When I was junior and high school rodeoing, my Dad used to tell me “We’ll use what we have and we’ll do what we can.” This has really stuck with me.
We’ve never had the opportunity to buy finished rodeo horses. We’ve always bought prospects we thought looked athletic and sound, and worked to make them what they were.
My main horse in high school was Scamper, a big bay gelding my parents had bought when my Mom was pregnant with me. They bought him at an auction sale and when they saw him close up afterwards, they realized one of his front legs was crooked. They didn’t have much of a budget and they thought they’d really blown it.
My Dad broke him as a two year old and my Mom trained him in the barrel racing. When I started rodeoing in 6th grade, I trained him to run poles and goats. Later in high school, when I decided to step out of my comfort zone and run for rodeo queen, he was my go-to horse for that, too.
I remember one spring in high school I was really having hell. It seemed like so many girls were getting newer, faster, younger horses and I was still on old Scamper. I was getting whupped, weekend after weekend.
I was feeling really torn down after a particularly tough rodeo, and my Dad told me he wished he could afford to buy me better horses. He said, “Some girls’ daddies can buy them such nice horses… they’re beating you and it’s hurting me.”
I told him I didn’t wish for anything more than what we had; I loved my horse and was glad I had to work for it and experience some failure. No matter what, I knew Scamper was trying his tail off for me every run. I was so thankful for all the opportunity I’d been given and that my parents were supporting me every step of the way.
I was already working hard to do the best I could. But I decided to change my perspective.
I started feeling thankful for every run Scamper and I got to share because he wasn’t getting any younger and the long career he’d given me was a blessing. I really loved that horse with all my heart.
I always pet my horse on the way out of the arena after a run, but I really started to feel grateful for what he’d done for me.
I didn’t lose my competitive edge, I just really started to enjoy myself more. Some days we’d have a beautiful run and be right in there with all the fancy, expensive horses. And some days we’d be way off the pace. But all that mattered was that old horse and I were doing our best.
I used to have people tell me Scamper was such a great horse because he put his whole heart into every run we made, no matter what. I once had a friend tell me she stopped and watched every time it was my turn to run because she loved the partnership Scamper and I shared.
My senior year I applied for the NHSRA Equine Athlete of the Month competition. The application required an essay on the horse and the impact they’ve had on you. I had trouble narrowing my thoughts down to be under the word count limit, but finally got it done. Scamper won Equine Athlete of the Month and at the end of the season was the Reserve Equine Athlete of the Year on a national scale. He was awarded this honor after I’d made my final run on him that year. I cried the most bittersweet happy tears.
Today, I’m 22 and Scamper is 23. He’s the only horse left on my family’s place that has been around longer than I have. After my 7 year career in junior and high school rodeo, never missing a single one, he got a year off before my little sister Payton started running him. She’s in 8th grade and he hasn’t missed one of her rodeos either. I’m really proud of my little sister because at such a young age, she already has the perspective to be grateful for her partnership with Scamper and all he gives her. He still gives his absolute heart and soul every time they enter the arena, and she still gives him a big pet on the way out.
She’s using what she has and doing what she can.
And at the end of the day, I think that’s what this is all about.