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1. If the arena size permits, barrels must be set in a standard course. (Standard course is 60' score, 90' between 1st and 2nd barrels, and 105' between 1st and 3rd as well as 2nd and 3rd barrels.)
2. In small arenas, where possible, it is recommended the pattern be a minimum of 15' off the fence for the 1st and 2nd barrels and 20' for the 3rd barrel. The score line should be a minimum of 45' from the fence where you enter.
3. May go either to the right or left barrel first, but must make either two left turns and one right or two right turns and one left.
4. Knocking a barrel over constitutes a five second penalty. Failure to follow course disqualifies contestant.
5. A running start is allowed. May cross the line anywhere between the first two barrels.
6. The starting and finish line and position for the barrels must remain the same for an age division and preferably for the entire go-round. In order for over all points to be given, the pattern must stay the same for all divisions. The horse's nose will be flagged both directions or an electric timer will be used.
7. The timer and flagger must be acceptable to the contestants. Their decision will be final.
8. If an electric timer fails or flagman fouls, contestant has a choice of withdrawing entry or running at the end of the division.
9. Timers and flagman cannot change before a division or go-round is completed.
10. Secretary shall draw for positions if at all possible. Set-ups within the division may be allowed. But, members cannot set up ahead of their own division unless given permission by the executive board.
11. Person measuring and marking the barrel pattern must give a copy of the measurements to the race secretary when there are more than a single go on the pattern.
12. If the electric timer is being used, permanent markers should also be set for it. In marking the eye, a rectangle must be measured from 1st barrel to eye marker and 2nd barrel to eye marker.
13. Once the pattern has been marked, no practicing on the pattern markers. Must stay a minimum of 15 feet off the markers.
Barrel Racing is a timed event. An electric timer will be used.
There will be at least two people keeping time. A person cannot be a timekeeper in a class in which they compete.
The pattern is made up of three 55-gallon drums. The contestant will do a cloverleaf pattern around the barrels. The time will begin when the horse crosses the timer lights. Time will end when the horse completes the pattern and returns across the timer light. The contestant may start either to the left or the right.
Knocking over a barrel shall carry a five (5) second penalty for each barrel knocked over. Disqualification consists of turn a barrel twice or making more than the three turns of the cloverleaf pattern or crossing the finish line prior to completion of run. Any of these actions will result in a "no time."
The course must be measured exactly and the pattern will be staked. The barrels will be set in accordance with the measurements of the arena. The starting line should be sufficient to properly start and stop.
Barrel racing is a team sport that involves a horse and rider working together in harmony. Harmony happens when the center of gravity of the rider is centered over the gravity of the horse at various speeds during every maneuver. It requires a feel within the hands and seat of the rider to stay in harmony with the horse. When that feel is not there, the harmony is interrupted.
One situation where harmony is interrupted is when the horse is going full speed to the first barrel and the rider has not felt if the horse has prepared himself to turn the barrel. Often I will see a horse go by the barrel when there was no help from the rider, or a mixed signal was sent. An example of a mixed signal is a rider still in the jockey position (see America's Barrel Racer September/October 1999 issue) going into the turn pulling straight back on the horse's head. This rider is telling the horse to keep going forward by his body and telling the horse to prepare to turn with his hands. So, the signal that the horse receives is GO STOP. It is so important that the body position and the hand position of the rider are correctly cueing the horse for the maneuver. Clear, concise and consistent cues will help your horse to become confident and consistent. Mixed signals and "no body/hand feel" will cause your horse to become confused and inconsistent.
Seat-of-the-pants "feel" comes from practicing a series of exercises with your horse and becoming aware of when he is preparing himself for the turn, and when he is not. Remember that each maneuver is a series of basic exercises that prepare the horse for the success of that maneuver. To prepare a horse to go from a full-strided run into a turn requires that he elevate the forehand and increase his hindquarter action. Teaching him this maneuver starts first with the simple half halt. Half halt means that he slows his rhythm, engages his hindquarters, yields to the bit, checks momentarily, but does not actually stop. He prepares himself and re-balances. When riders practices the half-halt, they become more aware of the feel of the horse gathering from a full stride into a preparation to turn. You do not want the horse to push out into the bit, but to yield his head in the half-halt.
