The best horses

When you’ve had a good barrel horse it can be a pretty rewarding experience. Especially when it’s one that you have trained yourself. Goals were met and accolades were achieved and it can feel pretty good.

I sometimes hear all it is to running barrels is three turns and go as fast as you can. But in reality there’s a lot more to it than that. You have to help set up the horse to make a fast and efficient turn and allow them to take the quickest path through the pattern.

When things go wrong it can make you feel like a total loser. I’m a perfectionist and hate to lose. Especially when there’s money on the line.

I’ve had my mare for a long time and this year might be the year for her to retire from the barrel pen. I need to get something younger going but it is really hard to step off one that you know so well and one who still really likes to go and run (and win).

It’s an emotional choice for me to retire her and if I hear one more “suggestion” to make this her last run I get a little defensive. It’s my choice and hers when our last time around the barrels will be. Don’t think I’m being selfish still running a 21 year old horse because I’m not. If I stopped riding her and running her I think she will take a downhill slide into old age and not act like she’s young at heart. I believe she will let me know when she doesn’t want to go.

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Remembering

Sometimes there are people in your life that you expect to always be there. You never expect something to happen to them and for them to not be there. Especially if that someone is somebody you don’t see everyday.

When my father-in-law died last year, the thought, “never in a million years did I expect him to die,” kept running through my brain. I know I said it more than once at the time. In all honesty I never expected Steve to be gone before my own dad simply because my dad is diabetic and has had heart surgery in the past. Steve was relatively healthy to me.

Last week, my sister texted me and asked if I had heard anything about Bertis. “Nope, why?” was my reply. Bertis was Steve’s best friend and for many years a great family friend. Bertis helped look for Steve when my mother-in-law couldn’t get a hold of him. He and Fletch were the ones who found Steve. Never in a million years did I expect Bertis to die. But he did.

So many emotions came back to me because it’s only been a year and a few months since Steve died. It was just all too familiar. My first thought was of Bertis and Steve meeting in heaven. I thought, I sure hope they are having a cold beer and catching up.

Then I thought back to my wedding day when he handed me a $100 bill and made some joke. Wish I could remember what it was. Then I thought of his own daughter who is getting married this Saturday and how she won’t have her dad to walk her down the aisle and that he will never meet his future grand kids. I remember Bertis giving me my first beer after I had Shaun and shooting the breeze in his farm shop.

For the life of me I can’t remember when the last time I saw him was. It’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things, but my mind wants to focus on it. I thought I had a photo of him, but the only one I can find is from my wedding of him carrying ice. But it’s how I most remember Bertis – at the farm with a short-sleeved shirt, an East Kansas Chemical hat and his Wranglers. Only thing missing was the cold beverage in his hand.

Lois and Bertis at our wedding reception in 2009.

Lois and Bertis at our wedding reception in 2009.

Best April Fool’s day of all

Fifteen years ago today I was a freshman at Hutchinson Community College. I had money burning a hole in my pocket earmarked for a new horse. I wanted something young and fast, and that fit in my limited price range. When my sister told me about a consignment sale at the local sale barn, I just knew we’d find something there. At least it was easier than calling on classified ads in the paper.

We walked through the pens out back before the sale and I was beginning to get disappointed because nothing really caught my eye. Looking back on it, I’m not even sure I laid eyes on the 6-year-old brown mare that eventually would be mine, but I do remember when she went through the ring. She was long, lean and seemed pretty nice. Brown, with a black mane and tail and not a speck of white on her. The trader who had her had his kid crawling under her and weaving in between her front legs. Then they started talking pedigree. All I remember hearing was Seattle Slew, and I was hooked. He was the 1977 Triple Crown winner and is still the only undefeated winner.

I’d conned my sister into bidding for me, and we got my mare bought, $125 more than what I had so I had to sweet talk her and mom into loaning me the extra money. Mom still claims she owns the tail.. Probably the best $1,125 investment I’ve ever made.

It’s been a long 15 years with a lot of highs and some lows. From the first ride on her when she about run off with me, and to realizing how fast she really was. The first jackpot we won in Holly, Colo., and our first rodeo check at Ashland, Kan., to the knocked down barrels that “would have” won, we’ve been through a lot. I about lost her twice (July 2005 and April 2006) to colic and have been sidelined with our fair share of injuries. I’d always wanted to get her bred, but never could find the right stud to pair her with, and when I had settled on one I didn’t have the money. Now she’s 21, and I’m perfectly content with just having her healthy and happy. I wish we could have another 15 years together, but with horses you just never know how long they will be in your lives. I hope she’s around for a lot more. There’s a little boy who adores her, and someday he wants to ride her all by himself.

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