If you've ever been around rodeo and the western industry you know what a tight-knit community it can be. Everyone is striving towards a similar goal and therefore often becoming as close as family. Though I have been involved in the sport since junior high, through high school and college it is still a huge step into uncomfortable territory when you dip your toes in the water of professional rodeo, but before I get to that let's go back a bit. After I graduated college in the spring of 2022 I was burnt out on rodeo and needed a bit of a break to make it fun again. I took the summer and trained some outside horses and told myself that I was not going to buy a card but just hit a few open rodeos and try to have fun without all the pressure of representing a team or trying to make a finals. I had entered a CFB qualifier right after I got home that spring on my brother's horse and ended up getting a spot to go to their finals, so I continued and entered the qualifier again at the Quesnel Rodeo and ended up getting my second spot (so much for no finals, right?). Overall I ended up having a fairly successful summer placing at the open rodeos and building up my confidence again.
The CFB finals were held in Claresholm, AB the first weekend of October, I loaded up my old faithful Lulu and my 5-year-old Annie and headed down there. The calves ran and you had to see a bit of a start and that just wasn't Lulu's setup, so much to my surprise I ended up riding Annie at the finals. It just happened to be her first jackpot (nothing like making it a big one), as much as I hate to admit it I did not have high expectations, I was intimidated by the competition roping against several CFR qualifiers but I just went out and roped my calves. Annie handled the pressure like a champ and once it was all said and done we ended up placing 3rd taking home around $6,000 with round and average payout and Annie "paying" for herself at her first jackpot which I thought was pretty cool. After that, I team roped a bit over the winter but spent most of my time taking care of the ranch and thinking about the future. I found confidence in this horse that I hadn't felt in a while, should I try and go further or should I stick to the amateur rodeos for another year and get her seasoned? Fast forward to spring of 2023 with a lot of "gentle encouragement," I bit the bullet and took out my CPRA (Canadian Professional Rodeo Association) permit in the breakaway roping. Confidence in myself has always been something I have struggled with, so this was a huge step for me, fighting my head on whether I was good enough, had the horsepower, or even the experience to be successful at that level of competition. I was not only intimidated by the competition but by the people too, I was the new kid on the block and had never been very outgoing so I mostly kept to myself. I did ok, the first few rodeos I was roping my calves I just needed to get faster, I have always been good in an average but not so much when it is go fast or be last type of deal like most regular season rodeos are. I was riding old faithful Lulu and my brother's calf horse Spike and even borrowed back my old mare Lexus for Falkland because the horse I had been planning on taking, Annie, was not sound at the time.
Fast forward to July I finally got Annie sound, we made our first rodeo run in Williams Lake but caught a barrier to place, but my confidant was back! We drove all night to hit an open rodeo in Rio Grande, AB where we were 2.5 to win the day which got me thinking that maybe I could go fast. The following week we hit another open rodeo in Hudson's Hope, BC where we were 2.8 to win on the first day. On to Teepee Creek the next week Annie's second pro rodeo and my first cheque with a 3.0 for 7/8th hole and $958... just $42 short of filling my permit. A couple of weeks later at the Doig River Open Rodeo, we were 2.7 for second. My confidence was running higher so we made the trip to Grimshaw where we had a tough draw and LaCrete but were just a little too long to place. Dawson Creek Exhibition is as close to my hometown as a pro rodeo gets we were lucky enough to get one roped in 3.6 for 5th and another $947 to fill my permit.
After I filled my permit it was too late in the year to pull a full card so I decided to stay closer to home, hit the remainder of the open rodeos, make sure Annie was healthy, and work on my other young horses in preparation for next year. We hit the Halfway River Open Rodeo August long weekend, where we won the first round with a 2.6 and this would be our last rodeo of the year. The second day I missed the start and ended up missing my calf, as always I beat myself up with frustration but little did I know this would be my last run on Annie.
