This was supposed to be a Sunday post, but with the holidays it naturally ended up delayed. I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and here’s some holiday pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Until next time, enjoy the ride!
I have a lot of great Christmas memories. My mom and step dad had a little more work keeping the magic of Santa alive than other parents did… not only were there cookies and milk to deal with, they also had to climb on the roof and gnaw on nine carrots and scatter around the alfalfa I left up there for the reindeer each year.
Some of the best memories are from tough times, like the year we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree so I selected a tumbleweed from the yard, sprayed it with fake snow, and decorated it instead. It seemed like a real “western” tree, and we liked how it turned out so much we did the same thing the next year.
Or there was the year we didn’t have a car for a month or so, and my mom and I wheeled my little brother, Orin, in his stroller a couple miles to the local Dollar General and bought a little $10, four foot fake tree and wheeled it back home. I remember being so excited when I got the cassette tape of LeAnn Rimes “Blue” album under the tree that year. That was nineteen years ago, and mom is still using that little dollar store tree to this day. It’s good to be reminded of the hard times, so we remember how far we’ve come.
One of the family’s absolute favorite Christmas memories was from 2004. My little brother grew up imagining himself as various movie characters throughout his childhood, dressing up in outfits and demanding we call him Davey Crockett, Zorro, Tarzan, Mowgli, or the Lone Ranger – depending on the theme of the day. Orin was nine that year; he was very into The Great Escape and had begun riding dirt bikes at a neighbor’s house. So Mom saved up for a few months to get Orin a dirt bike of his own for Christmas.
We were all excited, and had designed a sort of treasure hunt for my brother with a trail of clues leading outside and eventually to the dirt bike hidden out by the hay stack. As was typical of our holiday mornings, we were all decked out in our Christmas-themed pajamas and slippers. I with a matching shirt and pant set sporting ice skating polar bears, mom with a bright red nightgown with Christmas trees and such on it, and Orin wearing whatever he had that he thought looked like military fatigues, complete with Rambo headband.
The search ended with the discovery of the bright yellow motorcycle beneath a tarp. We all wheeled it to the front yard, and mom handed me the video camera so I could film Orin’s first ride. Orin hopped on, but had trouble getting the kick start to work. I walked over, but couldn’t get it to work either.
Mom, ever a self-sufficient woman, announced, “This is how you do it!” hiked up her nightgown and climbed aboard. She gave a mighty kick and to everyone’s delight the bike suddenly roared to life. Then, just as suddenly, both Mom and the bike were in motion. She accidentally turned the throttle on one of the handles, and clumps of dead grass and soil flew up as the back tire peeled out. The front tire launched itself towards the sky, and we all heard the William Tell Overture begin playing in our heads.
My brother and I watched in astonishment as – in a stunt that would have made both Clayton Moore and Steve McQueen proud – our mother wheelied across the front yard. Like the cowgirl she is, she stuck with it for awhile; but there isn’t much cantle to a dirt bike seat and eventually she slid off the back. Probably also due to her cowgirl instincts, she hung on to the handlebars. After all, if you get thrown by a horse in an open space, you try to hang on to the reins if it’s at all possible.
Unfortunately, hanging on to the reins of this beast just gave more gas to the throttle. The bike roared even louder, climbed even higher, and Mom streamed out behind it, long brown hair knocked out of it’s bun and bright red Christmas nightgown waving like a banner. She lost her grip on one handle, and the bike finally came down on two wheels, then turned in a shallow circle, dragging Mom along like a festive Christmas anchor.
Finally the two lost some momentum and fell over, both coming to a stop in the center of the yard. The engine died – as did our imaginary Lone Ranger soundtrack – and the silence was deafening. My brother and I stood there, open-mouthed, both of us paralyzed and silenced in shock as we waited to see if there was any movement from Mom.
There was. She stood up a little unsteadily, hair tangled and covered in dried Bermuda grass, dirt stains on her lower legs. She gave me a wry look. “Did you get that on film?” she asked. I looked down at the camera, still turned off and dangling from my right hand.
“Nope. It happened too fast and I was too surprised to turn it on!”
Orin, highly impressed with our mother’s heretofore unknown motorcycle skills, blurted, “Mom! Do it again!”
She didn’t, of course, and the only evidence that remained of Mom’s wild ride was the trail of burnout marks blazed into the dormant lawn.
And that is the story of the Christmas I probably screwed up our family’s chance at a $10,000 Funniest Home Videos prize. Moral of the story, always turn on your video camera!
Until next time, enjoy the ride!
Hello there HYHC followers! The 2015 NFR enters it’s fifth day today, and I’ve been hitting Youtube each morning to check out the previous night’s barrel racing rounds. There is such a strong field this year. As of the fourth round, Lisa and Louie have taken a $22k lead and NFR newcomers Sarah Rose McDonald and Fame Fling N Bling (Bling) are hot on their trail. Bling is quickly becoming one of my favorite horses to watch. That little mare is a turnin’ fool, and Sarah rides the hair off her every run! With each round paying $26k to win, and six rounds left to go, it’s still anybody’s race – but I sure hope Lisa can keep the momentum going and get that gold buckle this year.
It’s been a busy week for me, trying to condense five years worth of pedigree data into one place, but I think I’ve finally managed it (somewhat) to my satisfaction. Here goes nothin’!
