Written and published in October 1999 this Throwback comes six years prior to June Holeman’s historic trip to the NFR in 2005. It’s amazing to read how she felt about making a comeback to barrel racing before she ever knew the best was yet to come.

Written by June Holeman published in the October 1999 issue of Barrel Horse News

I guess because I placed at Fort Smith this year, people think I’m qualified to give advice. Actually, I have enough trouble keeping myself going that I don’t usually attempt to advise anyone else, especially since I’ve yet to make it to the National Finals Rodeo.

Since I won my first saddle in 1966, I’ve had to go up and down that “ladder” many times with many horses, since I usually sold them each year. Believe me, the added years do make a difference. The heart is willing, but the mind is questionable and the body is weaker. It takes longer to recover from a hard weekend, and I’m battling the bulge – which may be my greatest handicap these days.

Starting Over

I guess I’d say the way to come back into it would be similar to starting out:

  1. Read the barrel racing books and buy the tapes. Use what works for you. Don’t try everything at one.
  2. Go buy the best horse you can afford that fits you, and that has placed at some shows. Be sure and get help from the last owner or original trainer. If you like a certain size or type of horse, stick with it rather than going out to get a 16-hand powerhouse just because that seems to be the trend lately. I’ve had as many great mares as geldings, and, though there are some bloodlines I prefer, there is good and bad in every one, and no guarantees. If you’re ambitious, it might take two horses – first, a nice, calm, steady 2D horse to start back on, and then, you may want to trade up to a faster or chargier one in order to place at pro rodeos. Let me tell you, they’re very tough, and since my kicker seems to be worn out, I may be riding chargier horses simply because I can’t make the calmer ones run like I used to.
  3. Get a good saddle that really fits you and the horse. Try several that your friends have before deciding. Martha Josey has a neat Magic Seat that I probably need, although it feels more like I need a seat belt to the saddle horn than one to hold me down in the saddle. The old back is getting stiff. Also, try your favorite bit before going out and buying up those expensive barrel bits, or try to borrow some from your friends.
  4. You should probably go to a clinic, or at least take that new horse to several arenas in your area, hopefully with a friend, and practice just like at home. Do some trots and smooth lopes with walks in between and to finish the session. Speed up gradually, don’t run, run, run.
  5. Start at open shows, NBHAs, and 4Ds, then amateur and small pro rodeos if you’re ambitious. Of course, sometimes Kristie Peterson or Sherry Cervi may turn up there, too, and it’s my luck to have to run right after them. That can be embarrassing.
  6. Video all of the barrel racers, not just you, to see where you’re losing time and how you compare with the best runs.
  7. It’s important to get your new horse to the arena early before the rodeo, even without barrels, to walk the pattern and see if anything scares or distracts him – flags, lights, noise or people. Spot your start/finish line and where you will wind up if it is a closed gate, like a lot of mine are.

How Much Can You Haul?

I haul a lot in the summer; our rodeos really start in June. I go to 60-70 amateur and open rodeos besides the pro rodeos that I can fit in. I seldom get to NBHAs and 4Ds in the summer. In the fall and winter, I start young horses to sell, hauling them to the three or four barns that stay open in Nebraska’s winter. I work the on poles also, for the bend it gives them, and because it also helps my hand and leg cues for the barrels.

In decent weather, I try to get to several winter pro rodeos, since my mare usually works well in the barns.

For the first time, I’m trying to make my Prairie Circuit finals, so my mare had really run her heart out this year and needs a rest. It’s great if you have a back-up horse, and I certainly needed one this year, but most of us ride just one better than two, and it’s really hard to find two that run the same style. Of course, great horses like Scamper and Bozo don’t need back-ups anyway.

It’s really hard to get a futurity horse ready for Fort Smith or the earlier futurities and keep him going all year until Oklahoma City. I have several nice prospects at home, but it’s not as fun to season them anymore, and it takes me longer to make a great one than it used to, but as long as I can get on, I’ll hope to meet you all down the road.

Good luck!

Bits of Advice

Can’t Quit Yet: For the Rodeo Veterans

We’ve been around so many years
What would they do without us?
Who would they call old veterans
Like they always talk about us?

Some think we’re past our prime
I’ve often heard it said.
Some people don’t know when to quit
And should have quit when they’re ahead.

It does seem the miles are getting longer.
The horse is getting taller.
The ground is getting harder.
The saddle’s getting smaller.

A lot of friends and rodeos too
Have come and gone for me and you.
But next year may be the best one yet
So don’t think now’s the time to quit!
–    By June Holeman

With words like that, Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Gold Card holder June Holeman of Arcadia, Neb., may be feeling a tad bit older, but she has no intention of slowing down.

June doesn’t get to keep many good horses for long. Throughout the years, June has trained many talented horses that carried many barrel racers to the pay window. Perhaps her most famous mount was Hoover, the horse that took Shandi Metzinger-Scales to the National Finals Rodeo.

June decided to haul this year. she is riding a 15-year-old that she trained, sold and bought back two years ago. “One More Hope” is a very fitting name for the Joyful Hope/Top Deck-bred mare as she got one more chance to become a good barrel horse and she gave June and her husband, Don, one more hope at having the kind of year a good horse can give you.

June and her husband ranch with June training barrel horses for as long as she can remember.


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