Forged in Fire
The intensity of the Fourth forces you to learn. You come back stronger.
I’ll never forget my first Fourth of July run back in 2008. Well, actually, it’s what happened immediately after the week that’s memorable.
I was a twenty-year-old rookie, and I had a pretty good Fourth. I was traveling with two other rookie barrel racers. I was riding Blue Duck, whose mother, Reba, was the horse I rodeoed on in high school. I rode Reba and roped on her. My brother roped calves on Reba. We team roped on her. She was an all-around great horse, and Blue Duck was shaping up to be a great horse, too.
The Fourth run was my first trip out anywhere on the road. I won around $5,000 that week and was really happy. Our first stop after the Fourth was the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs. Blue Duck made one of the best runs he’d ever made, and we won the rodeo.
As soon as we left Colorado Springs, Blue Duck threw a fit and put his leg out the window of the trailer. There we were, three rookie girls on the side of the road trying to figure out how to get this horse’s leg unstuck from the window. Blue Duck was in shock, I believe. I was thinking, Oh, my God. He broke his leg. This is over.
There was an escape door in back on the same panel as the window, and we were able to open that door and slide it out from under his leg. I felt so bad for Blue Duck. And for myself. It was heartbreaking to be doing so well and then have it all stop. It felt like such a setback at the time. You’re twenty, and you think your life is over. But it’s obviously not.
I learned a lot from that first trip out. The intensity of the Fourth forces you to learn. You come back stronger. You can plan and do everything in your power to make it good, but things happen that are out of your control, and you just gotta roll with it, make the best out of it and learn. That’s rodeo in general. Things are always changing. Some people are pretty uptight about planning and having everything go just so. I’m not really like that. I’m pretty laid back, and I think that’s why rodeo suits me.
Blue Duck’s leg was not broken, thank goodness. He recovered and, two years later, he and I made the National Finals Rodeo, but that’s another story.
A decade down the road, I have a lot more perspective. And a lot has changed about how I approach the Fourth of July. I used to go everywhere I could get to. I feel like my Fourth run has gotten smaller each year. I’ve been taking a less-is-more-approach. Last year, I only went to about six rodeos. This year, it’s just two in Oregon—St. Paul on July 2nd and Molalla on July 3.
I’d prefer to go to more this year, but I’m up in the first pool at the Calgary Stampede. It starts early this year, so I need to be there by July 5th. That fouled things up a bit for the Fourth.
I’ll really miss going down to Prescott, Arizona. I have family down there, and it’s such an old rodeo. I love being at that fairgrounds and seeing all that history. It’s especially hard, since that’s one where my horse, Sister, who is Blue Duck’s sister, always performs well. She thrives in the big arenas. We usually end up running at night down there, and Sister loves a night perf. She really feeds off the crowd. Also, Prescott is a two-header, and Sister’s a really good average horse. So to miss one that you feel confident at kind of sucks. That’s just the way it goes.
On the other hand, I’ve been lucky this year. I’m currently first in the standings with more than $83,000 won. This is the second year in a row that I’ve won RodeoHouston, which completely set me up. And in the spring, I won the Red Bluff Round-Up. Those big wins early on give you the luxury of being able to plan the rest of the year. If you don’t have a big hit early on, you feel like you’re waiting for it all year long.
Being able to be selective is better for the horse and better for me and my family. My husband, James, and I have two girls, ages seven and four. There’s a lot more to think about now, more people to consider other than just myself. They all come with me. Constant traveling gets pretty tiring for them, so being able to pick and choose is a luxury.