Practice this exercise to get the "feel" of a horse preparing, and rearranging, himself for a turn. Trot a distance posting. Then, sit the trot for a distance. Thirdly, sit down even deeper, say whoa and gather your horse in to a stop. Do this two or three times until you feel the horse yielding into the stop, not from pulling with your hands, but from using your body aids. Now, trot a distance posting, sit and check the horse instead of stopping him, then go back into the trot. You should feel him go from a long stride into a shortened stride and back to the long stride. At the time when he shortened his stride and yielded to the bit, he did a half-halt. This exercise allows the rider to feel when the stride is shortened and secondly, shows the rider where his body should be when the stride is shortened. The rider will begin to feel how important it is to remain over the center of gravity of the horse when it moves back as the hind feet of the horse come further under himself. This exercise is the beginning of understanding and feeling when a horse has re-arranged his hind legs in preparation for the turn.
When a horse is taught to prepare to turn with only the hands pulling him back, it causes the head to come up. Often, only the horse's eyes come up and the stride never shortens.
As you speed up to turn the first barrel, become aware of the stride
of your horse and your balancing over his gravity point. Learn to
"feel" by the seat of your pants what is happening under you. You are
creating harmony between yourself and your horse.
If the three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern could talk, think of the stories they would tell. They would probably have bets going with each other about who has taken the most skin off of barrel racers' legs. The idea of barrel racing rests on the premise that you don't hit a barrel in an effort to have the best time. It has, however, been proven many times that you can actually hit or scrape a barrel and it remain upright. Another scenario is that your consistent non-barrel-hitting horse who never hit a barrel in his life may suddenly slip in a turn, and it's your knee that is punished. Every barrel racer at one time or another can boast of some pretty bad bruises and scrapes received while turning a can or two. Fortunately someone had the vision to invent a piece of protective equipment, the shin guard, to reduce the severity of an injuries received from hitting barrels.
One of the California based-company's original products, the barrel racing knee and shin guards now carry Charmayne James' stamp of approval - her signature. The knee and shin guard comes in a variety of colors for those color-conscious barrel racers including black, brown, burgundy, hunter green, navy, purple, red, royal blue, teal green, tan, white and yellow. Cost for the small-medium or large guards is $39.95. The Spring Valley, California, company designed the barrel racers' knee and shin guard to provide adjustable and comfortable protection for today's competitors. They also wanted to design a product that barrel racers could easily put on and take off, and that would not restrict leg movement. It is made of a thick neoprene and UltraShock material. "UltraShock is basically a highly shock-absorbing material we use in a lot of our products, like our bell boots and splint boots," says Julie Walls, marketing manager for Professional's Choice. "It absorbs the impact from hitting a barrel."
The Barrel Buster Knee and Shin Protector is the newest addition to the SportsRX family, a division of Bar F Products based in Red Bluff, California. Designed for barrel racers, this product covers the entire knee and runs past the shin. "It is made of a special shock-absorbing material called Coolflex," says designer Dianna Prunty. She adds that Coolflex was used rather than neoprene because it is a breathable material. According to Prunty, there is another layer of shock-absorbing foam similar to that used in making bull riders' vests. The shock (impact) stops dead on it; it doesn't go past it." The foam is then covered with leather that serves to add durability so that the shin protector lasts longer. It is adjustable for different size legs. It has two elastic straps that expand for a comfortable fit and retails for $104 a pair. Sizes include medium and large, and colors are black or blue.
Martha Josey's Josey Enterprises has been carrying its own line of barrel racing shin guards for more than 20 years. "We were one of the first ones to come out with these shin guards," says Josey, a world champion barrel racer and Olympic gold medalist Martha Josey. "Adams Equipment out of Knoxville, Tennessee, designed these for us. They were the ones that designed the first face masks for football players. We started out working with them on some other projects and began working with them on the shin guards." Josey recommends that every barrel racer wear shin guards, especially those who have horses that tends to hit barrels. "Hitting a barrel can cause you to break a leg or serious problems like blood clots," says Josey, adding that riders really need protection from the knee all the way down the front of the leg. "Here at home I don't wear shin guards myself because we have barrel covers on our barrels," says Josey. "But if I'm at a rodeo, I might wear them depending on the horse I'm riding." Josey adds that Josey Enterprises has a lot of confidence in this particular company's product and she really believes in these shin guards. They are made of a shock- absorbing hard or soft vinyl. Retail price for the hard vinyl shin guards is $27.95; soft vinyl retails for $34.95. "You can wear the soft ones underneath your pants," says Josey. "If you don't have a tight-fitting pant leg, you can wear the hard shin guard under your pants, too." Investing in a pair of shin guards is only one form of insurance for barrel racers. It is, however, cheaper than any equine insurance you'll ever buy. The protection will far outweigh the price a barrel racer might pay later for hitting too many barrels.