Barrel Horse Bloodlines
December is often a time when mare owners start shopping around for a stallion to breed their mare the following year. Frequently stallion owners offer discounts if breedings are booked before New Years, and sometimes you’ll see NFR discounts for stallions that sired the current year’s qualifying horses. When looking to the future of barrel horse breeding, it’s only right to look first at the stallions that walked the walk – the ones that actually made it to the NFR. While running and cow-breds (and the constant debate comparing the two) are still ever popular, more and more often we are seeing successful barrel horses produced by other successful barrel horses. Stallions like Frenchmans Guy, Dr Nick Bar, and Fire Water Flit – all of whom had successful barrel futurity/derby and WPRA careers – are still ranking strong on the sire lists of today’s NFR horses.
Five stallions ran down the alley at the Thomas and Mack between 2010 and 2014. Sadly, Chasin Firewater passed away earlier this year (Chasin Firewater Tribute Page) , and I’m not sure if Fols Dear John (John) is still breeding, or even still a stallion (hence the asterisks next to his name). He is still listed as a stallion with AQHA, and he does have an AQHA sire record (27 total foals, last crop in 2007). I know John was described as a stallion when Marlene McRae was running him back in 2007, but I’ve seen some information since then calling him a gelding – one of them being the caption on the photo above from an America’s Horse Daily article (the tie-down roping photo was from the 2000 AQHA World Show, the article was written in 2010). Until I have information confirming one way or another, he will remain listed as a stallion in my data. Both Chicados Cash and JL Dash Ta Heaven currently stand at the Jud Little Ranch, and Slick By Design will resume stallion duties at Highpoint Performance Horses after this year’s NFR. All of these horses are extremely accomplished, and offer a variety of bloodlines and conformation types for the discerning mare owner to choose from.
Leading the way in the proven NFR sire category is the late, great Dash Ta Fame with eight qualifying offspring in the last five years. Frenchmans Guy ranks second on the list with five qualifiers, and his three-quarter brother PC Frenchmans Hayday (Dinero) also makes the list with two of his own. Dr Nick Bar had four NFR qualifiers, and A Streak Of Fling makes an impressive showing as the youngest sire of the group with three qualifiers to his credit (a fourth, the mare Fame Fling N Bling that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is competing in Vegas as we speak). Rounding out the leading sire list are Cash Not Credit and Ninety Nine Goldmine, both represented by two NFR horses.
Dash For Perks, Frenchmans Guy, and Streakin Six stand out as the only stallions to be sires, sires of sires, and broodmare sires of NFR qualifiers from 2010-2014. Dash For Cash was well represented by his own sire record and that of his sons and grandsons: Dash Ta Fame, Judge Cash, Texas High Dasher, Victory Dash, and Royal Quick Dash all ranked on multiple sire lists. Flit Bar was represented by his two best sons, Dr Nick Bar and Fire Water Flit. No single stallion dominated the broodmare sire category, however; Jet Of Honor, Judge Cash, On The Money Red, and Streakin Six were all tied with daughters producing two NFR horses each.
Horse breeders sometimes use a technique to identify successful crosses between stallions called “Nicks.” Basically, performance is analyzed to try to determine if the bloodlines of one stallion have a particular affinity to being crossed with the bloodlines of another. Easy Jet and Hempen (TB) were a well known nick in the quarter racing world. Leo daughters crossed well on many stallions, but were particularly successful when crossed on Sugar Bars, Jet Deck, and Vandy. Doc Bar and Poco Tivio mares were a much used nick in the cow horse industry. My NFR nicks were calculated by listing the four sires on the top side of a three generation pedigree crossed with the three sires on the bottom side of the pedigree. Then, the crosses were reversed and listed again. For example, take a look at the pedigree of 2014 NFR barrel horse Kellies Chick (Skye), and the resulting Nicking Report:
By listing the crosses of both top-side sires first and bottom-side sires first, I can reference the nick listings of any sire just by looking them up alphabetically. I used three generation pedigrees for the sake of brevity (all other reports were designed using four generation pedigrees), but between the seventy-five NFR horses analyzed I still ended up with forty-eight pages of nicking data. So for obvious reasons, I will only be posting the most popular nicks (those resulting in two or more NFR horses). If you’d like the nicking data for any sires not shown in this post, feel free to ask in the comment section and I’ll email it to you.
There were some very impressive female families represented by NFR horses from the last five years. Guys Six Pack To Go (Six Pack) for example, is from the same female family of Judge Cash. The dam of Dash Ta Vanila (Nilla) was the barrel racing phenom SX Frenchmans Vanilla. Streakin Easy April (Lolo) is a half sister to derby winner and sire Frenchmans Easy Doc. Their second dam (Easy April Bar) also produced multiple NFR qualifier Easy Does It Doc (Scott). Both the sire (Dr Nick Bar) and dam (Flowers And Money) of Flos Heiress (Babyflo) and her full sister Nicks Nefertiti (Neffy) were four time NFR qualifiers. As I mentioned earlier, we are seeing more and more horses bred specifically for barrels from known successful barrel racing performers.
