I remember the first time I ever thought about barrel racing at a professional level. I was about 12 or 13 years old and my cousin handed me a weathered copy of Women’s Pro Rodeo News from the baseboard of her truck. At the time it was not the glossy print magazine that it is today. It was a newspaper, with torn edges and rodeos circled with pen. I had never been so excited. It was the first time that I had ever looked at the newspaper and read about the champions of that day. The entry information for the scheduled rodeos seemed like a road map for the path that I wanted to take in my life. The opportunities seemed endless and just what I wanted to advance from the Playdays and Jr. Rodeos I had attended since I was 8. What I didn’t know, was that it was going to be a lot harder to get started let alone be successful in this sport.
I wasn’t really born into a rodeo or horse family. My cousin (more like my aunt) ran barrels and my grandfather owned race horses, but for the most part we were “Beach” people. Despite the trips to the beach, sun bathing and walking “the strand”, (a long walkway along the Southern California Coast), I loved horses and everything having to do with horses. Even to this day when I go the beach, it just looks like a great place to long trot.
In the late 90’s (when I was in my teens) the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association changed the minimum age for a contestant to 18, putting pressure on me to make a decision on becoming a member or not. I knew the rule was going into effect and despite not really having a plan to rodeo or a horse that was truly competitive, I bought my first WPRA Permit at 15 and was grandfathered into the association despite the age change. Applying for a permit was not as easy as it is today. Email was something new and they still used hard paper applications that you sent with your birth certificate, a head shot and the appropriate fee. For those of you that don’t know, “filling your permit” is the first step to becoming a “card holder” in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. You must win $1,000 on your permit before you are eligible to get a “card.” Some people may say that if you want “to be somebody” in this sport, you must have a “card.”
So here is my confession, that I’m neither proud of nor ashamed of either.
It took me nearly 20 years to fill my permit.
Yes, 20 years!
Not one day goes by that I don’t realize that even on the days I didn’t win money (and there were a lot of them) that I didn’t learn something. I also know this learning process is far from over, nor will it ever be.
You see, some girls who have a lot of money backing them, the grace of a great horse and perfect timing (or any one of those things) have a lot of us girls banging our heads up against a wall. The fact is that they make it look so easy. I’m not holding anything against them. There is one thing about the clock…. and it’s that it doesn’t care how much you paid for your horse and all of your equipment, truck and trailer, we all lose the same.
It’s just, that it can a be a lot to swallow when you are that girl, that one girl who wants nothing more than to just reach this benchmark in your professional career and keep hitting roadblocks and adversity. It’s funny because you are more likely to hear about the girl who filled it in one weekend than you are to hear about the girl who took years. It’s almost like something that no one talks about. A friend of mine and I were talking at a rodeo last weekend and we just racked it up to when God wants it, he’ll make it happen and funny thing was…. that once I accepted this fact, that is when I started winning money.
So…. Here’s a look at the 20 year path… not recommended, but completely worth it.
1996 Bought a permit and didn’t go to one rodeo.
1997-1999 Bought a permit, no money won. Went to maybe 15 rodeos total over the 3 years.
2000, I won my first Rodeo Check at California Rodeo Salinas with a borrowed truck, trailer and horse…. but it didn’t count because it was a Temporary Permit. Temporary Permits were a fraction of the cost of a national permit. You were allowed to go to 5 rodeos a year, but none of the earnings counted towards your national permit. The borrowed horse that I rode was sold after showing she could hang with the “toughs.”
2001 No permit bought.
2002 Didn’t win any money, maybe went to 5 rodeos.
2003 Placed at a rodeo on a 5 year old that I trained and won some money at WPRA approved barrel races
2004 Placed at WPRA approved barrel races, ran the same horse as the previous year, but he was diagnosed with permanent joint disease late in the season.
2005-2011 Did not buy a permit
2012 Bought permit, but no money won. Was one hole out of the money at one rodeo by 1 hundredth of a second, riding a 5 year old that I trained.
2013 Placed at a rodeo splitting the last hole, earning $34 on one of the horses that I trained in 2011.
2014 Placed at WPRA approved races on a client’s horse that I trained.
2015 Placed at WPRA approved races to fill my permit on a 4 year old futurity horse.
Now, some may say, “who cares if you do or don’t fill your WPRA permit?”, but it was something that I’ve wanted to accomplish and I expected to do it a lot sooner than I did. In the time that I was attempting to fill my permit, I finished high school, graduated from college, started a career, and moved and lived in three different states. I know there are others out there that feel like they are the only ones struggling, but I promise you, you aren’t.
I thought long and hard about writing this post and I figured that most people would find this more comical than inspiring, but just in case there is one other person out there who needs to know that there are others struggling with meeting this benchmark, well then I figure it was worth it.
You will want to give up a million times and you will question why you are trying so hard, but as long as you feel it in your heart, keep getting up every morning and going to work.
I promise you won’t regret it.