Trainer Caroline Boucher was thrust into the spotlight with the 2020 Pink Buckle Futurity Championship, but the Canadian horsewoman has been working tirelessly for decades to build that dream.
Caroline Boucher has worked 30 years for a victory the magnitude of the 2020 Pink Buckle Futurity Championship. Aboard KN Snap Back, Caroline earned the biggest win of her life October 9–11, 2020, at the fourth annual event in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
“I’m feeling blessed— it can be a life change as a person but as a trainer, too. I [have] been barrel racing for 30 years, and it’s of course my biggest victory,” said the native French speaker of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Caroline has ridden and trained many talented horses in her career, including some for National Finals Rodeo qualifier Tiany Schuster and National Barrel Horse Association champion Edwin Cameron, and things finally came together at the right time on the big stage with KN Snap Back. The mare earned a total $111,732 at the Pink Buckle, and Boucher won $119,505 as a rider, making them the 2020 event’s Highest-Earning Horse and Highest-Earning Rider.
“Integrity is important, and we are making plans and dream all together,” Boucher said.
Keeping the Dream Alive
Caroline always kept the embers on the backburner alive for her dream of making a living with horses. She held a successful career in the printing industry for 17 years but always trained her own horses and gave lessons and clinics on the side. Though she had many requests to take on outside horses, she was too afraid to leave her steady income behind and take the plunge into training horses full time.
In 2014, everything changed for the Boucher family in the form of a tragic accident.
“My husband Olivier had a big accident in a rodeo and left him paraplegic and on rehab center for few months, and he never been able to return to his normal life as a construction worker anymore,” Caroline said. “He can work for two to three hours in a row but then need to rest for few hours. He still not feeling all his legs, but he could walk. In 2015, we bought a ranch and named it Ranch Rebel, because it can let Olivier work when he can and rest when he needed to, and it turns crazy—we had so many requests, so we had to hire employees and I quit the printing and I’m training horses full time since.”
Now living their dream at Ranch Rebel only 10 minutes from downtown Montreal, Caroline and Olivier board 38 horses while Caroline keeps 10-15 in training at a time and employs a full-time colt starter to help her ride and train. They spend six to seven months a year at the ranch in Canada and live on the road traveling to futurities in the United States the rest of the year.
Caroline didn’t come from a background in the horse industry but has always looked up to the true horsemen and pioneers of the sport.
“‘Running to Win’ with Martha Josey was one of my first influence. She was in advance for her horsemanship and the importance of horse mental health, and when she explained she was so calm—it works for me when I was young,” Caroline said. “Then I [watched the very] best trainers train, and I learn from looking and on my classic background.”
She says her foundation of proper riding and a lifetime of dedication to improving her horsemanship helped form her feel for correctness, footwork and soundness on a barrel horse.
“I had a good coach; this is where I learn of feeling my horses and always feeling and understanding how sometime it was feeling good and sometime not,” Caroline said. “It’s important to know each part of your horse, where it is. This is something I work a lot on our students, to feel your horse. I always liked light-handed trainer having calm and happy horses.”
Just as Caroline advocates for a strong rider foundation, she carries that same philosophy into her horses. She believes a horse with a good foundation will find success, no matter what level at which it is capable of competing.
“I really believe giving strong foundations on horses and keep them listening and paying attention to the rider are most important, because not all will make top 1D horses but if they are well mannered, good foundations, they can have a great life and give good runs and experiences and happiness to someone else,” Caroline said. “I believe it’s the basics that are important—you can build the biggest and luxury house, but without foundation it will fall apart at the first storm.”
Caroline also adjusts her riding and training to let her horses work naturally rather than force them into a certain mold. She says allowing a natural headset and way of going keeps horses relaxed and willing yet still able to execute her basic checklist of skills she requires of a barrel horse.
“I like horse that are not pushy in rider’s hand, if rider is not harsh to his mouth either,” Caroline said. “I don’t believe all horses need to have head collected perfectly all the time. Some just don’t work being like that; they need to work more naturally. Some [are] low headed and some high headed, but they need to follow their nose, work [in four-wheel drive], balanced, light mouthed, never pushy, and strong forward [from] their hindquarters’ motor.”
Her expertise and years of hard work have helped change the lives of riders and horses in all levels of the industry, and a spotlight victory like the Pink Buckle has been a longtime coming for Caroline. She says it’s a team effort and encourages other riders to follow their dreams, too, because it just might work out.
“My husband Olivier that is even crazy than me, always ready to do something new and always cheer me loud and shake me smooth when I need that. Our team at Ranch Rebel is awesome, dedicated for the horses; we are blessed to have a team like that,” Caroline said. “I always say since years to everyone around me and want to share with everyone, keep your dreams alive. It can happen to you as well!”
This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue of Barrel Horse News as part of our Pink Buckle Barrel Race coverage. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.