We got home late that night from the rodeo, turned horses out into their usual pastures and she went bucking and kicking happily off into the darkness. Just 12 hours later when I went to check on the horses that had been left at home for the weekend I found Annie with a swollen leg, barely able to walk. We loaded her in the trailer and made the 3-hour trip to the vet praying it wasn't what it turned out to be, after x-rays it was a shattered hock, an unrepairable life-ending injury for the horse that had given me all the confidence in the world.
Anyone who has lost their heart horse can attest to the hole that it leaves in our lives because it never really is "just a horse". Competition wise I lost my confidence, emotional wise I lost one of my best friends. As painful as it may be I truly believe everything happens for a reason, I had decisions to make, and even though my heart was still hurting I had to show up the next day and work towards my goals. The very next day I started working with my other young horse Punch who had been put on the back burner because he was just a year younger than Annie and she was much "easier" to see progress with. I started roping a few calves on him and he stepped up to the plate and progressed quickly now that he had my undivided attention. After some thought, I decided that he wasn't going to be quite my style and that I would send him to AZ and list for sale where he later found the best home to go on with him.
At this point I still had a lot of decisions to make, was I going to rodeo again next year on my full card? I still had horses to ride but not the one that I felt most confident on and Lulu and Spike are getting to the age where they didn't need to be hitting the trail hard. I also was not in a position to buy a finished horse at this time, and whether I even wanted to was another question. I've always enjoyed finishing them out myself and molding them into my style before they are fully set in their ways. So after some discussion, I hesitantly put out a post on Facebook that I was looking for a horse, and you guessed it I got about a million messages from people who had the "perfect" horse for me, even when it didn't meet a single requirement I had. One comment caught my eye that was made by an older gentleman, "so and so has a blue mare that might work" so I reached out to the guy who was riding her who is also a good family friend and in true horse salesman fashion he told me "she'd look real good in your pen", I was pretty straight to the point asking "how old, how tall, how much?" and when I got the info I knew that she checked all my boxes as long as I felt confident roping on her.
It had only been a week since I had to put Annie down, I felt like things were moving too fast but decisions had to be made and there was only so much nice weather left in the north to start clicking with a new horse. So after a weekend of judging HSR my brother and I hopped in the rig and headed off to try this blue mare, since we were already 3 hours closer, but not planning for it I didn't even have my saddle let alone my ropes, good thing I had Korbin's to borrow. We drove into the night, stopping to sleep in a Walmart parking lot in Whitecourt, we arrived late morning and it was a fit from the start. I ran about 6 calves and 4 steers and couldn't wipe the smile off my face, she's not quite finished but dang sure close and has all the tools to be successful. I asked Korbin if he'd like to run a couple and he said "I don't think I need to help you decide". So the little blue mare that I call Fancy (named after my great grandfather's horse) made her way home with us. I was grateful to have found what I was looking for in the first horse I tried, making the decision easy especially so soon after losing Annie.
I roped on Fancy at home all fall until the snow flew and took her to a couple of high school rodeos to flag on and see the sights. She handled everything like a veteran and I was starting to get pretty excited. I had planned on making a trip down to AZ in February to hit some jackpots and get ready for rodeo season but due to unforeseen circumstances and bills I decided to stay home. I've since taken Fancy to her first 3 team roping jackpots and first breakaway jackpot where we managed to win 2nd and a fast time with a 2.8. I am excited to be looking forward to the CPRA season on my full card, as this blue mare is going to be next-level talented. "Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down." ;)
This story got a lot longer and more personal than I intended but I suppose sometimes it is good to be vulnerable. Long story short and where I was originally going with this is how important it is to find confidence within yourself even if you're intimidated, how everything happens for a reason, and how you have to keep your chin up and keep going even when life throws you curve balls. This whole experience taught me a lot about how to persevere in hard times, and Annie taught me how to believe in myself and give confidence to another green horse going forward.
If you're still here, thanks for listening to me ramble.
"Those horses are like a pack of cigarettes, one day you're gonna run out of runs, enjoy it while it lasts."
Mbar Anne 'aka' Annie LaCrete Field of Dreams Stampede '23