Joyce Loomis-Kernek was born Joyce Shelley and grew up in the Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico on a cattle ranch. She and her two brothers learned to ride before they could walk. As she grew, she knew right away that she loved to go fast.

A neighbor gave Joyce some past issues of Western Horseman magazine. It was there that she learned of all the famous barrel racers of that period and she knew she wanted to do what they were doing. Her dad got her some barrels and she ran everything she could around those barrels, even dad’s mules. A family friend gave her a Palomino that she named Pal and she won her first Barrel Racing buckle at a local fair in 1956.

Joyce attended New Mexico State University and was a member of the Rodeo Team. She began competing in goat tying, barrel racing and roping events. When she saw a flyer for Miss Rodeo New Mexico, she and her friend decided Joyce should enter. Her friend schooled her on patterns and lead changes and loaned her horse. Joyce won and was given the opportunity to compete at the Miss Rodeo America contest in Las Vegas. The state supported her and she flew to the contest, in the Governor’s airplane, in November. Her goal was to win Horsemanship and she did. However, she was shocked when they announced her the winner of Miss Rodeo America 1963. She lived in Las Vegas for a year and traveled the nation promoting rodeo. During this endeavor, she met many barrel racers and was able to watch them train and compete.

She met and was married to Rodeo Hall of Famer Barry Burk for seven years. This gave Joyce with the opportunity to meet many of the best horsemen of that time. She watched them train and listened to their ideas.