As you can see from the leading sire lists above, the racing world is still well represented, of course. Tell Em Belle (Belle), for example, was a winner on the track before beginning her barrel racing career, and is descended from the renowned Jaime Jay maternal line, which produced stakes winners Teller Queen and Teller Corona. The cowhorse world is also still a major player in the barrel industry, with horses like Perfectos Dually (J-Lo) – whose sire and dam were both NCHA money earners – showcasing their famous quickness and agility. There were also horses with halter lines like Impressive (Jackfork Billie, aka Billie) and Skipper W (RF Firefly, aka Cleo and Skip The Finances, aka Zoey) in their pedigrees. While barrel racing has becoming an industry all of its own in the last couple decades, the sport is still unique in that horses descended from the lines of many different disciplines can be successful at it. It is the true “melting pot” of the western riding world.
Listed to the right are all ancestors that appeared four or more times in four generations, and that also appeared through two or more descendants. I decided against including horses that appeared through just one descendant, since the offspring are already listed and to include the parent would only be redundant. For instance, Find A Buyer (TB) appeared 30 times in pedigrees; however she is excluded from the list because all of those appearances were through her son, Dash For Cash, who was already listed. Prissy Cline appeared eleven times, but they were all through her son Sun Frost; therefore she was excluded as well. Lena’s Bar (TB) made the list because she appeared through two descendants: Jet Smooth and Easy Jet. Hopefully this explains away any confusion my readers may have had over certain omitted horses.
Forty-nine horses made the Common Ancestors list, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll see there are only a handful of sirelines and/or maternal families that produced the entire thing. The Three Bars (TB) sireline alone accounts for nearly half the list by direct male line descent. There is the Top Deck (TB) sireline, which accounts for seven horses. Then there are the Native Dancer (TB), Noholme II (TB), Leo, King, and Driftwood sirelines. You’ll see from this and other lists that the Yeagers Lady JA and Do Good female families were also responsible for many of the popular barrel horse bloodlines in these pedigrees.
Three Bars (TB) and Leo were the oldest ancestors on the list, and it’s a true testament to their importance as sires that they are still being found in fairly high numbers within four generations – seventy-five years after they were born. You’ll see a list of direct descendants from the Three Bars (TB) sireline below. It is not a list of complete descendants from 2010-2014 barrel horse pedigrees, but it does include the horses from the Common and Influential Ancestors lists, as well as the various leading sire lists.
Far and away, the most common ancestor among recent NFR barrel horses was the incomparable Dash For Cash. The quarter horse legend appears forty-four times, through fifteen sons and six daughters.
Dash For Cash Sons: Cash Not Credit, Dash For Perks, Dash With Vigor, Debs Cash, Financially, First Down Dash, Judge Cash, Man In The Money, On A High, Pure D Dash, Rebel Dasher, Sir Cashanova, Twaynas Dash, Victory Dash and Write It Down.
Dash For Cash Daughters: Belles And Bows, Cash Goddess, Dream N Win, Flow Of Cash, Miss Eye Opener and Teller Belle.
Not only a great racehorse and sire of performers in his own right, both the sons and daughters of Dash For Cash went on to become outstanding producers as well. His genes are beneficial in any position on a pedigree; whether it’s on the maternal or paternal side. As you probably noticed in the nicking section above, the three most popular crosses among NFR barrel horses also included Dash For Cash: Dash For Cash crossed on Easy Jet, Dash For Cash lines crossed back on more Dash For Cash lines, and Dash For Cash crossed on his most successful son, First Down Dash.
Rocket Wrangler ranks in second place, with thirty-one crosses. Thirty of those, however, were through his son Dash For Cash. The remaining cross was through another son, Rocket’s Magic. While perhaps not as famous as his paternal half-brother, Rocket’s Magic was a talented stakes winner and later a leading broodmare sire. His third place finish in Bugs Alive In 75‘s All American Futurity inspired one of my all-time favorite horse movies, Casey’s Shadow.
Next in line on the common ancestors list is another father/son duo: Jet Deck and Easy Jet. Jet Deck’s sire record is sensational, especially when you consider he was murdered at only eleven years old, siring just eight crops of foals. He not only produced race horses, but halter and arena performers as well. Like Dash For Cash later on, both Jet Deck’s sons and daughters were successful producers. We can only imagine what his impact would have been had he led a full life. As it is, he still has great influence in quarter horse pedigrees today, appearing in NFR barrel horse pedigrees twenty-six times, through nine sons and four daughters.
Jet Deck Sons: Count Jet, Easy Jet, Fast Jet, Flaming Jet, Jet Of Honor, Jet Request, Jet Smooth, Jets Pay Day and Nonstop Jet.
Jet Deck Daughters: Cuter Yet, Miss Dark Jet, Miss Merry Chase and Yes Virginia.
Jet Deck’s greatest son, Easy Jet, is tied with his father at twenty-six crosses, and Top Moon (an 84% sibling to Jet Deck) has ten appearances. It’s worth noting that Barred Girl, the third dam of Dash Ta Fame, is a 5/8 sibling to both Jet Deck and Top Moon. Between all of these closely related individuals, there is a combined influence that equals that of Dash For Cash.
Perhaps the most influential female family, by sheer number of descendants, among NFR barrel horses was that of Do Good:
Yeagers Lady JA also made an impressive showing, with fewer descendants but more numerous crosses:
Other interesting and noteworthy crosses:
That brings the third and final installment of my five-year NFR review to a close. I hope my fellow barrel racing nerds enjoyed it. I must give a loud “Thank You!” to the various sources I used for information and photo gathering: The Legends book series by Western Horseman, www.wpra.com, www.aqha.com, www.quarterhorserecord.com, The Quarter Horse Journal, The Quarter Racing Journal, QuarterWeek Magazine, the forum members of www.barrelhorseworld.com, www.barrelracingreport.com, and www.ontherodeoroad.com. My apologies to anyone I’ve forgotten!
