When did you start barrel racing? Approximately 1972.
Who or What got you started barrel racing? I had shown horses when I lived in Oklahoma City and got sick of the politics involved with that. An event where you competed with only a clock who didn’t know who you were or what kind of trailer you pulled ,etc. looked very attractive. I liked the concept of the best horse winning (not the one that belonged to the “right” person or the one shown by the “right” trainer!) and the fact that anyone could win at it if they worked hard enough.
What was the name of your favorite horse and tell us a little about it. Of course, my favorite horse would have to be my best buddy and traveling partner, “Smashed at Six”, better known as “Smash”. He is a 12 yr old AQHA gelding by Easily Smashed and out of a daughter of Streakin Six. He came to me by a trade when he was a long 3 year old and was somewhat of an outlaw. He had been started on barrels by Jim Warner, but after returning home decided to start bucking off his owners. I didn’t like him at all when I first got him and tried to sell him for $2500 for a year, just to get my money out of the trade (at that I was losing $1000!). But nobody wanted a plain sorrel that would turn barrels sometimes and run off other times. I had so much money in him by the next year that I decided I was just going to have to turn him into a winner, because I couldn’t get rid of him.
That year he made a few runs (in between run-offs) that made me think he might live up to his breeding and suddenly, I didn’t want to sell him! By the time he was 6, I was winning some open rodeos and thinking maybe I hadn’t made such a bad trade!! Especially since I’d also had several offers much higher than what I originally wanted for him! Needless to say, the price had gone up! (hehe) His 7th year was my long gone dreams come true. I had always wanted to qualify for the IFR, but always felt I didn’t have the horse to do it with and felt I was getting too old to try. Smash changed all that. In 1997, I bought my IPRA card in April (4 months after the season started) and qualified for the IFR in only 4 months (while I was out of school for the summer). That same year I won Rookie of the Year and Drysdales. Smash placed in 60% of the rodeos I entered and placed in the top 3 in 90% of those!!! I set 4 arena records and won around $20,000. I ended up 7th in the final standings of the IPRA and made Equi-Stat’s top 100 riders for 1997. What a high!!! I was kind of dreading the next year because I figured I couldn’t top that, but in 1998, Smash just got better. He won Barrel Mania 1D champ, placed in the 1D at Drysdales, qualified for the IFR again and won a go round at the finals and ending winning about $40,000 total that year and I once again made the top 100 riders. In 1999, I was trying to qualify for my 3rd IFR and was hauling hard. Smash’s performance started going down and I missed making the finals by $200.
It never occurred to me that he might be hurt because he never limped, never refused the pen or did anything to tip me off. I continued hauling him and he valiantly kept bringing in checks, but he was running ever slower. In 2000, my mother became ill and passed away, so I didn’t haul him much and he didn’t do too well when I did. Finally, by 2001, I knew something was wrong. I’ve had him to every good vet that’s been recommended to me (plus acupuncturists, chiropractors, psychics, etc.) No one seems to be able to help him. He’s been injected, blistered, massaged, fed special potions, etc. all to no avail. I turned him out for a year and got him back up recently. He still has trouble turning (he runs fine straight) so he has just been turned out and will be left there for the time being. I may try him again next spring, but as of right now, I’m considering his career over and am working on a 5 yr old that is bred a whole lot like him.
I really miss my traveling partner, but I am so grateful to the Lord for giving me the opportunity to own him. He allowed me to attain goals that I had already written off and as long as I live he will be the standard I compare all my other horses to. In all the months he was running injured (because of his ignorant owner), he never failed to give me everything he had. He has a heart the size of Texas and as you can tell, I love him dearly.
What are some of the events that you have won (or races that stand out in your mind)? Winning 2 goes and placing in the third and ending up 1D Champion at the Drysdale’s NBHA Super Series in Tulsa in 1997, winning Rookie of the Year in the IPRA in 1997 (at the age of 45!!) and qualifying for IFR’s 28 and 29, DEFINITELY winning the 3rd go round at IFR 29, Barrel Mania in Memphis, Tennessee in 1998 where I placed 2nd the 1st go round and won the next 2 go rounds, setting an arena record on the 3rd go round and ending up 1D champ and all around high money winner.
