Where are you from? I grew up on a small horse and cattle ranch in Grangemont, Idaho, which is located near Orofino, Idaho, in the panhandle between Lewiston, Idaho and Missoula, Montana
When did you start barrel racing? I was in first grade when I started getting interested in Barrel Racing. I wanted to be just like my big sister Bobbey Phillips, she was a barrel racer. Bobbey actually bought me my first horse, Coco, when I was 5.
When I was about 7, my folks bought the ranch in Idaho. We ran cattle with Jay Connors from Lewiston, Idaho. Jay’s daughter Pam was in 5th grade and she ran barrels and went to Jr. Rodeos. We spent a lot of time at Cow Camp that summer and we got our dads to set up 3 barrels in our hay meadow. Pam taught me the pattern and I started trotting Coco around the barrels.
I remember our neighbors’ kids, who lived about a mile away, would come over and we would stage these little playdays. There were seven of us, Robin & Nikki Fezatt, Cole, Darla and Tammy McPherson, Pam Connors and myself. We made our own awards and everything. My mom would give us some material and help us make ribbons for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. We would barrel race, have a trail class, bareback riding & jumping, pole bending and halter. My dad would set up the trail course and judge and time. He got a big kick out of us.
I think the first rodeo I actually entered was in Weippe, Idaho when I was about 13 or 14 years old.
Are you involved in any other equine events? I’ve done a little cutting and I practice team roping at home once in awhile. I hope to start roping more this year. I really enjoy it, I don’t put any pressure on myself when I rope, unlike barrel racing…;-)
Who or What got you started barrel racing? I think I pretty well covered that above! HA! I had a couple of pretty nice horses to run while I lived in Las Vegas. One was a mare I trained, the other was a big gelding that belonged to Kenny Strickland. Those horses where the first I had the confidence to compete on at a rodeo level. I really didn’t get serious about running barrels until I moved to Oklahoma.
On the road sometimes things happen do you have an usual or funny story? Geez…which story! My friend Mauri Langenberg and I haul a lot together…one thing that always seems to happen is we set a time to leave, we are always loaded up on time, but an hour later we are usually only about 20 miles from the house. We’ve been delayed by farmers, loose cattle, police officers, and bad gas. Every time this happens one of us usually wins a good check, however whatever held us up always ends up costing more. Three years ago (1st weekend in October) Mauri and I had made plans to attend a “Beauty and the Beast” (Bulls & Barrels) event in Perkins, OK. I was actually ahead of schedule so I picked Mauri up before I fueled up. While were getting fuel we were talking about the jackpot the evening before…you know barrel racer re-ride talk. I had stopped at the usual watering hole, but the pump I usually used was occupied so I had pulled around to the other side of the station. No big deal. Right? Wrong. The front tank was about half full so I topped it off, and then proceeded to fill the empty back tank.
I guess we were about 15 miles from the rodeo arena when my truck started running really rough…blowing yellow and green smoke and backfiring. Not a good sign when your driving a diesel! Anyway we limped onto the rodeo grounds and turned the dying truck off. We unloaded the horses and for some dumb reason I decided to try starting the truck…it backfired, scared the horses, who sat back on their lead ropes, broke loose and took off hell bent for leather. We eventually got them rounded up with no injuries incurred.
My first thought about our truck problem was I’d gotten some bad fuel. The “Water in Fuel” light hadn’t come on, but that was the only thing I could think of. (I’m don’t claim to be a mechanic!) Anyway I crawled under the truck and put a piece of newpaper under the fuel filter. Then I got under the hood and drained the fuel filter. When I checked the newspaper it didn’t smell quite right, but to be honest I don’t think I had ever done a sniff test to differentiate between the odors of diesel and gasoline. So, we decided to wait until our friends Clay and Meena Dalluge arrived, surely Clay would be able to solve the problem.
He was able all right…and he got a huge kick out of telling me I had put gas in my truck. I’m a typical woman…I’m rarely ever wrong or at least I never admit it! Well I was convinced the station where we bought fuel had unloaded gas in the diesel tank. I’ve been driving a diesel for over 15 years and had never made that mistake! Since there wasn’t much we could do we decided Mauri should call her neighbor to bring Mauri’s brand new Ford Powerstroke (just two days old) up to get us. We shrugged the whole thing off and hurried to get warmed up for the barrel race. While neither of our performances were stellar, we managed to win a little money, the highlight of the evening.
