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Dona Kay Rule is a four-time qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo with her horse, WPRA 2019 Horse of the Year, High Valor. The Minco, Oklahoma, resident first qualified for the NFR in 2019 with the 2009 gelding, and has stayed in the top standings each year since.

High Valor has been a steadfast partner for Dona Kay, and she values both his character and his athleticism.

“I’ve done this my whole life, training horses, running barrels, studying it and being a student of the game,” Dona Kay said. “He’s what you look for. He’s got the conformation, he’s got the real power, he’s got all kinds of try. Attitude, and conformation are very important. But his kindness is my favorite thing about him.”

Keeping her horse healthy and happy while competing at the highest levels of barrel racing requires conscientious care and a good relationship with equine professionals. Here, Dona Kay shares her philosophy on helping her horse stay well.

Prioritize conditioning.

No matter what discipline, good horsemanship is crucial to keeping your horse sound, Dona Kay says. This also means invest time in conditioning your horse before competing.

“Don’t just pull your horse out and rodeo when you haven’t ridden him in three weeks,” Dona Kay said. “It’s not just about having fun. You’ve got to work at it.”

Develop a relationship with a veterinarian.

“I’ve been gifted with being able to feel things in my horse, and when something doesn’t feel right, I have to count on my vet to be able to locate it,” Dona Kay said. “So between my farrier and my veterinarian, I just don’t know if we could have gone as hard as we have for the last five years, and still had a sound horse out of it.”

Dona Kay goes to around 50 rodeos each year, which requires intentional care. She found her veterinarian after Valor got injured a few years ago. Her veterinarian sister-in-law introduced her to Amy Jergens, now Amy Barnes.

“She just had magic eyes and magic hands, and she found [the injury], a ligament strain,” Dona Kay said. “We got right on it, and Valor placed at Greeley, and placed at Estes Park, and several rodeos immediately following Amy’s help.”

Having a primary veterinarian means being able to have a solid baseline on your horse when they’re sound and healthy and your vet can better recognize when something is off that needs investigating.

“It’s a big deal to have a great relationship with your veterinarian,” Dona Kay said. “You should be able to talk with them, tell them what you think, and then you should be able to be quiet, listen to what they say, and formulate a group solution.”

Use dependable products.

Dona Kay believes in good quality feed. She has a simple ,regular maintenance program that hinges on paying attention to the horse’s wellbeing every day.

“When we have a red flag or a yellow flag, or something that doesn’t seem quite right, we look at it pretty carefully,” Dona Kay said.

Part of her maintenance routine includes regular administration of Polyglycan, a joint supplement that replaces lost or damaged synovial fluid, aiding in joint health.

“I’ve tried a few other joint products, and I didn’t have near the results that I do with Polygycan,” Dona Kay said. “It’s definitely better than anything else we’ve used.”

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