One of the hardest things growing up in the equine industry is learning how to juggle and balance school and all the responsibilities that come with barrel racing. A youth who exceeds this concept is 13-year-old Dally Parker.
Parker may go to the coolest schools; she attends Choice Learning Academy in Pilot Point, Texas, which is actually located in a zoo.
“We go to school with the bears and all of the animals,” Parker said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Another aspect that brands this school is the kids only go three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday, which makes it easier for Parker to haul to the rodeos and barrel races that are longer than a two-day weekend event or events that are farther in distance. Parker says they haul out of town just about every weekend and normally leave Thursday after school and do not return until Sunday or sometimes Monday depending on where the event is.
I know you’re probably wondering, when does she have time to do her school work? Parker goes into detail how she is a very organized person and has a daily schedule she goes by to help keep her priorities in line. She makes sure she gets everything finished so she doesn’t get behind in either her school work or her house and horse responsibilities. She makes sure to try her hardest to get it done at school, but if not she works on it through the weekends while she’s at the barrel races during the day in between runs.
“I normally don’t have homework during the week, because I try to get it all done, but it just depends on how my day has been,” Parker said. “If I didn’t get it all finished, then I’ll work on it after I get done with the horses, but if I don’t have any then I just stay in the barn until it’s time for bed.”
Parker prioritizes her day by: waking up, getting dressed, feeding all the horses, and then heading to school. After she gets home from school, she grabs a quick snack and then heads out to the barn to start with the horses. Parker says she tries to do everything like futurity trainer Jolene Montgomery when it comes to the horses. She rides her horses “Charm,” “Chunky,” and her young horses, unsaddles, ties them up while they dry after being washed off and then cleans stalls.
Some days are longer than others, but Parker makes sure to get all of her tasks done before the end of the day. Parker jokes about how her sister, Landrie Parker, is a little less organized than her and how she puts off certain things until the last minute.
“Like cleaning her stalls. There are some days where she doesn’t clean them until 1 a.m. and it drives me insane because I am so organized,” Parker said. “I tell her she needs to get some organization in her life.”
The seventh grader says her favorite subjects are science and art, and her least favorite is math.
“I don’t like math at all. Every other subject is fine except math,” Parker said. “My brain just cannot understand it. It’s also the only reason I’m on the A/B Honor Roll instead of the A Honor Roll.”
A question that often arises with parents who have a student in the equine industry and hauls quite frequently is, “Should I homeschool or keep them in an established school setting?” Parker used to be homeschooled but has now returned to private school. She describes the pros and cons, which one she likes best, and why. Parker says homeschooling was nice because there was no set schedule, so they were able to do their two to four hours of class work when they wanted and then had the rest of the day to work horses. Private school has a set schedule, which is 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, which doesn’t allow as much free time, but allows Parker to have the references when she needs help on her work. Another thing that makes private school easier on Parker is if she needs help on any of her classwork she can Facetime her teacher.
“I started getting behind in some of my school work when I went to private school, because my teacher wasn’t always there to help me when I had a question. We tried out homeschooling thinking that would be better, but come to find out it wasn’t,” Parker said. “Homeschooling was much easier since we were hauling so much but we decided to return to private school because its more organized. I like them both. I liked the free time I had when I was homeschooled, but I also like being organized so I like private school better.”
Parker says private schooling at Choice Learning Academy over homeschooling has been the best.
“It’s so hard on the parents or whoever is doing the homeschooling to stay organized, especially if you’re hauling and having to keep that stuff organized too,” Parker said. “Private school you don’t have to worry about it because the teachers do it for you.”
Article and photo by Shelby McCamey, an avid barrel racer and native Texan.