By Kailey Sullins, Managing Editor  – Nov. 14, 2017

On day two of owning Kitty I threw my leg over her for the first time – after lunging her first just to be on the safe side. And I was thoroughly surprise and pleased. Sure, she didn’t really know how to walk a straight line and we kind of just blundered around, but I left that day more in love than ever. This same type of experience continued for the next several weeks with marked improvement. Slowly, but surely we were walking and trotting on a loose rein and even trotting some circles. The circles were actually more of ovals or even rectangles, but hey we were improving nonetheless.

After about 20 days of riding we were just starting to figure out the lope. She’d been loped on when I bought her, but I wanted to start from the very beginning before moving forward too quickly. So, 20 days in she’d been nothing but an angel, sure she’d spooked once or twice and yes ran off in terror the first time I asked her for a lope – because her feet were just moving so fast! She even sort of crow-hopped once, but nothing serious.

One evening I got home late from work, it was dark already and the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees from the daytime. Where I live I have access to a lighted arena, but no round pen so I always have to ride in the big pen. Several nights a week team ropers come and rope there as well, so if I want to ride I have to take my opportunity no matter who or what is in the arena.

Kitty saddled day1Kitty on her first day with me.

Kitty already seen them rope several times and even checked out the steers and had handled everything great, so this night wasn’t going to be anything out of the ordinary – or so I thought.

I’ve been struggling to help her catch her left lead. She just doesn’t seem to want to catch it and as such when I try to lope her in a left-hand circle she picks up her right lead and floats out of the circle to the right. This is exactly what happened on this specific night.

In hindsight I made a few mistakes that night.

Mistake No. 1 was I relaxed too much. She’d been doing so great that I kind of forgot she was still only 2 and colts can certainly surprise you. I was riding her more like my 14-year-old rather than my 2-year-old.

Mistake No. 2 was that instead of instantly breaking her down to a trot and starting over when she started to drift out I thought I could just press with my outside leg and really open up my hips to show her the correct direction and get her to switch her leads. No. No. No. No. No.

Just as soon as I shifted my hips, pressed with my outside leg and really tried to send her with my hands she dropped her head and stuck it to me. Off I went flying head first over the top of her thinking to myself ‘Perfect, everyone just saw that.’ In mid-air I tried to “tuck and roll” so that I would land on my hip and side rather than my head and well, there was a little more rolling than there was tucking. I managed to roll to my side in the air, but sort of just landed splat on my hip and back.

I have never gotten up off of the ground so fast in my life. I was up and putting my foot back in the stirrup before anyone could help me – ignoring the questions of concern from the team ropers. I stepped back on, took a deep seat and immediately asked for a lope. She tried to hand it to me once more, but that time I was ready and I used the one-rein rule and just kept reeling her down to a smaller circle while still smooching and asking for a lope. Then I switched directions and did the same thing until that little hump in her back went away. Then we had a pretty successful rest of the night and tested the theory about wet saddle pads. It’s true by the way.

I guess the moral of the story is I survived and am a little wiser from the experience. After that day I shortened my stirrups a tick, and I always remember to take a deep seat and never take for granted that I’m riding a 2-year-old that can catch me off guard. She’s been an angel ever since and I think in some ways we both needed that night. Even though I’d rather have stuck with her and not let her buck me off I think we needed to get it out of our system – for her to see how much she could get away with from me and for me to have a little bit of a wake up call. Live and learn, right? I think we’re both better off since then.

Until next time,

Kailey Sullins

Check out last week’s blog about our shenanigan from the first night I owned her:


About Kailey KaileySullinsKailey Sullins. Photo by Blanche Schaefer

Kailey Sullins is the managing editor of Barrel Horse News. She joined the BHN team in 2014 and has enjoyed being apart of a team dedicated to not only the barrel racing industry, but the equine industry as a whole.

Kailey grew up in rural Oklahoma where her family owns and operates a cow-calf operation in the small town of Red Rock. Rodeo was a family affair around her place and as such her love of horses began at an early age. Growing up Kailey competed in junior, high school, college and amateur rodeo competing in barrel racing, pole bending, team roping and breakaway roping. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications with a double major in animal science, Kailey began pursuing her career in journalism.

Currently, Kailey lives in Texas with her 14-year-old mare, 2-year-old filly and a 2-year-old black-tri Australian Shepherd named Macy. When Kailey’s not on assignment for BHN or working in the Fort Worth office she can be found training her filly, spending time with Macy or competing in breakaway roping with her mare in professional and amateur rodeos in Texas.

“What Do We Do Now?” is a blog series written by BHN‘s associate editor Savannah Magoteaux, managing editor Kailey Sullins and associate editor Blanche Schaefer, where they discuss the struggles, joys, and rewards of training young barrel prospects as amateurs juggling full-time jobs, all from a real-life perspective. Read more at under the “Blogs” tab.


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