In Which My Horses Made Me Look Good

As a girl, I loved horses. I read about them, watched shows about them, and dreamed about them. The only thing I didn’t do was ride them. To my parents way of thinking, horses were big, and therefore, dangerous.

After years (really, over ten years) of whining, they broke down and bought me my own horse. It was a two year old, untrained colt for a fifteen year old girl–who didn’t know nearly as much as she thought she did–so we could learn together. This was the inauspicious the start to a life spent training barrel horses.

I knew less than nothing when I started riding, but with the help of many knowledge people, I was lucky enough to spend my life living my dream.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with rodeo and the sport of barrel racing, let me explain. Running barrels is a speed event that combines a horse’s athletic ability and expert horsemanship skills of a rider. The goal is to maneuver through a clover leaf pattern around three fifty-five gallon barrels placed in a triangle in the center of an arena. The fastest time wins.

Each rider’s time begins when their horse crosses the starting line, timed with an electric eye, and ends when the pattern has been successfully executed and they cross the finish line. Knocking over a barrel earns a five second penalty.

Various factors contribute to the speed of the run, such as the horse’s physical and mental condition, the rider’s skills, and the type of ground (the quality, depth, content, etc. of the sand or dirt in the arena). If you know any barrel racers, you know they talk incessantly about the ground. It’s very important to have a surface that’s not slick, rocky or too deep when you’re running your horse as fast as he can go then asking him to turn.

A talented trainer can teach any horse to run barrels, but no matter how good they are, every horse doesn’t become a winner. It takes a combination of a talented rider paired with a horse who possesses athletic agility and an enormous amount of heart to win at the top level. The great ones love to run barrels.

01-19-2012 11;45;40AMBig Al

I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden several outstanding individuals, including Ruff’s King Tut (Ruff), Suzie’s Last Flight (Olive) and Shanty Rickashay, nicknamed Arnold because when we bought him, his tail had been chewed off and he was very overweight and resembled Arnold the Pig on Green Acres.

They taught me so much and made up for lots of my mistakes.

The thrill of entering the arena at top speed and working together to create a winning run is something I haven’t found anywhere else. Well, the day my first book was published was pretty spectacular.

Three barrels, three turns, three top horses makes for a rodeo way of life.