Julie Carter

Welcome to the West as I see it

Within these pages, you will find the end result of a lot of living and laughing, finally put between book covers to share with the world. A laugh is never a better laugh than when it can be shared and shared again.

I hope you choose to own a copy of my book, Cowgirl Sass and Savvy. It is a selection of some of the first stories individually published in a syndicated column by the same name that I have written weekly since 2002. They offer you a peek into ranch and cowboy life that isn't what you see as you drive by or what you read in the glossy slick magazines selling cowboy clothes, furniture and adventures.

And most of all, I hope the stories bring you, at the very least, a smile and a good laugh. No better gift could I offer you.

I also offer you a glimpse of this rural area as I see it through my camera lens. Shop the Mercantile page for posters that I have combined my photography with words I have written. Also there are calendars showcasing some of my favorite photos from this year. A link to my landscape photography website will let you browse through what I see when I travel down the dirt roads of the West.

Julie's Weblog

April 28, 2008

Barrel Racers – the arena darlings

Filed under: General — Julie Carter @ 5:20 am

By Julie Carter
A horse race of a different kind. That’s barrel racing.
The event that was once open only to the ladies has found its own place in the major leagues beyond rodeo in co-ed futurities and other series events.

Through the ages, barrel racing, the clover-leaf pattern around three barrels, was heralded as the “beauty event” of rodeo.

While indeed the competitors represent the prettier side of the sport, they are no less committed to their event than those that pay big-buck entry fees to throw their rope in the dirt or have their head stuck in the same by a bull or bronc.

What appears to be hard-lined independence in these women is actually, more accurately, necessary capability. It takes a fair measure of intimidating grit to maintain the pace to keep self, horse and rodeo rig ready for the road.

While young boys were riding stick horses and wearing pot-metal pistols planning to be the Lone Ranger, girls in braces and braids dreamed of being a barrel racer. That included pretty clothes, fast horses and a cheering crowd as she raced through her pattern, riding hard to be the champion.

That dream grew to the reality that included a drained checking account, a four-legged sorrel standing in the corral eating a hole in her wallet with feed bills, vet bills and assorted expenses such as tack, a horseshoer and, of course, entry fees.

It has never been a secret to any barrel racer that barrel horses plot 24/7 to find a way to ruin your day. Winning the world in the practice pen on Friday can become dashed hopes the next day when that prize equine comes completely untrained at the rodeo.

When the champ runs by the first barrel like he doesn’t see it, all there is left to do is begin with the rodeo queen wave as you loop the arena before making an exit out the gate.

Even though it is a highly frustrating sport because so much of the ability lies with the horse, barrel racing has done nothing but grow in numbers and popularity.

That happened in great proportions when a place for them to compete as a stand-alone sport was created. Barrel racers have never had the reputation of playing well with others.

Veterinarians and farriers are privy to the most demanding side of “can chasers.” Vets will attest to the need for a degree in equine pediatrics as there isn’t a horse in the world that gets babied more than barrel horse.

Paranoia lives at the same address as every barrel racer. She can spot a limp, a cough, a twitch or a belly rumble in her horse before it even happens. And she lives in constant fear it will – just before she’s supposed to be at a “big one” 500 miles away.

Ask any shoer who has put iron on a barrel horse how much “retraining” he received from the owner. When things go wrong in the arena, the shoer is at top of the list to get the blame, and the first phone call.

Every barrel racer carries with her on the road a complete veterinary pharmacy to ward off any possible ache, pain or ailment in her steed.

To find where she parked at the rodeo, one needs only to smell the air for a whiff of an assortment of liniments and secret concoctions surely cooked up in a cauldron.

On a more serious side, decades ago, Chris LeDoux recorded a song about barrel racers called “Round and round she goes.” In it he said, “Silver buckle dreams don’t leave time for standing still.”

The chorus summed up the spinning world of a down-the-road barrel racer.

Round and round and round she goes
Where she stops nobody knows.
The miles are getting’ longer,
The nights they never end.
Old rodeos and livestock shows
Keep the lady on the go.
Lord, she loves to run those barrels,
And it’s the only life she knows.

There isn’t a die-hard can chaser anywhere that doesn’t identify with the truth in the song, or with the final lines:

As she drove into the morning
It slowly dawned on me
How hard it is to tell a dream goodbye.

And so it is.
 Julie is a recovering can-chaser in a 12-step program.

1 Comment

  1. As I read your article, oh how the memories fly by in my mind. I too am one of those people who are going through the 12 step program. Retiring from a sport you love and have done all of your life is like loosing a child. I was first a world champion breakaway calf roper, winning the high school finals in 1969 in San Antonio, Texas and then again in college at the NIRA finals in Bozeman, Montana in 1974, but through all of those years of always winning the roping my heart was set on winning the barrels. I had one horse in college that I won several barrel races on and when I finished college and was finaly going to get the chance to just haul and run barrels he colics and dies. Well, back then that was way before organizations like CPRA and others and they just didn’t have any ropings for women so you had to run barrels or not rodeo. Well, I was not blessed with living on a ranch and having the pick of colts to choose from. I had to buy a colt and start from scratch and go through all of those phases of… run and not turn, ,turn and not run,run down the fence, not run at all, not go in the alley and well, you know the story. Whenever I did get a promising young thing somebody usually talked me out of it and I would sell and start all over again. So here I sit at 57 with another 3 year old starting all over again, but this time I have decided it’s time to let go and try a new event, because the barrel racing thing is just too expensive these days and well lets face it I am not 23 anymore and the balance and the bravery have gone. So my new event is the Competetive Trail Challenge. I have found that is a good event for an old lady, at least down here in Texas. It’s go at your own pace, see some pretty ranches and as you ride you are judged. What more can you ask for. I am excited that my new little horse can do all of the things kinda like Craig’s Extreme Cowboy Race (which one day I would love to compete in),but it has been fun training her and fun going to these little contests. The costs and expenses aren’t near the price of rodeoing and you meet alot of other old people who still want to ride just at a slower pace.I look forward to going at least once a month to these little functions and so far that seems to be easing the desire to hit the road running barrels.However she does know the pattern , because just in case I hit the lotto one day that oportunity and dream is still in the back of my mind.
    Thanks for letting me vent,
    Cindy Galow Lafferty
    Katy, Texas

    Comment by CIndy Lafferty — August 24, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

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