I’m far from being a Cowboy Christmas veteran, but I had a good run.
If there was one rodeo that I wanted to win during this Fourth of July, it was Cody, Wyoming. I love that town. But the day before I was up at Cody, Smash wasn’t looking good.
We had driven two straight all-nighters. One was on the way to Ponoka, Alberta, when we had our border scare at 4:30 in the morning and thought we were going to miss the short round. The other was coming back from Ponoka. We had to haul butt so that Tammy, my travel partner, could make the short round at Greeley, nineteen hours away.
I drove some on the way back. By 7:30 in the morning, my eyes were getting heavy. Luckily, my husband, Jeremy was awake. He had just asked if I was okay, when he watched my eyes roll back and my head hit headrest.
“Stop!” yelled Jeremy, grabbing the steering wheel. “Pull over. You’re falling asleep.”
An hour later, Tammy dropped us in Montana, where we had left my trailer. We were up that afternoon at Red Lodge. I love Red Lodge. Last year, I won second. I was really looking forward to running there.
But I was exhausted. After six runs in seven days and lots of trailer time, so was Smash.
I knew right away Smash wasn’t himself. I turned him out in a pen to let him move around. He was just dragging. He had no upbeat to him. What he really wanted to do was lie down, but there was so much going on he didn’t want to miss anything. He was like a little kid. He really needed a rest, but he was fighting it. And he wasn’t eating or drinking enough. I don’t like it when he doesn’t drink properly. That’s one of the most important things to me. I started fretting.
I turned to Jeremy and said, “I’m not going to Red Lodge.”
“What?” The idea seemed to hit him out of the blue.
“Smash is really tired,” I said. “We’re all exhausted. I’d rather run at Cody. It pays triple the amount.”
We were forty-two miles from Red Lodge. You never turn out of a rodeo that close to you! But as I said before setting out for this year’s Fourth of July run, I was lucky to start with a seventy-four-thousand-dollar cushion. I had the chance to pick and choose. With Cody a day away and the Calgary Stampede starting two days after that, I decided it was better to give Smash a break. I would have to pay my entry fee and a turn-out fine at Red Lodge, but losing a couple hundred bucks was worth giving Smash a rest.
We loaded up and drove to Cody, where I put Smash in a big pen and let him rest. Jeremy and I went and watched the performance that night. It was 9:40 p.m. when I got back to the pens. Smash had just laid down. I didn’t bother him. I went to the trailer and lay down myself. The next morning at 6:00 a.m., Smash was still lying there. I had to get him up. That right there told me he had been super exhausted.
Slack was at 8:00 that morning. I hung his feed bucket, and Smash went to town. I thought, “I got my horse back!”
He warmed up really good. I ran forty-sixth out of one-hundred-seven girls. Smash was definitely rested. He showed up and did his job. We were 16.90 and won the rodeo!
I had a fabulous Fourth. I won right at twenty-thousand, which is ten thousand more than last year. I maybe could have placed at a little more, but I’m not going to be greedy.
Smash and I both stayed healthy. And we didn’t blow any tires! Except for the run-in at the border, it was smooth traveling.
This year, I knew what I was getting in to—the all-night drives, the gas-station food.
I’m far from being a Cowboy Christmas veteran, but I had a good run. The steady winning helps. If you’re on a low, it’s hard to stay high. I still haven’t really experienced a tough Fourth. I know I’ll have one. It’s coming.
I got a hint of that over the past few days here at the Calgary Stampede. I haven’t been riding my best here. It goes back to my lack of experience. Sometimes the big rodeos throw off my mental game. But I’m learning. I tell myself to stop overthinking things and just ride my horse. Ride Smash and have fun. That’s what I came here for.