Preparing a barrel horse prospect to endure all that comes with the lifestyle will include ample exposure to the real world, according to Linda Vick of Hesperia, California. Vick’s program, which includes common sense horsemanship, no wasted time when patterning and seasoning with a taste for success, has worked well for her.
After several years of rodeoing with her champion and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association California Circuit 2012 Horse of the Year, AR Will He Tell, Vick is taking the time to prepare a 2- and 3-year-old to join “Willy” on the road. Both are bred to be barrel horses, but the younger, KN French Dot Fame (Frenchmans Fabulous x Hum Dot Com x Dash Ta Fame), is the current Golden Child. “Frenchie” has already convinced Vick he is a keeper.
Vick is not equally as convinced about her 3-year-old prospect, by World Speed and out of a Dash Ta Fame mare, but has no intention of counting him out this early. According to his owner, he has a hard act to follow in the shadow of her palomino standout. “He’s not broke quite as well and isn’t coming around as fast as Frenchie,” she explained about the older prospect. “But, if I didn’t have the palomino I’m sure I’d like the 3-year-old a lot better at this point. He is a nice prospect, just a little behind.”
While the 3-year-old gelding plays catch up at home, Vick has already begun seasoning Frenchie for his future vocation by hauling him to events. Preferring to contest rodeos, Vick knows there is money to be won going the futurity and 4D route as well.
“When I hauled Frenchie the first time nobody could believe he was just a 2-year-old,” said Vick. “I was thrilled with him. You need to get horses out to different places to see different sights and distractions and experience different types of ground conditions.”
Paving the Way
Vick is a businessperson when it comes to calculating how and where she runs her horses. Experience has taught her a lot about returning home a winner. Calculating her runs and where her horses have the best shot to win are all part of the formula.
“You have to haul and pay your dues with young horses no matter where you decide to go,” said Vick. “I will probably futurity Frenchie, which is the hard part for someone like me that’s been rodeoing and not going the futurity route for awhile. The 4Ds are nice since you don’t have to pay in advance as you do at a futurity. They pay pretty darn good and you can be placing in the 4D and graduate a horse up as they improve.”
Vick emphasized that the smaller investment involved with running 4Ds is attractive to her as a proving ground for young horses. She also likes the option of hauling an older horse along to run as well. If Frenchie stays on schedule, however, she will likely target him toward the futurities.
“There is a lot of money in the futurities these days, but you can put up money in advance and have a horse not worth what you put into them by the time you get there,” Linda pointed out. “One year I had a filly nominated for Fort Smith that was out running open horses and really working good. I ended up taking her as a 4-year-old and, about futurity time, she started to fall apart. She should have gone as a 5-year-old, but I’d already run her the one time. They come up to a peak and keep going or they can fall back.”
Vick prefers traveling to rodeos where the schedules are tighter over hauling to jackpots. However, she knows value in making a well rounded barrel horse—one that is well broke, smoothly patterned and seasoned to be a road warrior. The wide variety of barrel racing venues to choose from helps her through the process of effectively preparing the well-rounded barrel horse.
During his first trip away from home, during the fall of his 2-year-old year, Frenchie was a trooper. Traveling with Willy, a veteran rodeo horse that hauls well is also an asset, according to Vick. The job of seasoning a barrel horse can mean traveling an arduous road. Vick makes sure her horses enjoy the view as she figures out their idiosyncrasies.
“You just have to haul them to different places to see different sights, experience different ground conditions and different distractions,” Vick explained. “I like to let my horses walk up to the gate and look at the pattern, even my rodeo horses. I let them just stand there and look and they really do check it out.”
Some horses have to adjust to being transported, according to Vick, who ultimately plans to make rodeo horses out of her prospects. How horses eat, drink and even urinate are all part of the preparation for a successful barrel racing career.
“Frenchie eats and drinks and does most everything perfect,” said Vick. “He doesn’t want to pee in the trailer yet, but I think he’s getting better about that. Willy eats and drinks great on the road, but some horses don’t and those are the issues you have to work with.”
Frenchie has not found a distraction he couldn’t handle yet, but some horses get nervous in warm up areas with lots of horses going different directions or the blare of loud speakers can cause them to get on the muscle. Exposure and experience can quell many problems.
Frenchie was pawing a little when tied up at home, so Vick immediately put a pair of racetrack hobbles (those which couple above the knees rather than at the ankle) on him. Addressing a small problem early could prevent the palomino from digging a hole when tied at the trailer during an event.
What elevates true rodeo veterans, said Vick, is the ability to handle all types of ground. Schooling or competing on different types of ground during the seasoning phase is an indicator as to what kind of dirt a horse can handle well and win on.
“Not all horses make the rodeo world,” Vick opined. “It’s a whole different ballgame than futurities. When you get to a rodeo it can be trash ground. I have good ground at home, but you need to get your horses on bad ground once in awhile. They have to learn to handle themselves and you need to know what they can’t handle. Some horses prefer deeper ground, some harder, and some just don’t care and run on anything. If they can’t handle different types of ground, they’ll have a tough time making it in the rodeo world.”
