First, they were the reserve champions at the Old Fort Days Futurity in 2021. Then, they came back in 2022 to set the arena record and be crowned the 2022 Old Fort Days Super Derby champions. To back it up, they won the National Barrel Horse Association Florida State Championships not only in 2022, but again in 2023. And now, Kristin Hanchey and Smooth Way Ta Heaven can check Good Times Barrel Racing Association Equinety Tiger Town Showdown Slot Race champions off their list of impressive accolades accomplished in the arena together.
A dynamic duo to say the least, the Okeechobee, Florida, barrel racer and her 2017 blue roan mare “Mouse” (Blings Smooth Guy x Cash Ta Heaven x JL Dash Ta Heaven) were introduced by Hanchey’s family friend and Mouse’s owner, Tracey Williams.
“Tracey’s like a sister to me,” Hanchey said when explaining her and William’s relationship as a horse trainer and owner.
However, Williams was in a car accident the Monday before the Tiger Town Showdown from August 31-September 2, and Hanchey was there waiting for her once she got out of surgery.
“I had really contemplated on whether to go up to Clemson, South Carolina, after everything that happened. I thought that if Tracey could survive being hit by a dump truck, then Mouse and I could go up there and give it our best in the slot race,” Hanchey said.
Hanchey’s persistence and gut instinct in her decision proved to be pivotal. The team crossed the timer with a 14.759 in the slot race, putting two-tenths on the field of horses and adding $25,824 to Mouse’s already impressive lifetime EquiStat earnings of $192,403.
“I drug over the third barrel on Friday to place in the open. I was pretty discouraged, but I sent Tracey the video, and she told me to stay positive and not lose faith,” Hanchey said. “It was just what I needed. I hadn’t told her how much I wanted to go up there and win that for her. I hadn’t told anybody. That was something in my own heart.”
Hanchey, who was toward the end of the draw, explained that after a 15.0 was ran, she knew she had to go for it to be fast.
“As I was going in, I was telling myself I knew I could run a 14.9. I couldn’t believe it when we stopped the clock at 14.7,” Hanchey said.
Hanchey called Williams in tears before she even got off of Mouse, celebrating her personal victory in the arena with Mouse and also a victory in her friendship and relationship with Mouse’s beloved owner.
“I have had Mouse since she was a 3-year-old, and I bet Tracey has only got to watch her run maybe five times,” Hanchey said. “But that’s what makes Tracey such a great owner — she trusts me whole-heartedly with the mare and lets me do what I think is best.”
—> Read more: The Making of Kristin Hanchey’s “Mouse”
The over $317,000 EquiStat-earning barrel horse trainer has spent more than 15 years developing a successful training program that produces winning barrel horses.
Hanchey has won at all levels, including futurities, rodeos and super shows. She enjoys going to the futurities if she has a horse that is ready to go, but she’s not going to push a horse that isn’t physically or mentally ready to be competitive on that level.
“After my kids were born, I really switched my focus to not just trying to win at the futurities but training a horse that is also successful as a derby horse or a rodeo horse. I wanted to train safe, consistent, horses that other people could win on later in their life, too,” Hanchey said.
Because of that, Hanchey is not afraid to go on with a horse that isn’t coming out of the gates winning November 15 of their futurity year.
“Most of my owners want a good horse in the long run, and I truly love the entire process of simply just making a good, winning horse,” Hanchey explained.
Hanchey places a large emphasis on treating each horse in her program as an individual, regardless of how the horse is bred or their level of raw talent and ability.
“I don’t get wrapped up in their papers as much, which I am sure some people think I am crazy for. I’d rather just ride a horse and see what they are as an individual before I see how they are bred,” Hanchey said. “I know every horse isn’t going to be a 1D superstar, so I try to make each horse the very best that I can.”
Hanchey’s ability to understand each horse as an individual has been pivotal in the success of her and the gritty blue roan’s winning relationship.
“Mouse is a freak of nature, and I feel like I have a shot to win every time I send her down the alley,” Hanchey said. “However, she is a lot of horse and takes a lot of work and riding between runs to keep her sharp and winning.”
Hanchey spent the week before the Tiger Town Showdown keeping the energetic, fiery Mouse ridden down in the pasture.
“She and I have a very strong bond. There is a very fine line of mutual respect that we have for each other, and I know her so well by now that I know how to keep her sharp without picking on her,” Hanchey explained. “I’m so in tune with her every move; we have a connection that is unexplainable.”
Hanchey and Mouse’s next stop on the map includes their third consecutive Southeastern Circuit Finals Rodeo in Davie, Florida, as well as several other major slot races and rodeos.
“If it’s the Lord’s will, then that will go however it needs to go. My goal is to keep her happy and healthy to do her job and go wherever the Lord leads us,” Hanchey said.
Hanchey thanks Williams, whom she says is the best teammate she could ask for, and her dad and farrier, Bob Haberlandt, who also plays a critical role in her program as Hanchey’s colt starter. Hanchey also thanks the Lord above, whom she says without, none of this would be possible.
Hanchey greatly expresses her gratitude to Equinety for the sponsorship of the race, as well as being a crucial part of Mouse’s success in addition to the rest of the horses in Hanchey’s barn.
Aside from Equienty, Hanchey thanks her sponsors for the support of her program: K&N Equine Solutions, Vetline Equine, Equilevel Gold, CSI Saddlepads, Robbie Phillips Saddles, Dr. Nate Lea, DVM, of Outlaw Equine, Joanna Sherman, Chiropractor, and Charlie Pearce massage therapist.
2023 GTBRA Equinety Tiger Town Slot Race Results
1st: KRISTIN HANCHEY SMOOTH WAY TA HEAVEN 14.759 $20,000
2nd: OCEANE VEILLEUX HEAVENS GUY 15.009 $10,000
3rd: PRESSLEY GREEN SISSYS SLICK DESIGN 15.044 $7,000
4th: CLAY OLIVER BDB WESTERN FAME 15.095 $5,000
5th: CASEY OLIVER STREAKIN MS WINK 15.114 $3,000
6th: MEGAN SWINT BF FLYSWATTER 15.116 $2,000
1st: JANELLE GREEN LOVININTHEFASTLANE 15.261 $15,000
2nd: SUMMER SHAFER FROZE MY SOCKS OFF 15.277 $9,000
3rd: TAYLOR CARVER VF FAMOUS COWGIRL 15.287 $6,000
4th: HAILEY KILGORE SOPHIE GOLDSEEKER 15.346 $4,000
5th/6th: CARLY STEPHENSON NICKS BULLION 15.352 $1,500
5th/6th: ANGIE HAMMOCK KRIMPS SUGAR KING 15.352 $1,500
Find full results and more GTBRA events here.