By Jolee Lautaret-Jordan
Rachel Hendrix had a short list of dreams. Like so many other young cowgirls, qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) was one of them. So was making the cover of the Barrel Horse News.
Gone but never forgotten, Rachel Hendrix, riding her beloved Blaze Ta Fame at the 2011 NBHA Super Show in Las Vegas.
By all accounts, Rachel had every chance in the world to make those dreams come true. She was dedicated and determined, two traits that would serve well on the rodeo road. She also had a tremendous equine partner, the super fast sorrel gelding, Blazin Ta Fame, by Blazin Jetolena out of the Dash Ta Fame mare, Princess Dasher. A 2005 model, “Blaze” came to the Hendrix family when he was just a yearling and Rachel only 11.
“I’m an accountant so I’m a Type A planner,” says Annette Hendrix, Rachel’s mom. “I was thinking ahead, you know, the horse will be this old when she’s in high school and then she’ll probably want to go pro rodeo. So we got Blaze and that was the plan.”
The plan was derailed between Rachel’s freshman and sophomore years of high school. Her good horse, Johnny, was injured and had to be put down, leaving the young cowgirl afoot. Blaze was called to duty much sooner than planned; the 5-year-old had been doing time onlies but had never been competed on when Rachel and her dad, Clay, headed out to his first high school rodeo.
“My husband called me and said, ‘What the heck? How many times has this horse seen the barrels? I don’t think he even knows the barrel pattern,’” Hendrix chuckles at the memory. “He hadn’t been to a rodeo where he couldn’t go walk the pattern and trot the pattern before he ran. He wasn’t finished and hadn’t been hauled.”
Facing high school rodeo with green horses (her pole horse was young, as well), Rachel had her work cut out for her.
“She had a lot of tears and a lot of frustration,” admits Hendrix. “We started getting to the rodeos early so Rachel could take Blaze and ride him quietly around the perimeter of the arena so he could see the banners. She would do whatever it took.”
The proud mother is quick to point out that Rachel did all the riding on her horses in high school.
“I grew up surfing in Huntington Beach,” says Hendrix. “I wasn’t a barrel racing mom. Vickie [Carter] was her barrel racing mom and Danyelle [Campbell] was her barrel racing mom. Rachel didn’t have someone who could get on and school her horses for her; I couldn’t do it. She had to do it all on her own.”
The hours of hard work soon paid off. By her junior year, Rachel and Blaze, still just 7 years old, began to dominate in Nevada High School Rodeo Association, winning the year-end barrel racing title. Rachel also won the all-around title and qualified for nationals in the pole bending.
“I remember thinking, ‘You deserve this, nobody has worked harder to get to this point than you,’” says Hendrix, noting that Rachel poured all her passion into her horses. “Rachel made that horse. It was her blood, sweat and tears. Her times of crying…but she got to experience the sweetness of being successful at something she worked so hard at.
“And he loved Rachel,” Hendrix continues, remembering a day when Rachel’s younger brother, Caleb, tried to warm him up for his sister. “He ran off with him in the warm-up pen! And if it doesn’t like you, he’ll buck too.”
Rachel and Blaze went to the 2012 National High School Finals Rodeo and finished fourth. The tough cowgirl was just adding to her incredible resume, which already included the 2011 National Little Britches Rodeo Association’s world titles in senior girls breakaway roping and the all-around.
Adversity hit again before her senior year. Rachel’s pole horse was injured and just when he came back, Blaze went down with a major injury that would take him out for more than a year.
“She was crying and I told her I knew it was a huge challenge when you don’t have your horses,” Hendrix recalls. “But I said, God must have something He wants you to learn from this, something you can use in the future.
“I just didn’t know it wasn’t something for here…it was something she needed for when she was with Him.”