I’ll sign off with a photo collage of many of the horses listed above.
Until next time, enjoy the ride!
Seventy-five barrel horses made competition runs at the NFR from 2010-2014. Do papers matter? They do in this crowd; all seventy-five were registered (seventy-three American Quarter Horses and two American Paint Horses).
Does color matter? I had an amusing conversation with a woman in a feed store back in 2007 or 2008, who told me with absolute conviction that palomino and buckskin barrel horses “just don’t win at the NFR.” I haven’t crunched the numbers for NFR data prior to 2010, so I’m not sure how accurate her assessment was at the time; although golden-haired descendants of Slash J Harletta and Sun Frost (among others) have been making waves in the barrel pen for several decades now.
At any rate, her argument holds no water at all now. Buckskins, palominos, and grays have had better money winning percentages (6th place or better) during the last five years than any other horse colors. Plus, there’re all those pesky palominos and buckskins going around setting new arena records, winning World Championships and average titles. As the adage goes (and the data shows), a good horse is never a bad color!
NFR horses ranged in age from five to eighteen, with an average of 9.4 years old. The youngsters of the bunch were Blue Moon Fling (BB), Im A Royal Design (Hammer), Ima Super Fly Guy (Super Fly), RC Brooks A Streakin (Brooks), and Shes Free To Flame (Teddy), all of whom competed at five. The senior horses were Easy Dash Oak (Roundpen), who was sixteen, and Jackfork Billie (Billie), who was eighteen. As you can see from the graph above, there is a distinct peak age range in NFR horses between six and twelve years old.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the NFR barrel horses were geldings, followed by mares, and then finally a small group of stallions. These percentages probably closely reflect the population as a whole, although with the widespread use of AI and embryo transfers we are seeing many elite mares and stallions competing in the arena longer, when ten to fifteen years ago they probably would have been permanently retired to the breeding shed at a much earlier age than we are currently seeing. *Note, there are several NFR horses who are still listed as stallions with AQHA, but through research were determined to actually be geldings, and were listed as such in my data.
Lisa Lockhart’s Louie tops the number of runs list, closely followed by Sherry Cervi’s small but mighty Stingray. Stingray would undoubtedly have 50 runs as well, but for an unlucky fall at the second barrel in Round 6 of the 2012 NFR. Sherry brought in MP A Man With Roses (George) as a relief runner for a couple rounds after the fall. Heza Bug Leo (Bugs) was the only horse to come to the NFR with two different riders (in this time frame), although Rare Dillion (Dillion) had also qualified prior to 2010 with his former rider, Annesa Self. Look for Dillion to make an appearance this year with his third NFR jockey, Callie Duperier. Im A Royal Design (Hammer) made a couple runs for Carlee Pierce during the 2012 NFR as Dillion’s backup, and he will also be back in Vegas in 2015 – this time as a seasoned first string mount for Jana Bean.
Dolly’s record setting NFR average in 2010 places her firmly at the top of the average leader list. You have to be impressed by the average times of the multiple NFR qualifying horses, Judge Buy Cash (Jethro), Wonders Cowboy Dan (Cowboy), An Oakie With Cash (Louie), and MP Meter My Hay (Stingray). All had more than 25 NFR runs and an average time less than 15.0 seconds. Jethro and Cowboy also own the knocked barrel category for multiple NFR qualifiers, with Xtrared (Stitch), Louie, Bugs, and Stingray also showing remarkable records for clean runs. Clean, consistent runs are why these horses excelled in the average race year after year. The money winning percentages reveal how WPRA Champions are made. The championship does all come down to money won, after all. Louie and Stingray’s money winning percentages are phenomenal considering the number of runs they’ve made in the last five years. How would you like to be coming down the alley on a 72% and 66% money winning machine? I know I would! Perculatin (Latte) and the immortal Sugar Moon Express (Martha) also sported a more than 60% money winning rate. There are several horses near the top of the money earning list that are so fast, and turn so tight, it’s difficult to keep the barrels standing. These horses may not have the best average times or knock percentages, but when the barrels are left standing their riders are almost guaranteed a paycheck. Think Dillion and Honor Thy Frenchman (Bo). When a horse can win money in 50% or more of the NFR rounds, their riders are taking home a pretty decent haul – maybe even getting their bank account in the black before years end!
There are many more incredible horse and rider teams I’d love to discuss… for instance a huge kudos goes out to Fallon Taylor and Flos Heiress (Babyflo), who regrouped and turned Fallon’s frustrating 2013 NFR (23.33% knockdown rate, 20% money winning percentage) completely around in 2014 (3.33% knockdown rate, 80% money winning percentage). I expect more great things from this team in 2015.
For now, I’ll leave you with a chart of the personal best times of every NFR horse from 2010-2014. Enjoy, and look for my NFR Bloodlines installment later this week!
Until next time, enjoy the ride!
As you may be aware, the 2015 National Finals Rodeo is nearly upon us.
One of my pet horse-nerd projects the last few years has been compiling stats on NFR barrel racing. For the last five years (2010-2014), I’ve recorded all the women and horses that have made runs in the Thomas and Mack arena, the results of those runs, and each horse’s four generation pedigree information.