�By Amy L. McDonald
When Sally Box gets into something, she goes all out. Not long ago Box decided, for example, that she wanted to purchase a stallion to start her own breeding program. She set her plan into action last October by participating in her first equine auction. Box made a trip to Sioux Falls Fairgrounds in South Dakota for the Cowan Brothers Production Sale. Box spared no expense in her quest for a top-notch breeding stallion and purchased the high-selling horse, PC Frenchman, for $200,000.
The owner of the Bucks & Barrels Ranch in Pilot Point, Texas, Box says she has bred her own mares but never had a stallion to complete the program until now.
"I was hoping to get a stallion of this bloodline (Driftwood) and had seen them in the catalog," says Box. She likes the Driftwood bloodline because she says they are good, sound horses. She has owned many Driftwood bred horses in the past.
Box hoped to purchase one stallion at the sale but returned to Texas the proud owner of two, PC Frenchman and PC Juleo Frost. (PC Juleo Frost is a 1996 AQHA chestnut stallion by Sun Frost and out of Frosty Miss Leo.) Box also purchased two 2-year-old fillies, PC Worlds of Cash, a buckskin, and PC Lacewood, a palomino. She spent a whopping $305,000 at the 1999 Cowan Brothers sale.
The main attraction in the Bucks & Barrels 2000 breeding program is the 1996 palomino stallion PC Frenchman or "Moonie." By Sun Frost, a Driftwood-bred stallion, and out of Caseys Charm, Moonie was purchased from a partnership between the Cowan Brothers, LLC and Frances Loiseau of Flandreau, South Dakota. Loiseau is also the stallion's breeder. The "PC" in Moonie's name stands for Pat Cowan, who started the Cowan Bros. breeding program. The "Frenchman" part comes from the French name Loiseau.
"I didn't expect to pay that much," says Box of her purchase. She had not ever paid that much for a horse and says she probably won't ever again. "I knew I wanted him so I kept going."
Moonie sold for such a high price due to the fact he is the last full brother to barrel racing great French Flash Hawk, Kristie Peterson's "Bozo." Peterson has clinched four WPRA World Champion barrel racing titles and three Reserve Champion titles, as well as being the 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 National Finals Rodeo average winner aboard the sorrel super horse. Twelve-year-old Bozo was also named the AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year in 1995 and AQHA/PRCA Horse of the year 1996-1999.
"There were quite a few (other bidders) until it got up to $100,000. I was bidding against people who wanted to syndicate him," says Box.
Another of Sun Frost's progeny, PC Frenchmans Hayday, sold at the 1997 Cowan Brothers Production Sale for $65,000. Because of this, Tigh Cowan, one of four brothers who run the Cowan Brothers Production Sale, says he was fairly certain Moonie would bring $100,000 or more. According to Cowan, advertising this sale more than the 1997 sale also helped to spark the interest of more prospective buyers, and of course, more people means higher bids for all horses.
"We couldn't be any more tickled," says Cowan. "He could have gone to a money person that doesn't know what he needs to do with this horse. But these people are very serious about their business and that's what we hoped for." According to Cowan, barrel racing interest in South Dakota is limited. He thinks Moonie will be better promoted in the south where the barrel racing industry is hotter and with someone who is more involved in the industry.
Cowan says the 4-year-old, 1,100-pound, 15-hand horse was only halter broke prior to the sale. He adds that Moonie was, however, easy to get along with, unlike some stallions.
"She never had a bit of trouble with him," says Loiseau of her daughter-in-law Cindy Loiseau, who took care of Moonie prior to the sale. "Cindy has a picture of her 12-year-old daughter sitting on a fence post clipping his bridle path with electric clippers. He was extremely gentle and didn't ever exhibit any of the qualities that most stallions do. I think it was because he was handled by a woman and she never had to be severe with him."
