I’m so very proud of the young members of our Team Woof Pack. When you have children like 8-year-old Hailey Haas that saves up her winnings to donate $2,000 to K9s4COPs and K9s4Kids it restores your faith in humankind. These kids are learning early on the joys of giving and benefiting the greater good.
It seemed only fitting to reward their hard work by offering them a premier event of their own. This November 21-23 in Bryan, Texas, Schiller Ranch will host the inaugural running of the Diamonds & Dirt Youth Barrel Horse Classic, benefiting K9s4KIDs. The event, which includes both barrel racing and pole bending, is open to contestants ages 19 and under.
I can guarantee you that this will be the finest assortment of dedicated and talented young riders from across the country as well as the greatest collection of finely-tuned, bomb-proof equine babysitters on the planet!
Children growing up with horses is something near and dear to my heart. I grew up with horses and competed in youth rodeos. I treasured my first real barrel horse Adios King. He taught me how to win and lose, and that beauty truly is more than skin deep, because the only thing beautiful about King was how he me feel. He was my King and when I lost him, I attempted to hold on to him forever. I called up the taxidermist to have my fine equine specimen stuffed only to be foiled by the words, “Does your Daddy know about this?”
Horses can teach our children so much more than tradition sports. Your teammate has no voice so you learn the value of no-verbal communication. You learn trust—you trust a 1,000 pound animal with a mind of its own to do what it’s trained to do. That in turn breeds empowerment, especially to our young women. It’s difficult for anyone that has straddled a horse and charged into competition not to feel some since of empowerment.
I truly enjoy seeing children gain confidence through horses. I’m continually amazed at my daughter Sinclair, who has become braver, bolder, faster with each race. The wins are great but it’s the sense of accomplishment—conquering a fear, doing what you’ve never done before that carries over to outside the arena.
I watched this not only with Sinclair, but with other children in our circle. I have a special place in my heart for the “Kings” I’ve been able to purchase Sinclair. These masterful ponies and horses are beyond priceless and their patience is simply immeasurable.
Many of these equine veterans are long in the tooth—if they have any left at all—and are long beyond their glory days but they still enjoy their jobs and have so much more to give. They’ve taken care of my daughter and I’ve promised them a lush life for the rest of their days.
But not all of them are content in the pasture. It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t enjoy the rest and relaxation of their twilight years, but they crave the chaos and their doting young riders.
I have several horse and ponies that have raised many of my friend’s children, serving as equine steps on the ladder to horsemanship success. I refer to my stable of babysitters and set-up horses as the lending library. Take it, learn from it, bring back in the condition you borrowed it and check out another when you’re ready.
Even the best movies get old when you watch them over and over, but watching these horses raising riders never gets old–from that trepidatious first lope to the giggles on their first “real run home.” They take bobble headed riders and turn them in to confident, focused individuals all the while giving them the rides of their young lives. They know when to walk, when to run—when to push, when to wait. Funny how the kid’s on their backs figure that out too…
I’m simply OVER THE MOON that my daughter Sinclair has a full blown love affair with horses and barrel racing. My little 40 pound jockey has gone from trying to find a D in the alphabet this past spring to running in the 1D Labor Day weekend—in the OPEN! AGAINST ADULTS!
At Diamonds & Dirt™ this past March, she trotted and baby loped a blistering 46-second pattern on her steadfast mare Rosie. I SWEAR I’m having this mare cloned. She is a SAINT!
Later this spring we ventured off into pee wee rodeos. We did our first series at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead. Next thing I knew she was loping home from a broken pattern with her head thrown back and a smile on her face.
She was having fun; bottom line that’s why we do this. But, just how far will she take it?
We moved on to the next series—Little Britches in Field Store. Sinclair got to experience her first all-night rodeo, but never weakened, even when we finished at 3 a.m. She was getting faster and had moved up to Butter, a speed-demon pony that came from the family of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier and former IPRA World Champion Jane Melby.
Butter was no softy though. He was testy to say the least, but she stayed hooked. She earned her first open checks with her plush Palomino pony.
Her confidence was growing in leaps and bounds. Was she ready for her first REAL barrel horse?
Sinclair’s next big test was the Ogden 8 & Under World Championships in Andrews, Texas. This was no backyard goat-roping, these young riders came to play with some serious horsepower. One of the horses we ran against was Mystic Angela, a former NFR record holder!
She ran Butter and Homie, a great gray gelding that is a solid campaigner that had carried my friend Shanna Brown’s daughter at Hempstead earlier this spring. The next thing I knew it was bye, bye Butter. I HAD NO IDEA that Homie would be next to go.
Once Sinclair saw other kids her age competing at such a high level, her competitive nature took over. (I have no idea where she got that from!) She went and spent two weeks with Jackie Ganter, one of the toughest youth barrel racers around and proud member of Team Woof Pack, a group of talented young riders who donate a portion of their earnings to K9s4COPs.
She saw how much work Jackie puts into her horses. After hanging out with Jackie, all she’s wanted to do is learn how to run barrels. The kid lives with LaTricia Duke, for heaven’s sake–all she had to do was walk to the barn to learn from the best of the best, but seeing how much work another kid put into it made her want to do it.
She went from having someone else booting her horses before and after a run to taking care of that herself. Of course, a good pile of dirt still calls to from time to time, but she’s learning her horses have to come first.
That dedication earned her a new mount—Little Bit. Professionally known as APHA World Champion Sugs Calico Dreamer, the Paint gelding was one of LaTricia’s first superstars. She knew he would be perfect for Sinclair. He’d do his job, but take care of his rider.
Little Bit and Sinclair ran in the 1D at the very tough Jurassic Classic over Labor Day Weekend, and she won the 1D Youth!
When you look at her 40 pounds and see the determination of driving this 1,100 pound amazing animal at top speed, you just sit and watch them in awe. Doodle, I’m so PROUD of YOU!