Horses for Courses
Vick feels she uses time onlys, or exhibition runs, a little differently than most people. When she gets someplace with any age horse, she wants them ready to go to work. She’ll let a horse “roll through” the first time with any needed corrections made in successive rounds.
“By the time I run a time only my horse should know how to run a little bit and go through the whole pattern,” Vick explained. “Depending on the horse, I let them run. If they make a mistake then I’ll go back the second run and correct it. If my horse has done really good, I’ll just walk him through it or slow it down on the final time only.
“But, if I have a spooky horse and didn’t get to ride in the arena ahead of time, I’ll walk the pattern and let him look at everything the first run, or jog it to get the feel. Then come back and make a fast run, then finish with a slow run. Especially with a younger horse, you like to finish off with a quiet, slower run.”
Vick wants her horses to know every time she enters an arena it is business, it is their job. The rider should know the arena variables too in order to help green horses. Once a horse has performed well Vick does not keep drilling them because she prefers to leave the horses with the positive impression that their pattern work was a fun venture, which keeps them enjoying their occupation.
“And, you don’t have to just go to time onlys,” Vick reminded. “I haul to arenas close to me and to friends’ places and I’ll get a pretty good reading on my horses. It is hard to go just to run time onlys,” she added with a laugh. “It sure helps to have a finished horse to run too.”
After growing up on a horse at her father’s public stable in Hollywood, California, right below the famous Hollywood sign, Vick galloped and trained horses at major racetracks. The old racetrack adage, “There are horses for courses,” meaning some horses just run better at certain tracks, may be applied to barrels with a slightly different slant.
In barrel racing, according to Vick, it takes a well-paired horse and rider to form a winning team. She remembers selling good barrel horses to very capable riders who were unable to make a dime with them. The combination just didn’t jell.
“I’m a firm believer that horses and riders have to click,” Linda confirmed. “[If] they just don’t get along I honestly don’t think you can do a thing to change that. [Barrel racing] is completely teamwork and you and the horse can’t work independently.”
Vick feels fortunate to have had a lot of nice horses over the years. In addition to her current veteran, AR Will He Tell (Especial x JW Dixie Chick x Badger Safari), Running Episode (Sixarun x Mane Episode x Bold Episode) – fondly called “Hollywood,” is living out his retirement with Linda. Hollywood was a star during his career and was Vick’s partner when she won a go-round and claimed the 2005 NFR reserve championship.
One reason Vick has so many good horses to remember is that she tries not to waste time on those that either don’t suit her or don’t possess the talent she feels they need to in order to keep pace with her goals.
“I figure you’ve got to learn when to cut your losses,” Vick said. “Sometimes people stay too long with a horse; those horses that give you a great run only now and then can string you along. Ultimately they just let you down.”
Bringing up baby, when referring to a barrel horse prospect, is no small undertaking. That might be why Vick has spent the past few years traveling to rodeos across the Western United States hauling seasoned veterans, possibly a less strenuous task.
“Hauling young horses is a lot of work, but they need to have the excitement and the noise and experience everything,” Vick verified. “They react to lots of different things and you react too. There are your friends hanging over the fence watching you and it is just human nature to ride different. It is all part of paying your dues to make a good horse.”
Raised at her father’s riding stable under the famous Hollywood sign in Hollywood, California, Linda Vick was perched atop a horse from the beginning. While she grew up close friends with barrel racers like Elaine Wells and Linda Adair, Vick ventured into the sport later in life.
Spending a decade or more galloping and training Thoroughbreds with her former husband instilled a sense of speed into Linda’s horsemanship. While schooling junior rodeo horses for her kids, she decided to apply her skills to barrel racing and the rest is history still in the making.
“I didn’t get into rodeo until way late in life,” Vick, 65, said. “When my kids started competing I got them horses and trained the barrel horses they rode.”
Vick purchased a 5-year-old off the track, trained it herself and joined the International Pro Rodeo Association in 1982. She qualified for the International Finals Rodeo in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that year, jump-starting her entry into barrel racing. She joined the WPRA in 1984 and promptly claimed Rookie of the Year honors for the California Circuit (then called the Sierra Circuit). By 2005, Vick was leading the world and headed to the NFR. She won a go-round, but tipped barrels left her settling for the reserve championship, a milestone she still enjoys.
Vick is grateful for her success. There have been too many circuit finals and wins to count or remember. Equi-Stat lists her official earnings at $195,884, although that amount doesn’t account for her first decade competing.
Linda still runs hard and, due in part to her years at the racetrack, steps up her training as well. She truly enjoys running barrels and admits, when the money is up, she’s a very competitive gal.
Vick resides in Hesperia, California, with her husband, Joe, a former IPRA team roper.
Annie Lambert is a veteran contributor to Barrel Horse News based out of Springville, Calif. Email comments on this article to [email protected].