Jan VanOrnum

Where are you from? I am originally from Odessa, Texas

When did you start barrel racing? I started barrel racing when I was about 5 years old. Are you involved in any other equine events? Used to ride open jumpers, and all around with pleasure, halter, and games. Qualified for district 4-h in barrels and poles. Qualified for the Madison Square Garden in Open jumper championship when I was 13 years old. Moved back to Texas instead. Have qualified to go to the Palomino World Show in both Western and English pleasure. Besides barrel racing now, I am learning how to team rope and training colts for all around.

Who or What got you started barrel racing? My “hero” was and still is Martha Josey. Started reading her books when I was young. Barrel racing was a part of life in West Texas.

On the road sometimes things happen do you have an usual or funny story? When I was young, my family in I went to a horse school in California. All of us were in different classes. I was so little that when I rode into the intermediate class they asked me if I wasn’t in the wrong class. Very seriously I looked at the instructor and told him, no because my mother was in the beginner class. They all got a kick out of that, and yes I stayed in the intermediate class the only child (9 years old) with the rest being adults.

What was the name of your favorite horse and tell us a little about it. I have had several special horses, however just in the last couple of years I had the privilege of riding a tri-color paint named Shaker. He was a team roping horse and had been an outlaw all of his life. He belonged at that time to my boyfriend, now husband.

No one believed he would make a barrel horse. We worked together and I gained his trust. He had never been pampered, or loved on. He learned to enjoy that and when he started barrels, we discovered he had a real talent. He started winning in the 3 and 4d within thirty days.

He took me to State, NBHA, his first year and placed me in the top five in the 4d. There were over 600 horses competing.

Two years ago on my wedding anniversary, we went out to the barn and he did not come up to greet me as usual. We found him in the back of the pasture with an extremely swollen eye where he had been thrashing the vet believed for approximately 12 hours. He walked up to me and put his head on my chest. We took him to the vet as he was definitely colicing.

His lab values were such that any horse with less heart than Shaker would have been down or died earlier. He was on his feet and standing strong.

We found that he had twisted an intestine and made the hard decision to put him down. I loaded him in the trailer and he bumped my chest to say good bye and we sent him to heaven where there is no more pain.

Shaker always gave me a 110% in everything we did and gave back to me the love that I gave him. There will never be another Shaker for me even though I have good horses now they just don’t quite measure up to him.

What are some of the events that you have won (or races that stand out in your mind)? Placing at State, and then winning 2 saddles with my NBHA district 30 that same year.  Shaker had put me in the lead then after losing him I went to riding green horses to compete. He had put me there, and my colts managed to hold the lead for me.

The other special time, was qualifying for the Madison Square Garden Open Jumping Championship when I was 13 on a horse that was a double bred King horse that was originally a reining and barrel horse. He was only 14 hands tall and jumped 6 and 7 foot fences.

Over the years have you noticed any changes in barrel racing what are the good or bad you’ve seen? I like the 4D format, because it does give green riders and horses a chance, although you are very dependent on the winning horse so it is always a gamble. I believe the people in the barrel racing world are very special. They help each other and cheer each other on. You just don’t see that in other equine events.

What is do you think of an equal pay out 4d? I believe that there should be equal payout, as I just don’t believe it is fair if you place in a different D that you should receive less money. You have ridden and worked just as hard as you 1D winners. I believe you will see a lot more people enter up if the payouts are equal.

Do you think of yourself as a professional barrel racer? No, I do train on the side but that is not how I make my living. I always say I work to support my barrel racing. I also like to work with young children and teach them horsemanship and watch them develop and grow into strong competitors.

If your not a professional barrel racer what do you do for a living? I am a RN, Branch Supervisor for a Medical Case Management Company.

Who is your favorite barrel racer or barrel racers? My favorite barrel racer is Martha Josey and has been for many years.

Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out in barrel racing? Take your time, start slow and do lots of slow work. Become a team with your horse. Both you and the animal are what makes winners. Do not get discourage as it takes a lot of riding and practice to become winners. Always believe and yourself and give 110% and you will become winners.

Do you think barrel racing should be limited to women only? No, Just like any equine sport I believe men and women should be able to compete if they so choose. I have seen and met a lot of men that ride and train some excellent barrel horses.