According to Box, the top dollar seller has already adjusted to his new home. After purchasing the stallion, Box sent him to trainer Dean Latimer in Marietta, Oklahoma, for 60 days to get a handle on him. At the end of that time period, Box then brought Moonie back to her ranch where she is now training him for barrels with the help of breeding manager/cutting horse trainer Mike Taylor. Box hopes to run him as a 5-year-old in the futurities and possibly use him as a WPRA horse later. Her participation in rodeos in 2000 will be somewhat limited due to the fact that she will be juggling her breeding operation and her keeping up her ranch.
"It was kind of rush, rush, rush to come up with a name," says Box regarding her ranch's name. "I had thought about calling it Box Quarter Horses. Then I thought, I want to have barrels here and it took bucks to buy the place, so why not call it Bucks & Barrels Ranch." Box purchased the 62-acre ranch off of Highway 377 in January of 1999. The ranch, originally the Matlock Rose Ranch, consists of an indoor arena (90 feet by 100 feet), which plays host to a weekly jackpot barrel race, ropings and cuttings. There are two houses, an office (managed by Taylor's wife Lora), a 24-stall breeding barn, 28-stall mare motel and a breeding lab. Taylor, the owner of Bear Claw Cutting Horses, also leases the property for his training operation. Besides Moonie and Juleo, Bucks & Barrels Ranch is also standing Little Smart Chex, a 4-year-old chestnut stallion, and Cuttin For Cash, a paint stallion owned by Eddie Cusac. A recent addition to the ranch is 42 acres of hay meadow adjacent to the existing property. Box hopes to irrigate this land and provide her horses and 60 head of cattle with a supply of coastal hay this summer.
With the city of Dallas, Texas, spreading more and more to outlying areas including Frisco, Betsy Turner, Box's mother, says she began looking for property out in the rural Pilot Point area about four years ago. Turner saw this particular place across the street from the Bucks & Barrels Ranch that was for sale. It was the first place she looked at and she says she was very impressed. This is where Moonie makes his home. He shares his barn with two draft horses and six other Quarter Horses. Originally only one Adobe-style house and barn made up the landscape of the 61-acre property. Another Adobe-style house, where Box and her husband Dale Parsons live, and a covered arena have been added. A 10-stall barn was also built, each stall measuring 16 feet by 20 feet, except for Moonie's, which is 16 feet by 40 feet.
Box owns 14 more acres just minutes from the horse ranch, which has kennels where she keeps Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. The kennels are managed by Judy Swindell, whose husband, Bob, works at the ranch as a horse trainer.
According to Turner, Box has been riding horses since she was in diapers.
"As a little girl my parents took me to the Fort Worth Stock Show when I was about 3," says Box. "I decided I was either going to barrel race or be a circus trick rider."
Box fondly remembers participating in playdays years later, though she says she always seemed to have the slowest horse around; her father thought she should only ride pregnant mares and would only buy these horses for her. After saving enough money, Box says she bought a horse she chose herself, an unregistered mare named Quita. Now retired for six years, the mare is still sound and healthy at the age of 28.
Why is barrel racing at the forefront of Box's life?
"It's something I've always liked to do," says the 43-year-old competitor. "It's just a sport that's more or less for women. I do it because I love horses, and it is an event I can compete in."
Riding an AQHA 1988 palomino mare named Oh My Filaree, "Blondie," (Indian Wheat X Oh My Katie), Box has had her WPRA permit since 1993 (although she has not renewed for 2000). Purchased from Bill Neal of Tolleson, Arizona, the horse was spotted by Turner. When she saw the mare she told Neal she really liked the way she moved and that if he ever wanted to sell the horse to call her. When the mare was 2, Neal made the call to Turner. Box has owned Blondie since then. She has subsequently carried Box to a fourth place win at the 1993 Lazy E Derby and put her in sixth place in the average at the 1993 Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Invitational Ranch Girls Barrel Race prior to the derby. Also a descendent of the Driftwood line, Box says the mare has stayed sound, which she credits to this particular bloodline.
PC Frenchman is about to embark on his embark on his first breeding season. Box hopes to breed to eight of her own mares, including Blondie. Taylor says they want a 98 percent conception rate, and plan to breed approximately 150 mares to the four stallions at the ranch.
Right now Box has what she needs for her breeding program. She is excited about her purchase, excited about what the future holds for mare owners.
PC Frenchman's introductory fee for the 2000 breeding season is $2,000.
By Amy L. McDonald
At the young age of 16, Fallon Taylor of Ponder, Texas, has already made four National Finals Rodeo appearances and was the second youngest barrel racer to ever ride at the prestigious event. (Rachael Myllymaki, now 23, qualified at the age of 12 in 1988.)