Crunching the numbers within this data has yielded some interesting information – interesting, at least, to me and my fellow barrel racing nerds – so I’ve decided to share my results in the form of a probably three, but possibly four, part series. Part One will detail rider performance and run statistics; winning times, leaders in average times, barrel knock percentages, in-the-money percentages, the effect run order has on placings, etc. Part Two will analyze horse performance; age, gender, color, leaders in number of runs, personal best times, average times, percentages of barrels knocked, overall fastest times, and in-the-money percentages. The third installment will discuss pedigrees; leading bloodlines, sires, paternal and maternal grandsires, female families, and nicks.
So without further ado, let’s get started on Part One!
**Note: Click on any chart or graph to be taken to full view link.
In the last five years, thirty-eight women have made competition runs at the NFR. It’s been five years of unprecedented speed – the seven fastest times in the last five years have also been the seven fastest in NFR history. Two new average records and three new arena records were set.
In 2010, Jill Moody and TR Dashing Badger (Dolly) made ten runs in 138.26 seconds, breaking the twenty-four year old average record set by Charmayne James and Gills Bay Boy (Scamper) in 1986. Jill and Dolly’s record only stood for three years before Sherry Cervi and MP Meter My Hay (Stingray) came along in 2013 and set one of their own: 138.15/10. That same year, Sherry and Stingray became the fifth horse and rider team in NFR history, and the first in sixteen years (since Kristy Peterson and French Flash Hawk (Bozo) in 1997), to place (6th or better) in all ten rounds.
In 2010, Sherry and Stingray set a new arena record of 13.49, lowering the previous mark of 13.52 set by Brandie Halls and I Am Not Te (Slim) in 2006. The very next year, Carlee Pierce and the always swift Rare Dillion (Dillion) lowered the mark still further, with a 13.46. Then in the sixth round of the 2013 NFR, Taylor Jacob and her gelding Honor Thy Frenchman (Bo) laid down a scorching 13.37, now the current arena record.
Horses and riders are getting faster and faster and the competition is fierce; as you can see from the graph above, to get a first place check these teams need to clock somewhere between 13.63 and 13.88 on average. The 13.88 average was from 2014 – the “slowest” year in recent history! The stage is set for the 2015 NFR to potentially be another record setting event – five of the six horses that ran the ten fastest times of 2010-2014 are expected to return in December. If the ground is good and the barrels stay standing, prepare to witness some blazing runs in Vegas this year!
Brenda Mays, Kaley Bass, Lisa Lockhart, Sherry Cervi, Lindsay Sears, and Christina Richman stand out as the queens of consistency during the last five years. All had thirty or more rounds under their belts, with averages under 15.0 seconds and barrel knockdown percentages that should be the envy of all (between 2.22 and 6.67%). Is it any wonder that this group alone amassed three of the WPRA World Championships and four of the NFR Average titles during this time frame?
Lisa Lockhart is the rider I am rooting for the most at the upcoming NFR. She’s won the average race before, but I would love to see her get the WPRA Championship this time. She’s coming into the race in second place, and her 2010-2014 stats are incredible! Lisa has completed more NFR runs than any other rider in the last five years (Sherry Cervi would be tied with her but for a single No Time). Her average time is 14.6268 (fourth overall). Her knockdown percentage is 4.67% (fifth overall). And get a load of that money winning percentage… 72%! Sherry Cervi, Mary Walker, and Lindsay Sears also had impressive money winning percentages, but Lisa and Louie the Wonder Horse (as I like to call him, but officially known as An Oakie With Cash) have placed in a whopping thirty-six of the last fifty NFR rounds. No other barrel racer has placed so consistently. If the past is any indication of what may happen this year, Lisa and Louie could be very dangerous in Vegas.
Like Lisa, most NFR jockeys ride one horse throughout all ten rounds. A few use two horses, and fewer still use three horses. Which is the best strategy? The numbers suggest dancing with the one that brought you is the way to go, with riders winning money (placing 6th or better in each round) nearly 50% of the time when they stick with only one mount for all ten rounds. When rounds are split between two horses, the money winning average drops to almost 30%. With three mounts, it drops to only 10%.
It’s interesting to note, when a rider uses two or three horses, there is typically only one horse in the string that places and the others never hit the board. On the twenty-five occasions when riders used two or three horses at the NFR in the last five years, only five times have they been able to place on more than one of those horses. Angie Meadors won money on both Mulberry Canyon Moon and Heza Bug Leo (Bugs) in 2011, and Nikki Steffes won money on both Dash Ta Vanila (Nilla) and Tell Em Belle (Belle) in 2012. In a feat that speaks volumes about her ability as a barrel horse jockey, Brittany Pozzi has won money on multiple horses in three of the last five NFRs: on both Yeah Hes Firen (Duke) and French Covergirl (Cosmo) in 2010, on both Yeah Hes Firen (Duke) and Sixth Vision (Stitch) in 2012, and in 2013 she won money on two of the three horses she rode, Shes Free To Flame (Teddy) and Ima Super Fly Guy (Super Fly). Brittany has actually ridden more horses than any other qualifier from 2010-2014 – piloting a total of six horses through forty rounds – and she managed to pull a paycheck on five of those six mounts.
