Tana Poppino: From Marketing Exec to Rodeo Champion

They said she was crazy…she proved them wrong

By Dana Hudepohl
Tana Poppino quit her job as a corporate marketing executive to become a professional rodeo barrel racer; here at her ranch in Oklahoma, with her horse Goose.
Photograph: Photographed by Chris Buck

Tana Poppino started dreaming about competing in the National Finals Rodeo when she was only eight years old. She won a rodeo scholarship to Oklahoma Panhandle State University and qualified for the college national finals her junior and senior years. When she graduated in 1985, she got married and took a job at the Grand River Dam Authority, intending to work a few years before going pro. “When you’re young, you have big dreams,” she says. “And then reality sets in and you have to pay the bills. Two years turned into 20 years.”
By day Poppino worked at her marketing job, and in the evenings she trained with her horses. Each weekend, she and her husband, who also competed in rodeos, traveled to amateur competitions. Finally, in 2003, Poppino thought she was ready….

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