Training with Laura Lee Thomas and Verily Six Bugs

After running two 16.4s at Festival Western de St-Tite, the largest rodeo on the IPRA circuit, Thomas and Verily Six Bugs sit first in the average above some 98 horses. The duo currently sit above 4-time World Champion Mesa Leavitt, as well as current World #1 Natalie Overholt. Thomas took home second in the first round and, as of yesterday, was sitting second in the second round. The pair will race for the big bucks in the finals on Sunday.

With all of this success, Thomas must be doing something pretty special at home when she starts her horses. She trained Tanner and has trained many of her other great horses. Find out her secrets and her methods below:

What are your training philosophies? How do you start a horse and what are your beliefs on how fast to bring a horse along?

Any that I have raised I will start at some point when they are two.  At this time I like them to be able to walk, trot, canter, stop, turn, and side pass.  If I have time I’ll trail ride them too, but if they do all this well I’ll turn them out until I have time again or until the spring of the 3 year old year.

At 3, when I feel like they’re loping nice and collected and moving well off my rein and leg I’ll put them on the barrel pattern or work just one barrel.  I like to be able to have them broke well enough that they’ll actually be able to lope barrels when you start them.  It won’t be perfect but I don’t want them all over the place either.  Once they get real patterned I’ll haul them so I can expo them. If they are still real patterned away from home, then I’ll start asking for more speed gradually.  If they begin to blow the pattern any then I go back to a slower pace until we’re perfect again before adding more speed.

I basically just continue this process until they don’t need an expo run and I can use a 4D class instead so we get away from the idea of needing a practice run, until they’re finished.  Sometimes I can expo one at a rodeo too if there’s not enough regular barrel racers or if there’s slack, which is really nice to see how they handle rodeos and where they stack up with those horses time wise.

We have a lot going on commotion wise around the ranch which helps season the young horses.  My husband used to rope and steer wrestle a lot and he and our oldest son Cody are playing around at it again now.  I think having the horses in the arena with that going on really makes them a lot less spooky when you haul them.  We like to trail ride a lot which I believe is a big help too!  We do all our own hay and such so there’s tractors running here and there too.

What’s your favorite training tool?

Prayer!  I’m guessing you were looking for equipment though…I’d have to say the ring snaffle.  I do like to use a caveson with it.

What’s your favorite schooling exercise?

I’d say the circle, if you want to call that an exercise.  I work a lot of circles at the trot and lope using different sizes.  I feel that I can see areas in the barrels where problems exist by working circles.  It saves doing a lot of pattern work and making a horse hate its job.

What vet treatments do you rely on with your barrel horses?

Mostly I don’t use anything on a regular basis, not even joint injections and such unless I have a horse with a problem.  I guess I’ve been blessed with relatively problem free horses.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of injuries that need TLC and healing but mostly I haven’t had to do a lot vet wise.  If I have one that isn’t working like they normally do or if they’re actually lame or seemly sore and I can’t figure out why, I’m on my way to Cleveland Equine Clinic to see Dr Genovese.  I’ve used him for about 28 years and he’s never steered me wrong yet.  I have used a chiropractor some in the past and have a friend who does acupuncture with the red light and have seen good results from that!

What supplements does Tanner get?

He gets Acti – Flex 4000, vitamin C, and in the summer he gets electrolytes.  He’s had injectable joint supplements in the past too but the Acti – Flex 4000 has pretty much all you need for joints.

What are your beliefs on the use of NSAIDS like bute and banimine to get a horse to run?

I don’t use these to “get my horse to run” however when Tanner was recovering from his abscess I was running him on Banamine per Dr Genovese recommendations. Three used to be very flat and thin in the sole of his hooves so he was often on a “maintenance” dose of Bute and Tanner has been too since his foot issues.  I mostly use it only if I think they’re sore, otherwise I try not to use anything if I don’t need to.

What’s your Western fashion style…favorite jeans, hat brand, shirts, etc.?

Right now I think the Q-Baby Jeans by Wrangler are my favorite.  I’d love to try a Charlie One Horse hat but haven’t yet.  I’m not too picky with the shirts etc mostly just the jeans.

What leg-gear do you use?

I have always used Bar F products, they have always held up really well for me, in fact, I still have some that I use in the barn that are about 20 years old!  The past couple of years I’ve used polo wraps for the back, mostly due to price reasons.  Due to Tanner’s suspensory injury I use a Saratoga wrap for his back legs, which is what my vet recommended. More recently I’ve tried Jeffers Equine brand for price reasons.

Who makes your favorite line of tack?

As I mentioned for leg gear, Bar F.  I love Tod Slone saddle pads!  I feel like with the right Tod Slone you can get any saddle to fit most any horse!  I always tell students this or let them try one of mine for proof.  Maybe a sponsorship is in order?  Recently my son in law, Will Boedeker, made me a beautiful custom head stall, matching breast collar, and spur leathers that I really like the workmanship on.  Other than that I don’t really stick to any particular brand.

What saddle do you ride in?

I have several different saddles I use only because a lot of them are ones that I won.  I have several Billy Cook saddles which is pretty much the brand I started out with.  I won the Kim Hollis Hamm Memorial Barrel Race this year on my gelding and I was given a Tod Slone.  I really like it so far and it happens to fit the gelding that won it very well.  I have a Master’s Saddle that Tanner won when he won the Kim Hamm.  The saddle I use the most though is my Double J that the APRA gave when I won it on Three in 1999.  This saddle fits Tanner well and I’ve gotten really used to riding in it.  The saddle I just won is a Twister Saddle.  I’ve never ridden in one but it seems to sit you nice so I’ll be trying it out next.

** Thank you Chelsea for giving me this opportunity!  I’d also like to thank my family for all their support without it I would be unable to do all that I do.  My husband and kids help me at home and support me in all my efforts!  I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the many blessings and good horses I’ve been given!


4 thoughts on “Training with Laura Lee Thomas and Verily Six Bugs

  1. Pingback: Laura Lee Thomas On Her Big St. Tite Win « The Barrel Racing Blog

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  4. Pingback: Keepin’ It Local, With a Western Flare: Bar N LLC (Plus, Yesterday’s Winner!) | The Barrel Racing Blog

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