals with a good showing at the CINCH Roping Fiesta in their hometown of San Angelo on October 28. The brothers will next rope in Lubbock before heading to Las Vegas where Joel will be one of the cowboys selected to rope the extras following each go round.
“We have a lot of fun during the holidays, hanging out and just enjoying each other,” Harris said of the break in the action following the NFR. “But it’ll be a lot of practicing, getting ready to go.”
As he seeks his first NFR in 2024, he’ll have a little leg up on the field come July as he has qualified to compete at the NFR Open in Colorado Springs. It was nearly an all-Harris contingent to the circuit system’s championship event.
“Ty ended up third in the standings by $600,” Harris said. The year end champ and circuit finals average winners get an invite to the NFR Open and if someone wins both titles, as Harris did, the invite drops to the reserve champion in the year end standings, in this case, Bo Pickett.
Though it’s just Joel in Colorado Springs, expect more of the same from the Harris’ in 2024.
“It’s all out, same deal,” he said.
First round: 1. (tie) Ty Harris and Chase Joyce, 8.4 seconds, $1,883 each; 3. Joel Harris, 8.9, $1,076; 4. Justin Farber, 9.7, $538.
Second round: 1. Jake Pratt, 8.3 seconds, $2,152; 2. Joel Harris, 9.0, $1,614; 3. Bo Pickett, 9.2, $1,076; 4. Kass Kayser, 10.1, $538.
Third round: 1. Bo Pickett, 8.0 seconds, $2,152; 2. Joel Harris, 8.9, $1,614; 3. Caleb McMillan, 9.2, $1,076; 4. Brad Goodrich, 9.9, $538.
Average: 1. Joel Harris, 26.8 seconds on three head, $3,228; 2. Bo Pickett, 27.3, $2,421; 3. Kass Kayser, 30.1, $1,614; 4. Chase Joyce, 19.0 on two head, $807.