Having previously hosted several barrel racing clinics in America, some with more than 1,500 attendees, the opportunity arose to take the concept to Australia. Saddle Up For Christ assembled a volunteer team of 16 people. Those clinicians included barrel racer and three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Tana Poppino, header and NFR qualifier Drew Horner, professional heeler and minister Trey Johnson, Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion Header Penny Conway, and Badlands Circuit Champion calf roper Dane Kissack.
The SUFC team hosted a free, two-day rodeo clinic serving Australian barrel racers, team ropers and calf ropers.
More than 100 Australian cowboys and cowgirls attended the clinic. Barrel racing clinician Tana Poppino was quickly embraced by the students for her fun sense of humor, kind teaching style and no-nonsense approach to the sport. Students of all ages and skill levels attended the clinic, and horses of all levels of experience were put through their paces. The students testified to the effectiveness of Poppino’s instruction through their smiles, laughs, and increasingly faster times.
In addition to hosting the clinic, the SUFC team visited the Barambah Rodeo Academy, a rodeo school for Aboriginal students, hosted a church service in Warwick’s city park, attended the Saturday night performance of the Australian Professional Rodeo Association Finals, and hosted a Sunday worship service at the APRA Finals.
The APRA Finals are held in the mountain town of Warwick, and it’s the largest, richest rodeo in Australia. The multi-day rodeo is paired with a large campdrafting event. Campdrafting, a fast-paced hybrid of cutting, reined cow horse and barrel racing, is the most popular equine sport in Australia. Traditionally performed on Australian Stock Horses, Quarter Horse bloodlines are slowly working their way into this exciting sport.
The Australian and American cowboys and cowgirls discovered they have much in common. They were delighted to find they all love their horses, thrive in the heat of competition, and enjoy the gypsy weekends of hauling to rodeos hundreds of miles—or kilometers—away.
The cowboys and cowgirls also took away a new perspective and a greater appreciation for the sport. Poppino was forever impacted by the people of Australia.
“We took a wonderful team of people Downunder to meet many other wonderful people. I fell in love with the Aussies and the rest of the Saddle Up For Christ team. It’s really humbling when God lets you be part of His work,” Poppino said.
Below is a Q&A with Australian barrel racer Tarni Boyce. She attended both days of the SUFC clinic, and she shares her thoughts on faith, family and barrel racing.
Q&A with Australian Barrel Racer Tarni Boyce
How would you describe your experience at the Saddle Up For Christ clinic in Toowoomba?
My experience at the Toowoomba clinic in one word was awesome. I came to the clinic not knowing what to expect. Soon after arriving, I knew we were in for something special. It was by far the most uplifting, motivating, empowering weekend I have ever spent. It certainly has had a huge impact not only on my barrel racing, but on my life in general.
Have you attended many barrel racing clinics?
I have attended a handful of barrel racing clinics with Australian clinicians and one other clinic with a barrel racer from the USA.
Your husband, son and daughter also attended the clinic. What did they think of the weekend?
They enjoyed the clinic immensely. My daughter loved the crafts and making friends with Lindsay and Hannah [of Element Christ Riders]. My husband and son loved the roping and meeting the guys. We all enjoyed Trey’s church service and hearing God’s word.
How actively are you rodeoing in Australia?
I rodeoed a lot many years ago, but then we branched out into cutting and campdrafting for a number of years. In the last five years, I have returned to barrel racing, which I have always loved. My son is also getting into roping, so we plan to do more rodeoing next year…I can’t wait.
Are horses an important part of your family’s life?
Horses have always been a part of my life. I grew up on a sheep and cattle station in western Queensland (in the Outback), so learned to ride at an early age. We used horses to muster the stock, and I attended Pony Club. I went to boarding school when I was 11 years old and became involved in dressage and show jumping. After I finished school, I went back to work on our station and started campdrafting. I began barrel racing when I met my husband, who was riding bulls at the time, and was a retired racing jockey. My husband retired from rodeo and began training cutting and campdraft horses, and I followed suit. Now we’ve turned full circle, as I’m barrel racing again and my family is learning to rope. We breed and train all our own horses, so it’s safe to say horses play a huge part in our lives. I ride pretty much every day.
How would you describe the Australian rodeo community? How is it changing?
The Australian rodeo community is a close-knit bunch. It seems to be more family orientated than I remembered with more junior rodeos, high school rodeo programs, etc.
What do you want see for the future of rodeo in Australia?
I hope that it continues to get bigger and better. I would like to see more professional rodeos with increasing professionalism, more prize money, larger sponsorships for competitors, and a bigger profile in general.
Any other thoughts you’d like to include?
I would like to thank the Saddle Up For Christ team for giving their time and sharing their stories. It has really enriched the lives of our family and our relationship with God.
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