Taylor began riding at the age of 8 when she bought her first permit. At the age of 9 she earned her WPRA card. She has been competing professionally for more than eight years and her career earnings total more than $253,858. In 1998, she placed ninth in the average at the NFR and finished 12th in the WPRA world standings.
"One day I saw a barrel race on television when I lived in Tampa, Florida, and I just decided that’s what I wanted to do," says Taylor. "I also used to cut, do ballet and tap, but my parents said it was running them ragged and I had to choose one thing to do."
Taylor purchased the 1990 half-Thoroughbred mare Flowers And Money off the track in Weatherford, Texas, for $7,500.
"My former trainer, Rick Manucy, saw Flo (On the Money Red X Floralie) run and saw that she had heart; she was such a little horse (14.1 hands, 900 pounds) and she was running against all these other bigger horses," says Taylor.
Her back-up horse, True Identity (15.2 hands, 1,100 pounds), a nine-year-old gelding by Hear The Band out of Streakin Diamonds, was purchased for $1,500 and helped Taylor secure second in the average at the 1995 NFR. True was also purchased off the track from Marilyn Clark of Ocala, Florida.
Taylor says she hardly ever practices running the barrel pattern. Instead, she rides in the pasture near her home a lot, where she goes back and forth along a fence at a long trot until her mare gets warm. When she practices in an arena, Taylor says she starts at a trot and move into a lope for some tight circles and then larger ones. She feels this keeps her horse ready for her actual competitive runs.
Taylor prefers to use a wool saddle pad underneath her saddle because her mare has low withers.
"I love the saddle I compete in because it’s huge (with a 15-inch seat) and broken in," says Taylor of her square-skirt Josey saddle. She likes a straight mohair one and she always uses a back cinch to hold her saddle in place. Her stirrups are flat-bottomed, and Taylor says she leaves them "out pretty long" to help her stay in the middle of the saddle.
"I don’t wear spurs on Flo because I kick too hard; instead, I keep a leather over-and-under attached to my saddle and all I have to do is pick it up and she will move forward," says Taylor. Occasionally, she will use her hand on the mare’s neck if she is coming home and needs more speed.
Taylor only used Saratoga bandage wraps on Flo’s front feet up until the summer of 1998. "She didn’t like wraps on her back legs, but I had to start using them after she started burning the backs off (of her legs) after our run at Cheyenne (Wyoming)," says Taylor. "Her legs are so small and fine-boned that I can’t wrap polo wraps tight enough to give her support. I also can’t find splint boots small enough to fit her."
During actual competition, Taylor uses a Jim Warner hackamore (with a leather headstall) that includes the curb chain left loose. For training and riding, she uses a rope sidepull when her mare gets flat and inflexible in order to get more bend from her.
Taylor attended 65 rodeos in 1998, including the NFR. She is home-schooled and says that really helps her get to a lot of rodeos. She wonders, though, how some barrel racers could attend as many as 97 rodeos a year like Melissa Hubier, a top barrel racer from Cleveland, Texas, did in 1998.
6 tips for barrel racing success from Fallon Taylor
1.The most important thing to remember is barrel racing is a bundle of trials and tribulations. You have to keep trying and stick with it. Always remember to keep your head up and never quit trying. If you have a problem, find a niche and try everything to solve it or talk to a professional.
2.Patience is a virtue. Sometimes it takes a while to find a good horse. It may take even longer for the two of you to work as a team. As long as you have patience, it does not matter how old or young you are, or how long you’ve been riding.
3.To train or not to train? You don’t have to go to a trainer. You can do most of your training yourself — like I do. I suggest you do go to someone’s clinic for pointers and beginning training if you need it. Be sure to pick someone whose riding style is close to yours. If you don’t ride heavy-handed, don’t go to a clinic where the instructor is heavy-handed and tends to jerk on a horse.
4.No barrel racing background? You don’t have to come from a barrel racing background to be good. I am not from a barrel racing family, but I have succeeded. To begin with, you need to know how to sit on a horse and learn to feel the way they move. You can advance from there.
5.Training problems. Whatever problem you have, running the pattern constantly will accomplish nothing. If you regularly knock over barrels, slow down. Take your time and try to figure out the problem. If your horse runs up the fence or ducks off all of a sudden, have it checked by a vet if this has never happened before. If nothing is wrong physically, you might then want to consult a trainer.
