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After High Valor was injured in a fall at the Calgary Rodeo last year, barrel racer Dona Kay Rule carefully rehabbed her 2009 gelding. But Rule is a four-time qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo with “Valor” who was the 2019 WPRA Horse of the Year, and nothing could keep him down for long.

“Thankfully, I have a good doctor, Dr. Amy Barnes, formerly from Gill, Colorado, now in Pierce, Colorado,” Rule said. “She watched him and finally gave me the ‘yes’ to go to San Antonio.”

Care

Part of Rule’s maintenance routine for her horses includes regular administration of Polyglycan, a joint supplement that replaces lost or damaged synovial fluid, aiding in joint health. She also uses a good quality feed, adding vitamin E and calcium during Valor’s recovery, and serves her horses alfalfa and grass hay around the clock.

Conditioning is key

Valor was monitored radiographically and with ultrasound to make sure he was healing properly from the fall, and Rule got him back to shape slowly.

“After six weeks at Amy’s, he was home for a couple more weeks, and I just hand-walked him,” Rule said. “Then I would ride him at a walk for two miles for about three weeks. On the fourth and fifth week, I added five minutes of trotting, and as it progressed I added five minutes of loping.”

Rule rode him in her large arena, and in her 200-acre pasture in Minco, Oklahoma.

“I have a really nice sloping hill that I can trot up and a long way I can walk back, so I can condition his muscles as well as get his air, and then I can bring him down and let him walk back home,” Rule said. “It’s an ideal conditioning arena.”

Photo by Kenneth Springer

Rodeo bound

With Valor back to health, Rule started running him at the San Antonio rodeo, where they did well, then went to the Houston rodeo and picked up more cash, as well as the Austin rodeo, and San Angelo. She’s got two younger horses on tap to run at some rodeos in east Texas this spring. Rule is ready to take on the challenge of the road to the NFR again this year.

“I’m not getting any younger and I want to make the NFR one more time just to prove that it wasn’t just one of those things,” Rule, 66, said. “I’ve spent my whole life training and learning and trying to understand and be a better horse woman and I’d like to go out in a bang.”

Lessons learned

Rule is dedicated to demonstrating good horsemanship and giving her horses the best of care. She is constantly reading and trying to learn more to improve herself.

“To me, this means open eyes and open ears are the key to the whole thing,” Rule said. “The goal is important, but it’s secondary to watching what goes on with your horse every day. You need to listen and learn. I think I’ll never know as much as I want.”

Rule has learned to treat every horse as an individual and suggests if you want to be a better horseman, invest in learning all you can.

“They’re not vehicles and they’re not machines,” Rule said. “Try to understand them, and their health, and their conformation. Go to clinics outside of your discipline, understand what a horse’s body is capable of doing, and pay attention.”

Learn more from Polyglycan here