By the time they were turning off the arena lights, Mauri’s neighbor, Jan Ward, still hadn’t arrived. It was agreed she must have gotten lost. We decided Maurie would wait alone, in the dark, at the arena, with the pistol, and the cell phone ;-)… while Clay and Meena took me to Rosie Cooper’s (then in Stillwater) to get her truck…Rosie was out of town and wouldn’t mind. When I got back Mauri, the trailer and horses were gone…I hoped Janhad finally showed up. I drove about 95 all the way home trying to catch them, but never did. Of course I worried all the way…What If the Boogie Men had taken Mauri…the horses…and my trailer??? When I got home my horse had been put away. I called Mauri’s house. She was home, THANK GOD! But…Jan was late because she had wrecked Mauri’s new truck on the way to get us. She had made a wrong turn and in changing lanes to turn around she sideswiped another car.
But wait…it doesn’t end there! On the way home I had to check the pump where I filled up to confirm it was a diesel pump…it wasn’t. I now had to call my husband Pat, who was out of town, and tell him that I had most likely burned up the engine in our truck. I called him, expecting to get an ear full, he seemed to draw real enjoyment over my having to admit my error, so much so, the fact that the truck might be ruined seemed of far lesser importance. When I hung up I was even happy I had messed up…;-)
I was then faced with getting the truck home to our mechanic. I borrowed a flatbed gooseneck trailer from Darrel Kane, hooked up to it with Rosie’s truck and headed for Perkins. Clay and one of his friends met me at Perkins and we got my truck on the trailer. When we pulled out onto the highway and I started to accelerate Rosie’s truck started shaking like the wheels were going to fall off. WHAT NOW?
I pulled to the side of the road. Clay pulled in behind me and jumped out, I explained the shaking…he crawled under the front end and checked the tie-rod ends and then the lugs on the wheels…nothing appeared to be loose. We started out again…as long as I kept it under 40 mph everything was fine. That meant I couldn’t take the interstate home…which meant I’d have to take 177 all the to 39 and then over to Purcell and back up 74 home. The distance from Perkins to Goldsby is about 90 miles if you take the I-35. The trip ended up being closer to 150 miles down the state highways.
Oh, and did I mention the air conditioning quit in Rosie’s truck about 10 miles out of Perkins?
What was the name of your favorite horse and tell us a little about it. That’s tough…my business has been to start colts and sell them. Several of them have gone on to do quite well. The good ones identify themselves right off the bat. Hold It Black Bart (sold to Kim Landry), Spotem Scout (owned by Tierney Steinhoff), Mr. In Force (owned by Erin Wanner, Dickenson, ND), Portales Pick (sold to Donna Tippen, Whitesboro, TX), Disco For Me (owned by Amy Trotter, Grassy Butte, ND), Special Dozen Too (owned by Josh Lowe, Lyden, WA), Sixty Six Scram (owned by Shelly Crabtree, Lynden, WA), Fittstown Charlie (owned by Rosie Cooper, Tulsa, OK), and Policy Bugs (was owned by Chuck Butcher) are among a few of those “Good Ones”.
Mr. In Force and Fittstown Charlie are probably my two favorites…I got to ride them the longest and have a great friendship with the two young ladies who now own them. Of the two, I’d have to say Mr. In Force (a.k.a. Okie) would be the horse with most heart. Okie is one of those horse that if the trailer door is open and he can get to it he’s IN. He is a horse that truly loved his job!
Okie” is a by In Force, a son of Easy Jet, and out of a daughter of Bugs Alive In 75. I bought him for $800 from Chester Mishelik the spring of his 3 year old year. He is a real people horse and was my very first futurity prospect…I don’t remember what year it was, but we entered the Cleburne futurity, which was limited to horses that had not competed prior to it. We actually made the short round, we didn’t win any money but I was proud of him to make it back.
I ran Okie at some open rodeos and placed pretty frequently the next summer and then sold him to Dave and Jeanne Wanner, Dickinson, ND for their daughter Erin who was only about 11 years old at the time. Dave and Erin rode down with a friend of mine Chuck Butcher, who also lived in Dickinson. Chuck was coming down for the Heritage Place Winter Mixed Sale. I took Okie to the Purcell Expo for Erin to try him. He was sooo big and she was sooo little. But he worked perfectly and they were thrilled. Anyway when we hauled Okie to Heritage Place and put him in a stall, he wouldn’t let me out of the stall and of course I started crying. I felt bad for Erin because she was so little and I think I scared her…she was worried I wouldn’t sell him.
