Seventeen-year-old Westville, Fla., cowgirl BillieAnn Sexton is making a run this year to qualify for her second International Finals Rodeo. With over $6,000 won this year in the International Professional Rodeo Association, she sits at 16th in the world. At 17, she is already doing a whole lot right to make a major name for herself in professional rodeo.
When did you start running barrel horses?
I was 8 years old when i got my first barrel horse. I competed in reining before I became a barrel racer.
Who taught you to ride?
Dallas Dewees, many time SouthEastern Circuit winner.
Why barrel racing, instead of anything else?
Its intense and it will get your adrenaline going more then any other sport.
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date on the back of a horse?
Qualifying to the International Finals Rodeo(IFR)09′ and winning the second round. Also Reserve at NBHA Youth World-04′
Do you hold any arena records?
Gallup New Mexico, 15.9.(I think I still hold it.) Montgomery AL, the covered arena, not coliseum, 15.6. On the old stakes in Autagatville AL. 14.7. Valley 4, FL, 16.3.
What horse have you had the most success on?
“Shorty” Desert Patriot
What is the biggest check you’ve ever taken home in a single weekend?
Oh my, this one is hard! If I am not mistaken during the Mega barrel race I won around $5,000 that week I placed 2nd in a round, placed in a round and in the average aboard shorty!
What does your family think of your rodeo life?
They are fully behind me 110%. I am so blessed to have such great parents.
With a herd of top horses, Sexton has the ability to change horses depending on the arena. Below, she talks about what she does to season young horses to get them ready for the rough IPRA circuit.
How much training to do you do of your own horses?
Exercise everyday, long trot them in a pasture for 20 minutes. I mainly work my horses off the barrels, I keep them flexing and moving off my leg, I also like to work all off them on calves and steers to keep their minds thinking of more than just barrel racing.
Who else helps you train and and tune horses?
What is your favorite training tool for a young horse?
The round pen. The confined arena helps there attention go to the person on there back. Its a great way for a young horse gain consistency for perfect circles.
How old do you like your horses to be before you start rodeoing with them?
I think it depends on the horse. Some mature quicker then others. If they are four and can handle being pushed hard then I believe they can be hauled.
What is your favorite bit for a young horse?
Sherry Cervi snaffle or a twisted wire draw bit.
How do you get a horse ready to rodeo?
There is a big difference in rodeo and going to barrel races, so first I will get a young horse seasoned going to barrel races with them, then it’s time to be under the big lights at a rodeo.
What type of ground do you have in your arena at home?
Sand, it gets pretty deep but I think it helps a horse find its rear end while going around the barrel.
Do you ride horses for other people?
I am still young and also learning myself on training my own barrel horses, but i believe I may start that soon.
In the Rodeo Pen
What type of alleyway/entrance do you prefer?
I like a narrow alley way that is centered with the third barrel but any alley way were the third barrel is in sight for line up is fine.
What are you thinking running towards the first barrel?
I try to keep my mind clear and feel what I need to do at the moment, make a good run.
What are you thinking running home?
It kinda depends on the run I feel like I made. Good run I am thinking those good, sweet thoughts. Run with a few mistakes, I am anxious to hear my time. If I hit barrel I am thinking about what I should had done differently.
How do you approach a barrel (e.g. big pocket, straight, etc.)?
I learned to make my “spot” about 4 feet over to the side of the barrel, enough room to where my horse can shape and snap back around the barrel quickly.
What do you worry about most while rodeoing (e.g. the ground, the weather, the arena size, the competition, etc. etc.?)
I try not to worry about that to much. I do have a few barrel horses so some do better in different arena conditions then others. If I know the size of the pattern and whether its hard or deep ground I will pick and choose the horse to take.
What type of shoes do you have on your rodeo horses?
Sassy, Dora, and Barracuda I have rims on the front and regular on the back. I put the rims on them for traction. Brownie I have 2 degree wedges on his front because he does not grow much heel.
What type of ground do you prefer?
Depends on the horse, this year I have mainly taken Sassy and Barracuda, Sassy loves hard trashy ground and Barracuda works the best in deep ground.
What size of pen do you prefer?
The pen size doesn’t matter to me either it will just pick the horse I want to run at that rodeo.
Do you like to run in slack or the performance, and why?
Performance, I like the crowd, the loud music, bright lights, just the whole excitement in the atmosphere.
Why did you decide to run the IPRA?
Its a wonderful association and its a great place to season myself before I turn 18 and start Pro rodeoing.
Why do you run rodeos instead of barrel races?
I use to go to a lot of big super shows and also rodeos, but I now mainly go to rodeos because I like traveling from rodeo to rodeo instead of being at one place all week. The rodeo’s are a lot more exciting, but I do also enjoy going to barrel races.
What type of horse do you think makes the best rodeo horse?