There are many reasons riders will switch horses during the NFR; as a tactical maneuver, or a horse may get tired, injured, burnt out, or just doesn’t like the NFR setup. Maybe a rider has several horses that helped them qualify in the Top 15 and they want to give them all a shot at “The Show.” Sometimes riders are hit with plain old hard luck, and their first string horse is out of commission come the beginning of December. They wind up spending all ten NFR rounds trying to find a groove with various backup horses. These stats have shown me one thing, however – unless you’re Brittany Pozzi, rotating through multiple horses in a string rarely pays at the NFR!
Does being on top of the ground (one of the first barrel racers to make a run on a given night) actually give you a winning edge? Based on the data from the last five years, the answer is a definite yes. Whether that edge is mental, physical, or some combination of the two, I couldn’t tell you – but being first or second out of the draw order produced more winning runs than any other position. The other numbers produced fairly consistent wins, with the exception of four; which is the only position that produced zero wins. With these caliber riders and horses, who are used to competing whether the ground is good or not, a winning run can literally come from anywhere in the draw order, and the stats reflect that. But as most suspect, there is indeed a statistical advantage to being first or second out. And as very few suspected, apparently being fourth out is the kiss of death and the one sure fire way NOT to win a round. 2015 NFR Qualifiers, consider yourselves warned! lol
That brings the first edition of my NFR review to a close, but stay tuned for Part Two later this week. I hope to have all three posted before the 2015 NFR comes to a finish. It’s been an exciting half-decade (is there an official word for that?) in review, and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.
Until next time, enjoy the ride!
P.S. Go Lisa & Louie!
Hello there HYHC followers! It’s been much too long! I hope everyone is enjoying the summer weather and getting to log in some hours with their horses, I know I sure am! So, I’ve had a post saved on my computer for months that I just haven’t gotten around to posting, but seeing that we’re at the peak of the competition year in many areas right now and fitness is incredibly important – for both us and our horses – I think now is as good a time as any to share it:
Being the horse nerd that I am, I have a huge interest in a variety of equine sciences. Genetics, breeding theory, pedigree research, nutrition, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, homeopathy and other healing therapies… I have thousands of dollars worth of books and DVDs, a filing cabinet filled with notes, and boxes of magazine articles on these and other related subjects. A few books I’ve re-read in the last few months inspired my creation of the below graph, which is an estimation of what factors make up a successful (or not-so-successful) performance horse.
In The Fit Racehorse II, author Tom Ivers estimated that natural ability made up about 40% of a racehorse’s ultimate performance, followed by a 30% influence from training, and 15% each for shoeing/drugs/equipment and nutrition. In The X Factor books by Marianna Haun, veterinarians estimated that heart size contributed about 23% to the overall quality of the racehorse. For my own purposes, I included the 23% estimate for heart size within the 40% “natural ability” estimate by Ivers (which correlates to about 9% out of the 40%), leaving a remainder of 31% for any other natural abilities. All of these stats were meant for racehorses, of course, but I think they could easily be transferred to performance horses in general.
Keep in mind these numbers are, for one, just food for thought. They are opinions only, and you may or may not agree with them. Two: this is meant to represent an ideal set of circumstances; where the best possible feed, shoeing, equipment, training, breeding, conformation, and medical care have all been provided – to a horse free of injury. I’m reminded of a Dr. Phil episode I once saw, where the topic of the day was sex in relationships. Dr. Phil said something along the lines of sex only being about 10% of a relationship – unless you weren’t having any. Then it was about 90%. By the same token, a bad shoe job could quickly become 90% responsible for a horse’s performance – as could inadequate nutrition, training, medical care, poor conformation, or just plain lack of athleticism.
Most striking to me about these numbers is just how much influence we, as handlers, can have on a horse’s quality of performance – far above and beyond the genetic roll of the dice. In reality, we have our fingers in the natural ability category as well, since most foals in the performance horse world are products of planned breedings. While we don’t have control over which genes come up in the genetic lottery, we can shift the odds in our favor with our choices of phenotypes and knowledge of the performance abilities of the sire, dam, and immediate family. Heart size alone is rather easily bred for, by crossing parents who carry it themselves. But, even if you take the “natural ability” category out of our hands completely, that still leaves 60% of the horse’s overall performance capability subject to our influence. That’s a huge number! I wish more people would take advantage of it.
Please excuse me while I climb on my little massage therapist/horse nerd soapbox for a moment…
The horse world is full of weekend warriors – people who work a day job all week and then go load up their horse to compete in their event of choice on the weekends. They are a vital and important part of the industry, and are often the largest market for the wares of full time horse people. I don’t have a problem with weekend warriors who have realistic expectations of their horses. Those that just want to go have fun and enjoy the weekend with their horse and friends… more power to them!
But at the other end of the spectrum is the weekend warrior who is just plain lazy. I’ve encountered so many riders over the years that leave their horse in the stall all week, then haul to an event Friday or Saturday and actually expect to win. They just can’t understand why the horse “won’t work,” “didn’t fire,” is spooking at everything it sees, hot in the box, refusing the gate, blowing turns, running out of gas, or even worse, is lame by the time Sunday evening rolls around – and wonder of wonders, they didn’t win a thing. But they’re sure there’s a new supplement or piece of equipment out there that can fix their problem.