6.Give them variety. Horses like and need variety. Try running your
horse on poles for fun, but don’t start cranking on them because it
will no longer be fun. My horse likes to be roped off of; you may want
to try some other type of activity for you and your horse to enjoy
By Kenton H. Arnold, DVM
Finding and buying the right horse can be more frightening than any Stephen King novel. As a veterinarian, I see and help people make decisions on horses all the time. Although no one has a crystal ball, there are steps that you can take to help insure that the horse you purchase is worth all the time, effort and expense put into it.
Step 1: Hire a trainer to evaluate the horse and the two of you together. When you hire a trainer to help in the purchase decision, it is imperative that you can freely and openly communicate with him or her. If you are intimidated by the trainer, you must first solve this problem or find someone else to help you locate a suitable horse. (If the trainer is also the seller, it is probably best to find someone else to evaluate that particular horse.)
Be sure to first make some kind of arrangement so the trainer evaluating the horse gets paid whether you buy the horse or not. This will help eliminate any motivation to sell a particular horse. Preferably the trainer you choose is someone that will continue to work with you after the purchase is made. Ride the horse as much as possible, and if possible, make arrangements to run the horse once before the purchase is final.
Discuss with your trainer the type of horse you are ready for and listen to his or her thoughts. For example, if you need a horse to run in professional rodeos, don't look at a 3-year-old unseasoned horse. The horse may be excellent, but it won't fit your needs.
Step 2: Find out everything you can about the horse. If you feel intimidated and don't ask questions, then expect to discover problems after you own the horse. When you ask the owner questions, make it obvious that you are noting his answers. If you get an unclear or ambiguous answer, then ask the owner to clarify. Ask the owner when and how often the horse has been shown, then check with the AQHA, NBHA and BFA to confirm earnings. Ask the owner if the horse is currently on any medication, specifically bute, Banamine or any sedatives. Ask what previous medical problems he has had, how he recovered and who the regular veterinarian has been. Ask the owner to allow you to see the medical records on the horse.
By law, the owner's veterinarian cannot release the records without the owner's permission. The owner might tell you no. This should be an indication that there is something to hide. Call the previous owners of the horse and ask them about this horse’s medical history. They quite often will be honest and candid with their answers. Find out if any of the owners had a prepurchase exam performed; if so, find out what was found. It is very helpful to know how long a problem or abnormality has been present in order to determine how it will affect the horse in the future.
Step 3: After you have been through steps 1 and 2 and you are still interested in the horse, arrange for a prepurchase exam. Get a prepurchase exam done by a qualified equine veterinarian. Plan to be present during the examination. The purpose of the exam is to determine the health and condition of the horse. The goal is to find all existing problems and, through discussion and education, decide if they are manageable. Then you as the buyer can decide if all the positives outweigh the negatives. Because the veterinarian is examining the horse on a single day and does not have the benefit of monitoring the horse over time, it is helpful to have as much history on the animal as possible. If there are old radiographs (x-rays) of the horse, arrange to have them sent to your veterinarian so he can examine them and possibly compare them to new ones taken during your exam. Again, it is important to ask questions and fully understand the answers. If you don't understand everything clearly or are too intimidated to ask questions, then you are not going to get your money's worth out of the prepurchase exam.
You may be tempted to skip the prepurchase exam if you still like
the horse after you have gone through steps 1 and 2. Some owners and
trainers may encourage you to forego the exam and buy the horse, but it
is important information to get before you own the horse. Remember,
horses do not pass or fail a veterinary exam; you simply gain more
information to make your decision a good one.
By Amy L. McDonald
When the going gets tough, the tough get better - as is the case with Mena, Arkansas, resident S.A. Walls' barrel racing stirrups. But these are not your ordinary stirrups. The tread of the stirrup, where the foot is placed, is lined with a strip of rubber.
Stirrup-maker extraordinaire S.A. Walls had a booth at the Old Fort Days Futurity in Fort Smith, Arkansas, a few years back, but noticed that he wasn’t getting much business. At that time he was only making cutting and reining stirrups. The 52-year-old says he started thinking and came to the conclusion that since other equine disciplines had specific equipment, why not produce a special stirrup for barrel racing?