Over the years have you noticed any changes in barrel racing what are the good or bad you’ve seen? I think barrel racing has become much more technical and much more competitive with the advent of camcorders. Thirty years ago there might be one really awesome horse and everyone else was running for 2nd and 3rd. Now almost anywhere you go, there’s tons of awesome horses and you better have one and know how to ride him if you want to take home 1D money. I think the “D” format is the biggest change I’ve seen and I think it has really expanded the barrel racing industry. A lot of girls had quit running barrels in the 80’s because they thought they couldn’t compete with the “big guns”, but with the advent of the “D” barrel racings, they are coming back because they realize they no longer have to compete with the “big guns” to win some money and prizes. Also, I observed quite a bit of cheating in the novice classes and the “D”s have done away with all that. Whether your horse has won money or not, he runs with the horses he is competitive with and I think that has really helped barrel racing. That is the biggest single change I’ve observed and it is definitely for the better. Plus, everyone gets to run for a lot more prize money than they used to and there are just more barrel races overall because they draw the entries. One bad change (I think) is the equal pay in the “D”s. Even when I’m not riding a 1D horse, I don’t think I should win as much as the horse that ran the fastest. If I do, where is the incentive to improve?? I guess being a schoolteacher makes me very adamant about rewarding excellence and let me tell you, it’s not because I always have a 1D horse; because I’ve only had one true 1D horse in my lifetime (out of hundreds of horses I’ve owned) and let me tell you, they deserve more because they run their guts out every single time you ask them and that’s why they are 1D. I’ve heard all the arguments about paying the same entry fee, etc. but I feel like if you are the best, you should be compensated as the best, not the same as everyone else.
Do you think of yourself as a professional barrel racer? I would love to be able to make a living from barrel racing—I belong to the IPRA and made the finals in ’98 and ’99, but most of the time school teaching pays the bills! I teach 7th and 8th grade at Crowder Public School in Crowder, Oklahoma and after this year I will have 30 years of service (all 30 years have been at Crowder). I plan on retiring in May so I will HAVE to start making my living from barrel racing then! I teach Science, English, Reading and Spanish.
Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out in barrel racing? The #1 thing I think any beginner needs to do is to buy a horse that already knows what it’s doing. You may think it’s too much money, but believe me, by the time you pay trainers, entry fees, feed, vet bills, etc., that cheap prospect ends up costing more than the finished horse and it takes a long time (if ever) to recoup your expenses. With all the advances in veterinary help for performance horses, older horses that are finished and ready to go are the much better investment for the beginner. They can teach you and then after YOU become seasoned, you can go on to a prospect with a much better chance of success. It’s really easy to get discouraged in this industry and it’s even easier with a young, inconsistent horse. Experience is well worth the price.
Do you think barrel racing should be limited to women only? I don’t think ANYTHING should be limited to either sex–I always thought I could do anything I wanted and I resented anyone telling me I couldn’t. I’m sure men feel the same way. I don’t think sex has anything to do with it–you’re either a tough barrel racer or you’re not–and I don’t feel threatened by barrel racers of either sex. I think if we start limiting things to “women only” we’re just as bad as the men who have tried to oppress women through the centuries. I do think the farther west you go, the less you encounter men barrel racing, but that doesn’t mean they oppose it; it just means it’s not as common. When I was selling blue heeler dogs in the early ’80’s, I had a man call me from Kentucky about pups. I wasn’t there and my mother told him I was gone barrel racing. He asked if I was a woman and she said “Yes”. He was flabbergasted, to say the least. He said that in Kentucky barrel racing was considered too dangerous for women and they mostly did western pleasure and things like that and that the men were the only ones who ran barrels!!! When he came to buy the dog, he made it a point to go to a barrel race with me so he could actually see women run barrels! Of course, in Oklahoma, where I live, it’s strange to see a man run barrels. So you see, it’s only relative to your point of view!
I want to thank all of you for letting me share my story. Good luck in all your races and leave ’em standing!! Hope to see you all down the road! 🙂
Click here to view some of the events Diane has won money in.