That’s not competing folks, that’s gambling. (I’ve pissed off a lot of “timies” with that line. “Roughies” that show up for their events hungover, too.) It’s gambling with your entry fee money and the well-being of your horse. I’ve massaged barrel and rope horses whose owners just can’t understand why their horse is sore. All they do is haul to weekend shows – no riding during the week at all. I’ve told them, your horse is out of shape. You need to work it during the week if you want it to perform on the weekend without getting hurt.
What would happen to you if you spent most of your time indoors, without exercise, and then one day went outside and ran multiple 100 yard sprints, as fast as you could go? With 25-50 lbs strapped to your back? You would be in a world of hurt for days afterward, and that’s if you didn’t accidentally blow a knee or roll an ankle from fatigue. It’s no different for horses.
Some people get sucked into this mentality: Well the horse is sore so I’m going to give it the week off to recover. Then it should be better by the weekend. Maybe give it some bute to help it through, or My horse seemed sluggish last weekend so I’m going to give it the week off so it stays “fresh” for this weekend. Barring the horse that is sore or sluggish from genuine overtraining (in which case, he shouldn’t be competing anyway), these “solutions” are the exact opposite of what we should be doing. What we really need to do is skip a few shows and spend a few weeks/months getting our horses in shape before asking for all-out efforts in the arena.
Circling back around to the gambling metaphor for a minute, I also watched the documentary “Turn & Burn: Inside the World of Barrel Racing” again a couple weeks ago. In Act 4 of the movie, called “Playing the Game,” some of the women interviewed say that barrel racing is gambling, plain and simple. While there is an element of “racing luck” to any equestrian event (travel, weather, crowds, equipment, injuries, arena conditions, competition, draw order, etc.), I think there is a definite difference between gambling and competing.
The situation I outlined earlier is, without a doubt, gambling. Sure, once in awhile the gambler will get lucky and take home a check. People who play slots all day will occasionally hit a jackpot – but how many gamblers do you know who make a living gambling? Ok, I know there are some professional poker and other card players that make a good living gambling. However, if you were to ask them the secret to their success, I suspect there is a lot of work and training and skill developing involved. They would probably describe themselves as competitors, and they are in the minority. Most gamblers put themselves in debt far more often than they actually make money. A gambler leaves everything to chance, and their performances will be very inconsistent.
A competitor leaves as little as possible to chance. A competitor prepares. A competitor trains. HARD. Sometimes that isn’t enough to get the win on the day, but you can bet a competitor will be back next time, and will probably improve because they evaluated what happened last time and did whatever they could to change things for the better. A competitor does everything within their power to stack the odds in their favor, and their performances will consistently improve over time.
When I was a teenager I went with my step dad one day while he shod horses for a guy that played polo. To my amazement (at the time), the man told me he galloped his horses nine miles a day to keep them in shape. Nine consecutive miles. That was just his base routine, not counting if he wanted to work on maneuvers and whatnot. I had never heard of such a thing! I mean, doing ranch work we had horses that sometimes covered over 50 miles a day in a big circle. But it wasn’t every day, and a large portion of that was at a trot, with some walking and loping thrown in and the occasional mad dash after a cow that needed doctoring. Or if my step dad got a wild hair and just felt like roping something. I don’t know if you’ve ever galloped a horse while riding in a forward position, but just a mile or two is quite a workout. Galloping nine miles, on several horses a day? That is some dedication, let me tell ya. Dedication with buns and thighs of steel. And talk about horse power. Most arena horses would have a heart attack if you tried to gallop a mile, let alone nine of them. You want to see some in shape horses, go check out a polo stable.
Anyway, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I think horsepeople often underestimate just how much is within their power to change. People simply assume that their horse has a certain amount of athletic potential based upon genetics – which is true, but it isn’t the whole picture. Natural ability is only going to take them so far… anybody who wants, or expects, to be competitive in an equestrian event should help their horse reach the peak of that athletic potential by properly conditioning them. I think we sell a lot of animals short by undertraining them.
A quick glance at almost any horse forum will show you countless questions and discussions concerning how to get a better performance from your horse. There are many factors that can change a horse’s level of performance, but in my opinion the very first and best thing anyone seeking improvement should/can do is to get their horse in proper physical condition. Actually, let me amend that… first on the list should be nutrition, and second would be conditioning. A horse can’t work if it doesn’t have the proper fuel in the tank, after all. And proper hoof care should be somewhere at the top as well, since you aren’t going to win anything on flat or unbalanced tires. But general health care aside, make sure your horses are trained – both mentally and structurally – for the job at hand. By doing so, you will already be a step ahead of many other competitors and, best of all, you will prevent a lot of needless injuries for your horse and ultimately prolong its career.
In The Fit Racehorse II, the author tells the story of when he first began researching equine exercise physiology. He asked the head track coach and exercise physiologist at Ohio State University what difference they thought interval training (IT) could make for conventionally trained racehorses. Based upon the results of their human athletes and the information they had on conventionally trained racehorses at the time, they estimated that IT could make a 5% to 15% difference a horse’s race time. Even later on, after years of experimenting with racehorses and IT, the author’s results consistently showed that a basic IT program produced at least a 5% improvement in racing time over conventional training methods. I can only imagine what the estimated percentage of improvement would be for a horse that isn’t being conditioned at all and actually spends the majority of the week in its stall.
