Blogs —> What Do We Do Now?
By Blanche Schaefer, April 16, 2018
I knelt in my colt Winchester’s stall on the crisp Saturday night before RFD-TV’s The American, brushing mud off his legs by the dim light of my flashlight ballcap as he gently tousled my ponytail with his whiskered nose. It was 9 p.m., most of my friends were already out having fun at the bars, and I had to be up at 4 a.m. the next day to get ready to drive to AT&T Stadium to live stream the early-morning barrel racing practice before the rodeo. It had been raining for five days straight. There was standing water everywhere at the barn, I hadn’t ridden in a week and was exhausted from covering the American Semifinals all week. It was pointless to be grooming my horses so late at night, knowing full well they’d be turned out into their muddy pastures the next day and undo it all. But these are the nights I live for.
I get asked a lot, mostly by my non-horse friends, “You spend so much time out at the barn, aren’t you tired? Don’t you want to just go home after work?” Yes, of course I’m exhausted, and I think that thought has crossed the mind of everyone who has horses and a full-time job at least once. Sometimes I do find myself thinking, “It’d be really nice to just go straight home at 6 p.m. and go for a walk outside or sit on the porch with a beer and grill or watch baseball or read a book.” But going to the barn and spending time with my horses is better. It’s cathartic for me to stay for hours out there each night. After a long stressful day or week, the barn is the only place I want to be.
Saturday night before The American was different. After watching 284 barrel racers run through the gates in the slack round earlier that week, 284 people who’d qualified through the open qualifying system during the year and worked harder than ever make the trip to Fort Worth with hopes of being fast enough to advance to AT&T Stadium, 284 barrel racers who dreamed of becoming the next Hailey Kinsel success story, 284 riders who were then whittled down to 30, and then 10, I had never been more inspired. I had never wanted more than to just go be near Winchester, smell his dusty coat, listen to him chew his hay, feel his soft breath as he greets me hello and plays with my hair, and imagine what it might be like someday to turn the corner into the alley on a Sunday afternoon and see through his black-tipped ears the sun-dappled arena dirt covering the floor of Cowboys Stadium.
Witnessing 2017 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Rookie of the Year Taci Bettis win The American the next day really hit home for me. Taci’s story resonates with so many people and reminds me of my own youth rodeo experiences: The old worn-out pickup towing a stock trailer pulled between all the shiny aluminum living quarters horse trailers at a southeast Texas youth rodeo. For the first time, a young Taci Bettis noticed the disparity. Lupe Zepeda, her hard-working single mother, sagely told her, “It’s not what you pull in with, it’s what you pull out with.”
At risk of sounding cliché, achieving what Taci has the past year is a true testament to the value of hard work, steadfast dedication to a dream and the power of sweat equity. Succeeding in this sport cannot be done through half-ass effort. It cannot be done if you don’t make it a priority every single day. It cannot be done by being too tired to ride, too cold, too hot, too late, too dark. And when it’s 9 p.m. with standing water in your arena, choose to go spend some time with your horses anyway. Every minute you put in, both in and out of the saddle, builds toward the bigger-picture goal you have in mind. The time is always there—use it wisely. As Taci says, “It can be done if you work hard and never give up. It doesn’t have to take money to do this. I’ve got way more time than I’ve got money. My ‘money’ came from the time I spent.”
Not all of us “normal” barrel racers have qualified for the National Finals Rodeo our rookie year and then won the World’s Richest One-Day Rodeo a couple months afterward. However, we can all relate to Taci’s sentiment about how much sacrifice, time and work it takes to overcome financial disparities and pursue barrel racing seriously—it’s not easy, but it can be done if you want it bad enough. Taci Bettis gives the rest of us hope that someday, we too could achieve what she has if we invest the hours when the right horse comes along.
Since the day I brought Winchester home as a green-broke 2-year-old last May, I felt blessed with the greatest opportunity in the world. I’ve never had a horse with so much potential, so you can bet I’m going to devote every minute I’ve got into making him everything I know he can be. I’ve sacrificed much of my lifestyle to put the time into him that he deserves and even taken a second job on nights and weekends to save up for futurity entry fees and afford him the best veterinary care, farrier, and nutrition. In the month since I got the idea for this blog topic, Janet Staton and 4-year-old JS Milo And Stitch have won about $140,000 in 2018 alone—Winchester and JS Milo And Stitch are both by Firewater Ta Fame, so that sure puts a fire in my heart as well.
For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like my dreams are out of reach. Taci’s success has even further inspired me. I have more hope for my barrel racing aspirations than I’ve ever had before, and he’s standing in front of me with his head over the stall door waiting for me every night. Of course, as with all prospects no matter how nicely bred, you never know what you’ve got until you actually start going. But if Winchester doesn’t pan out, it’s dang sure not going to be because I didn’t pour everything I have into trying. Winchester has turned my dreams into goals, and that’s why I am never too tired to go out to the barn in the dark on a Saturday night.
“What Do We Do Now?” is a blog series written by BHN‘s 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 barrelhorsenews.com under the “Blogs” tab.
Blanche Schaefer is associate editor of Barrel Horse News. She joined the team in August 2016 after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a public relations degree and a business minor. She found herself right at home in Fort Worth, Texas, at the BHN office, combining her love of horses, journalism, rodeo and barrel racing.
A Texas native, Blanche was raised on a ranch in the small town of Vanderpool until she moved to Austin for college. She grew up riding and competing in 4-H and youth rodeos with her two geldings, Amigo and Petey, and then local amateur and open pro rodeos throughout high school and college with her now-retired mare, Angel Flipper (“Red Molly”). She also rode English for the Texas Equestrian Team in college, competing in equitation through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and in the hunters on the local show circuit in Austin. She is now focusing on her first futurity prospect, 2015 gelding Dashaway Ta Fame (Firewater Ta Fame x Dashawayawinner x Runaway Winner), the topic of her “What Do We Do Now?” blog series.
Outside of horses, Blanche is an avid college football fan and music aficionado. She can usually be found at the barn, on the road to a barrel race or rodeo, out on the town seeing live Texas music or in the stands at DKR watching Longhorn football.