A rodeo horse has to be very seasoned and can handle all types of ground. Rodeo ground is not always good. I like horses that are bred run and cow so they have the mind, but also have enough run to win.
What is your favorite IPRA rodeo?
What is your horse’s cue to turn a barrel (i.e. lift, leg pressure, check, etc.)?
When I get to my “spot” I sit down grab for the saddle horse with outside hand, lift my horse with inside rein and bump with inside leg witch picks there rib cage up and shapes them.
What is your most common mistake?
Wanting to sit down and go for saddle horn before my “spot.” Instead of drive, drive, drive all the way to my spot then sit down, lift, and shape.
Whether she is warming up for the IFR or getting her breakaway horse ready for a local rodeo, BillieAnn Sexton keeps her warmup consistent with each of her horses. Below, she discusses her routines on the rodeo circuit and the mentality she tries to maintain while living the rodeo life. She also talks about what products keep her horses running great each weekend.
Outside the Pen
What is your warm-up like?
Long trotting and making the horse be soft and supple by moving it over with my leg, bending at the poll, and getting there rear end under them.
Do you have any rituals that you never break?
I use to have them bad, call me crazy but when I was little I could not pick out the color of the rubber bands to put in my horses mane, I would just use what ever color I picked first and put it in, or I would call it bad luck for myself. I have grown out of the superstitions.
How early do you like to get to a rodeo?
At least an hour before, when we arrive I want enough rest time for my horse to perform, hauling is hard on all horses. As soon as we arrive I water them and put there magnets on them unless they are already on them.
Who do you look towards for advice?
My mom, when I get down on myself for messing up under pressure she will always give me the best advice.
Who else’s runs do you always watch?
At the IPRA’s, Laura Kerley, her and her horse Jackie are such a team.
What supplements do you use on your horses?
SeaBuck, it keeps my horses shiny and healthy while also preventing from ulcers. I also give them a shot of Adequine, which is a joint supplement every two weeks.
What do you feed your horses?
What veterinary practices do you use most often?
I will always stretch my horses necks with a treat to both sides, and stretch there legs. At a walk, zig-zagging down a hill builds there stifle muscles. I love cold liniments or wrapping my horse in poultice for trailer rides. If my horse’s legs are swollen a little from a trailer ride or the blood circulation is not flowing enough I will run cold water over there legs for 20 minutes and then put magnets on them.
What rules do you play by with your horses? What drugs will you use and what drugs won’t you use?
I give a shot of Adequan to all the performance horses every two weeks, it is a joint supplement. Also if I know I am competing at a big rodeo I will give a shot of Legend 72 hours out. Also Banamine is a great muscle relaxer if one my horses feel horse.
What’s the best part about your riding?
Spending time with my horses and becoming a “team” with them.
What do you struggle with riding-wise?
Mainly its in my mind, I tend to think to much.
Are there any head games you play with yourself that can mess you up?
Yes, many, pressure is something I been working on for a long long time now, if the odds go for me to win a average by the time I make the short go, I won’t. I start thinking about it way to much instead of going out there and riding hard, I will safety up, which leads to mess up. Go hard, EVERY TIME! Don’t learn the hard way, like I have.
What type of splint boots do you use?
Professional’s Choice on the front. Polo wraps on the back.
What type of saddle do you ride?
My favorite is my Ken Raye/Tami Purcell. I also love my Martin/Sherry Cervi saddle.
What kind of truck do you pull your trailer with?
Who do you travel with?
Bobby Abernathy, Daniel Robertson, and Cody Miller is usually the crew.
What’s the worst rodeo experience of your life?
In Memphis, Tenn., in the barrels I was running home from my run, and at high school rodeos they never keep a open alley, which my horse going to rodeos is not use to a close gate in the arena. So “Sassy” realizes the gate was closed and crow-hops right, then left, I was not prepared for that my hand was still on my whip not the saddle horn, and it slingshots me into the bucking shoots. I chipped a few teeth, got knocked out, had a severe concussion and got a piece of my lip ripped off. That morning and afternoon on a snowy Memphis day was not to exciting. On the bright side, I placed, and that night I was in the performance in the breakaway roping. Although I was told by the doctor not to ride, I won it.
What will you not leave home without?
Magnets and treats for the horses, and also, my phone.
How often do you give your horses time off?
Since I have a few they get weekends to stay home from running, but I keep them exercised.
How often do you take time off yourself?
Maybe a day out of a month? I love what I do, so I am not “in need” of time off.
What are your future goals? College, PRCA, etc?
I turn 18 March 5th, I am going to buy my Pro permit. I hope to make the Circuit Finals this year and in two or three years make a run for the National Finals Rodeo. That is a lot to ask for, but its been my dream since I was 10 and I’m sticking to it! I am not going to college rodeo, I’m going to take college classes online, one day I would like to own my own practice in equine embryo transferring.