Just think about those stats for a second. If you took a horse in average or even “good” shape by conventional standards, and (gradually) increased its level of fitness until it was in peak or near-peak condition, you could improve your horse’s performance time by 5-15%. By physical training alone. Here’s a little chart to put that in perspective:
|Event||Current Time||5% Improvement||10% Improvement||15% Improvement|
Obviously, the longer the event the more pronounced this effect would be, and there is a large human factor involved in any of these sports. And, of course, roping and bull dogging times are largely impacted by the cattle drawn. But I don’t know a single person who seriously competes, in any timed event, who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to drop a few hundredths from their final time, let alone full seconds. Ensuring you’re mounted on a horse has been conditioned to a proper fitness level is one way to do just that.
To give an example that isn’t just anecdotal, some years back a friend’s niece wanted to get into junior rodeoing. They didn’t have any horses or experience in rodeo, so I started coaching her on a couple of our horses. The first year or so was a learning experience, and although I rode just about every day, I didn’t do much speed work with the horses during the week because I didn’t want to add more firepower than she could handle in their rodeo performances. Eventually she was ready for more speed, and I started adding some breezes and sprint work during my rides a couple times a week. The association she was in usually held one 2-day rodeo each month, and I remember the first rodeo she went to after I started adding speed work to my gelding’s routine they dropped their barrel racing time from 20 and change to 18 and change (standard pattern). That’s a good 10-11% improvement in just 3-4 weeks. Again, on physical training alone. The only thing that changed in that time frame was my conditioning protocol, and the result was that the horse fired harder at the next rodeo.
We must be realistic owners and riders. We get what we train for, plain and simple. If your horse spends 4-6 days a week in a stall (or doesn’t do any work that breaks a sweat during the week), he’ll be a great couch potato, possibly a decent pleasure horse (by this I mean riding for pleasure, not western pleasure). He probably isn’t going to be real competitive in the arena… And that ok! I know as well as anyone that we don’t always have the time or the means to get our horses in tip top shape. We can still go have some fun on the weekends, just as long we aren’t expecting ol’ Dobbin to magically turn into Scamper when we unload him at the next barrel race. Instead, enjoy yourself and make a run where you concentrate more on form and correctness than balls-to-wall speed. Remember also, if an abundance of natural ability does give an out-of-shape horse an advantage in the arena, and you ask too much too soon, the lack of conditioning WILL injure him eventually. Please, don’t show up at the Saturday show expecting to kick ass and take names, and don’t blame the horse when it does exactly what you conditioned it to do: Nothing.
If you do want to become more competitive in your discipline of choice, remember that pie graph up above. We can have an enormous influence on how well our horses perform. It isn’t all up to chance and natural ability! Natural born athletes are beaten every day by athletes that just plain train harder. Evaluate your feeding, shoeing, and conditioning programs. Make changes where necessary. Work on your own skills as a rider.
I often hear people say that “everything happens for a reason.” In some cases there may very well be a guiding force behind an event… In other cases, that saying seems to be nothing more than an excuse for people to avoid accountability for their own actions. It’s important to have faith, but it’s also important to remember we have free will. Don’t be complacent. Sometimes an outcome is determined by nothing more than our lack of effort to change it.
Until next time, enjoy the ride!
Last week was Bill’s birthday, and I’m reminded once again of just how thankful I am to be sharing my life with such a good man, and how blessed I am to have found a partner in life that suits me so well.
Some women are perfectly comfortable playing the damsel in distress… I am not one of these women. I’ve never been the sort of girl who needed – or even wanted – a man on a white horse to rescue me from my troubles. I grew up watching capable women deal with everyday problems on their own – paying bills, raising kids, caring for animals. Building whatever needed to be built, lifting whatever needed to be lifted, and fixing whatever needed to be fixed. I’ve always been confident that I can handle whatever life throws my way, man or no man. And once I grew older and my hands had actually been burned by the flames of love, it became obvious that the “Knight on a White Charger” (or, “Cowboy Take Me Away” in the western world) fantasy was simply laughable in the harsh light of reality.
Some men are intimidated by independent, capable women. Sometimes with good reason. We can be a scary bunch!
Luckily, Bill manages to be a gentleman without patronizing me. Probably because he’s had to do all of those same single-parent chores himself. I think you have a better appreciation for a dependable partner when you’ve had to do things on your own. I know when Bill does something for me it’s out of love and thoughtfulness, not because he didn’t think I was competent enough to do it myself. Love, thoughtfulness… or he wants to buy a new gun, lol. Either way, he’s helpful without being insulting. That’s rarer than you may think.
I first met Bill during one of my post-relationship-Kerosene phases – picture me driving around town singing an enthusiastic duet with Miranda Lambert while “Kerosene” blares from my stereo speakers, on constant repeat. It’s funny how love seems to find you just about the time you lose all interest in the emotion. Thankfully, Bill is a persistent man and full of qualities that quickly won me over.
He’s a manly guy with a deep sense of responsibility and a soft heart for those he cares about. He enjoys the outdoors; cow work, hunting, and fishing. He’s fiercely loyal, but terrified of mice. He hates having his picture taken, but tolerates my neverending quest for the “perfect shot.” He isn’t crazy about human babies but loves the four-legged variety; be they foals, puppies, or calves. He has a great sense of humor, and doesn’t get (too) upset when I beat him in shooting gallery competitions.
What can I say? I’m a lucky girl.
Here’s to you, my love! Happy Birthday!
Until next time, enjoy the ride!