"There are a lot of misconceptions about aluminium," says Walls. "People out there think it's very light, but that is not always the case. It just depends on how thick it's cut. I like a stirrup with some feel to it. That is why I use the 6061 aluminium, which is what is used to make horse trailers."
Walls uses this type of aluminium because it adds enough weight and also is a strong, durable metal.
"They (barrel racers) needed a stirrup that would help them ride deep in their stirrups and give them some grip," he says. After more investigation, he came up with the idea of attaching the rubber pad to the bottom of the stirrup.
"I decided that instead of gluing the rubber on, I would sew it to the leather, which is hand-laced (around the bottom of the stirrup)," says Walls, adding that the rubber actually makes the stirrup hang a little better and have a heavier feel, which makes it easier for the rider to locate.
The Walls barrel racing stirrups are available in three sizes - small (4 1/2 inches tall and 4 1/2 inches wide), regular (5 /12 inches tall and 5 inches wide) and extra large (6 inches tall and 5 3/4 inches wide). These specialized stirrups come in both a 2- and 3-inch width and cost varies from $65 to $80 depending on size. The 2-inch version weighs 8 ounces, and even with the rubber pad, only weighs 12 ounces. The 3-inch, including the rubber pad, weighs in at 15 ounces.
Kassidy Jones of College Station, Texas, won a pair of Walls stirrups (small size) with the rubber pad attached at an American Novice Horse Association barrel race in April 1998. In July, she and Invisible Touch, her horse of five years, won the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Champion barrel racer title at the age of 9.
"She swears that if it wasn't for those stirrups, she wouldn't have won the world," says Kassidy's mother, Amber Jones. "She really loves them now and I even wanted to order her another pair. She was so excited that she asked me to write him (Walls) a letter thanking him."
"It was a real kick to hear she won because of my stirrups," says Walls. AQHYA rules state that youth barrel racers cannot use rubber bands on their feet as some barrel racers do to help keep from losing a stirrup during a run. This is where Walls' stirrups become invaluable. They still need something to help them keep their stirrups.
"All of a sudden it was like a dam had burst - there were so many orders coming in," says Walls.
Dale Youree, a barrel horse trainer in Addington, Oklahoma, was given a pair of the 2-inch stirrups with his initials on them. They hung in the barn for awhile until the friend that had given them to Youree saw that he wasn't using them. "I liked the stirrups I was riding in, but he asked me to try them," says Youree, adding that he finally gave in and is glad he did. "They are real pretty and light, and my feet stay in them real well."
Other members of the industry using Walls' special stirrups include Kim Landry of Starke, Florida, who has 15 pairs; Carol Goostree of Verden, Oklahoma; and Kay Blandford of Sutherland Springs, Texas. "A friend of ours, Charles Brock (of Talahina, Oklahoma) was using a pair," says Goostree, the 1979 Women's Professional Rodeo Association World Champion barrel racer. "I asked him about them and he said he really liked them, so I ordered a pair, too. They are very comfortable and good looking, and you don't lose them as easily." Goostree now owns three pair, and uses them in competition and at home.
"I feel like I don't need rubber bands," says Blandford, who saw a pair at Western Tack in Canton, Texas, and decided to order a pair for herself. "I run on the balls of my feet and they (Walls stirrups) help me keep my balance."
Since 1983, when Walls began making stirrups, he has made both cutting and reining stirrups for many different people. In 1997, Mike Mowery won the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity riding a pair of Walls' stirrups.
Since the aluminium he works with is hard to bend and shape, Walls bends, cuts and makes all his stirrups by hand. Even with the help of two part-time craftsmen, Devon Mize and John McMallan, each pair takes him over an hour to cut, grind and sand. He can customize the stirrups at his shop, located on his farm, with special hand engravings or designs as requested by his customers. All his work comes with a lifetime guarantee.
"I'm very lucky because I enjoy what I'm doing and I just want to make good stuff," he says. "All the other sports, like golf, have special equipment for the certain situations, so why shouldn't barrel racing?" Since he started making this special barrel racing stirrup, he has seen variations of his idea. Most are on stirrups made in China and not of very good quality, according to Walls.
Walls is currently expanding his stirrup line to include a roping stirrup. The special roping stirrup will also utilize a rubber pad on the tread. The pad, however, will not be as textured as the pad on the barrel racing stirrup. "Where they place their feet on that stirrup has a lot to do with how they ride," says Walls.