For the next couple of years he and Erin were practically undefeated.Then tragedy struck, Okie tried to walk the cattle guard to get to the Wanner’s house. He got hung up and made a mess of his left front ankle and pastern. The vet they went to recommended putting him down, saying he had broken his navicular bone and would never recover. When Dave called I begged them not to put him down without a second opinion. I called horse phychic Karen Noble and she predicted an 80% chance we would run barrels on him again. I know Dave thought I had lost my mind. Anyway, they overnighted the x-rays to Dr. Joe Noble in Oklahoma and he agreed the navicular bone had broken in half, but thought we might be able to save him. So I drove to North Dakota with specific instructions on how to prepare a soft stall for him, how to wrap both front legs and what their farrier would need to do.
It took a lot of TLC, which the Wanners gave in full supply,an effort that was well worth the trouble. Erin qualified for the High School National Finals two summers later and then went on to the College National Finals after that.
Erin is now working on her master’s degree and Okie is retired. Erin spent most of last summer with me in Oklahoma and she makes sure I get pictures of Okie all the time. I put them on the frig and eventually they go in my scrap book.
As for Fittstown Charlie…that’s an even longer story. I’ll just sum it by saying that I really love that horse! I talk to Rosie nearly every day and Charlie comes to visit regularly. I think Rosie really understands how much Charlie means to me.
What are some of the events that you have won (or races that stand out in your mind)? I’d have to say placing 3rd in the 1D in a round at the Speedhorse 4D’s in ’98 and ’99 on Fittstown Charlie was probably the sweetest. First because it was on a horse that I absolutely love and second because of all the hard work that went into organizing them. That made getting to ride all that much more enjoyable. It was also pretty great because the company was so tough!
Over the years have you noticed any changes in barrel racing what are the good or bad you’ve seen? 4D has been extremely good for barrel racing and for sale of barrel horses.
As for the bad…I don’t like to see the “win at all costs” attitude that is so often visible. This attitude perpetuates and even stimulates the use of illegal substances on the horses. It gives the impression that the horses are just an expendable vehicle…a means to an end. I think that is pretty sad.
What is do you think of an equal pay out 4d? I don’t care for it. I think there must be incentive for competitors to achieve a higher level of success, or at least ride to the best of their ability. More money at the top end certainly promotes that way of thinking. I also think that more money at the higher level encourages participation from the better horses and riders which adds prestige to an event. I still think the best horse deserves the biggest check.
One thing I’ve thought about for a couple of years now is this…results constantly show that the 1D is the smallest division…instead of doing 1/2, 1/2, 1/2 or 1/2, 1/2, 1 splits – why doesn’t someone do a 1, 1/2, 1/2 split. I’ve been to several barrel races where there were fewer horses who actually ran in the 1D than the number of places paid. Changing the 1D split to a full second would eliminate that scenario and insure all the places would be paid in that D. Just a thought.
Do you think of yourself as a professional barrel racer? I try to tell myself I still do this for fun! 😉 I’d say I’m involved in barrel racing in a professional manner, but I don’t make my living running barrels.
If your not a professional barrel racer what do you do for a living? I work for Speedhorse, which is a Quarter Horse Racing Publication. I write ad copy, do pedigrees, and coordinate their futurities. I compliment my income by selling a few barrel horses here and there and I put on a couple of horsemanship clinics a year.
Who is your favorite barrel racer or barrel racers? Since putting on the Speedhorse futurities I’ve had the opportunity to meet and even get to know so many wonderful barrel racers.
If I had to narrow it down to one or two things about some of my favorites I guess this would be it:
- I admire Kelly Yates and Kay Blandford for their ability to train young horses and ride at an NFR level, at the same time season after season…
- I admire Carol Goostree and Martha Wright for the regard they pay their horses…
- I admire Tammy Fontenot for her discipline and determination, for her comeback after a life threatening wreck at the race track…
- I admire Troy Crumrine for being the most amazing jump rider I have ever seen..
- I admire George Williamson for his patience and ability to fix almost any problem horse…
- I admire Tony Pitcock for his Grace and committement to the Lord…
- I admire Pat Hutter, Florence Youree and Sue Brown for their lifelong work for our sport…
I could go on and on…
Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out in barrel racing? Don’t ever stop listening and learning…Don’t ever think you know everything. Competing at the highest level is a constant work in progress. The barrel racers I know who maintain themselves and their horses at that level, are constantly doing their homework.
Do you think barrel racing should be limited to women only? At PRCA/WPRA rodeos yes, I think the heritage of the sport must be maintained at the rodeo level…women started barrel racing, women got barrel racing introduced into the rodeo arena, we deserve that much. Otherwise absolutely not. We are so far beyond being gender specific, that to even consider limiting barrel racing to “Women Only” anywhere else would be impossible. I can’t think of one reason why that would be a good idea.