By Amy L. McDonald
Picture a hot summer day at any local saddle and bridle club show. It's a sea of horses swatting their tails at pesky flies, all waiting for their turn to perform. At a distant trailer stands a small horse with large, droopy ears. Wait, that's not a horse. It's a mule!
If you are at a Maury County Saddle and Bridle Club show, the mule - Scarlet ---- belongs to Brady Carr of Columbia, Tennessee. Carr is attending a weekend show, where he regularly runs barrels, poles and the flag race. Before you snicker and ask what in the world that mule is doing here, realize that she has beaten several horses to be the high- point winner for the season in barrels, poles and flag race for the club for 1999.
The story of Scarlet the barrel racing mule is actually one of convenience. Carr has two daughters that ride. A while back they decided they wanted to start barrel racing on the local club circuit. Carr acted as their riding instructor and helped them from the ground. He also started using Scarlet to demonstrate, instead of using one of the horses with the child-sized saddles his girls were using. During these father-daughter training sessions, Carr realized that Scarlet was learning. After encouragement from several friends, he decided it was time to try running her in competition.
In October 1997, Scarlet debuted as a barrel racing mule; she ran a 22 in barrels, which may not seem very fast. Carr, however, felt his excitement growing as the end of the class drew near and he found himself in first place! It seems that the other competitors became too overconfident that they could beat such a "non-threatening animal," and most knocked over barrels or ran slow times. Scarlet also placed third in pole bending at the same show.
"That's it. I'll quit while I'm ahead," Carr says he thought at the time. Carr heard comments like, "You have to come back so that we can beat you." Those remarks convinced him to come out again for the next show season.
Thirty-nine-year-old Carr says that other members of the saddle and bridle club really like it now when he does wrong or hits a barrel.
Originally from Madison County, Indiana, Carr grew up competing in 4-H speed events aboard his Quarter Horse. He got his first mule at 14, with the purpose of using it as a pack mule. The mule ended up being a nightmare and turned Carr off of mules for a few years. It was not until he made some friends from Arkansas and began packing with them in the Ozark Mountains that he became involved with mules again. At this time, he decided to try his hand at mule ownership once again and found Scarlet, which he purchased from Howard Carnathan of Tupelo, Mississippi, when she was only 2 years old.
"I bought her to take on hunting trips and trail riding at home," says Carr of the 15.3 hand, 1,050-pound chestnut mule for which he traded another mule and $700. "She has a good personality and you can catch her anywhere. She's also very calm and likes people. Some mules have a horse-type conformation, but she definitely doesn't."
Carr has tried to find other mules like Scarlet and has been through 10 since, but none have panned out to be the speed mule Scarlet is.
Currently Carr has two Quarter Horse mares that he has bred to jacks. He hopes to get mules with speed out of the cross and use them in competition. A mule is the offspring of a stallion donkey (jack) and horse mare. He says that mules have many advantages over their equine relatives. "They learn real quick and have great turns, although they are not as fast on the straight-aways. She (Scarlet) had the barrel pattern down in about 60 days and that was because I didn't work her very consistently," he says, adding that once mules have a cue or signal down, they don't forget, so the rider must remember to give the same one every time or the mule will not respond correctly.
Barrel racing has been good for the 7-year-old Scarlet, according to Carr, because it has made her handle better all-around; she understands leg pressure is used to move her around the barrel and when leg pressure is used on the trail, she reacts to it the same way.
"I've seen too many horses burned out. They need to work on the basics and have fun, even trail ride some," says Carr, noting his limited practice schedule on the pattern. Another reason for his short practice schedule is that for the past 10 years Carr has been the publisher of the Lumbermen's Equipment Digest, a direct buy-and-sell publication for forestry equipment. He is aided by his wife, Share All, who is the head accountant and "the glue that make the operation stick together."
Aside from her prowess as a barrel racer, Scarlet can also boast of western pleasure skills. Carr's 14-year-old daughter, Judith, placed first on Scarlet in the walk-trot pleasure class at the 1999 Mule Days Celebration in Columbia, Tennessee. Both she and 11-year-old Shifarrah are now running barrels, but their mounts are Quarter Horses.
Retiring Scarlet from her speed event career on a high note with her newly earned high-point titles, Carr says he will begin a new project. His goal is to train his two mule colts to continue on the road that Scarlett paved.
One thing is certain; Scarlet was an ambassador for the mule breed and is a contender that is calling attention to the merits of mules.
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