Kick Ass Cowgirl Jackie Luffey Harris: Part 1

Jackie on her Race for a Cause mount, Sis.

Jackie Harris has been through hell and back, and her life experiences with death, disease and despair have taught her never to stop swinging. Now that this Western Pennsylvanian cowgirl has made it through her own rough patches, she’s on a mission to help others in a way that hasn’t quite been done before in the world of barrel racing. With the help of Kick Ass Cowgirls and lots of friends, Jackie is riding for a cause. Find out all of the good things Jackie is doing in our three-part interview, just in time for the holiday season. If you’re looking for a way to make an impact this time of year, look no further! 

Tell us how you got involved in Kick Ass Cowgirls, and what you’re doing with them now.

I got involvedwith the Kick Ass Cowgirls by chance. I just happened upon their page on Facebook one day. I read about all the great things that were happening there–how they would always “pay it forward” and help others in need. I loved everything about them and how they supported each other through hardships and difficulties–or just gave each other a kick in the ass at times. At that time, they were trying to raise enough funds for a new saddle for a little girl with Retts Syndrome. I started checking every day, and helping anybody that was in need. Then, I noticed they had a “Cowgirl In Need” Contest. Described as, “Any up and coming horsewoman who needs a little extra push to get into the spotlight, get down the road to victory or is just plain down on her luck, let us know about her.” With my plans for 2012, I thought it could be a way to help me raise some funds for fuel for 2012, a friend, Beth Penland, nominated me along with several others-and I won!

I became their “poster child” for their newest contest “Race for a Cause” for 2012. I helped them put some ideas together, they wrote up the rules and are out there getting tons of awesome sponsors and prizes. The basic outline of the contest: You pay a membership fee, which gets you into the contest, a members only tshirt and a decal. You race in the same arenas you always do throughout the year. You designate a percentage (10%-100%) to go to your favorite designated charity. You keep track of your winnings and turn them into KAC. The “points” go off of your total earnings for each quarter, not your donated amount. There are four regions. Each region will have a winner/top money earner every quarter. So prizes will be given out 4 times a year to each of the four region’s. Then there will be a BIG winner for end of the year with all regions combined.

It is a great way for barrel racers to donate to a charity close to their heart and have a chance at some Kick Ass prizes as well.

What inspired you to start riding for this cause?

The thing that inspired me to race for a cause is losing my step father to cancer in October 2010 after a year long battle, then my father three months later to a heart attack in January 2011. I had several other friends and family struck with the same diseases, and always would see on Facebook friends with loved ones that were struck as well. I felt so helpless. I wanted to do more. Of course I prayed for each and every one, but I wanted to physically do something for them. My mare started improving these last several years, becoming more consistant. Seemingly, I would come home with paychecks every time I went out. I have waited for this caliber of horse since I had started barrel racing at the age of 12. One day while waiting to enter the arena, excited at my success this year, the thought came to me-I could take these winnings and donate it to The American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, and of course because I volunteer at several animal rescues, some to those organizations as well. I feel fortunate enough to finally have the horse, a great family, to have all that I need in order to participate in this sport I love so much and to spend time with my friends. I have found out in the last year or so, that life really is too short, I am thankful for what I have, and want to pay any extra I receive forward. I have started to put away the money from my last several races as well into my “fuel fund”- the way it made me feel, racing for others, is so much better than just racing for myself. I started a saddle cross collection as well, where friends and family can give me the initials of loved ones they know that are fighting, lost fight or won fight to cancer or heart disease. I feel in a small way, I am racing for them as well. I saw a quote once by Margaret Meed it stated, “Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the World. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has”. So, I will do my best in 2012, and hope to raise as much money was possible for the charities.

What associations do you plan to compete in?

I plan on competing with the IBRA, Penn-Ohio BRA, and getting my IPRA card as well to compete at some of the rodeos in the area or a reasonable distance. It’s been a dream of mine to get my IPRA card, but if I didn’t have a consistent enough horse, I wasn’t about to do so. Again, life is short, so I’m going to do so this year while I “Race for a Cause”!

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Top Hand Deena Fries is On the Record with The Barrel Racing Blog

Do you remember reading about Ed Henle and his great horse SF Who Shot Doc? How about Lisa Barone and her awesome mare Hears The Deal? Both of these top barrel horses who’ve been featured on The Barrel Racing Blog came from the awesome training program one Western Pennsylvania trainer has perfected. That trainer is Deena Fries, a woman who has consistently been atop the local barrel racing ranks for more than the last decade. This trainer and rider knows what it takes to win on her own horses and to make those horses keep winning under other able hands. Over the next four days you’ll get to know more about this top hand than ever before! Today is just a teaser, so stay tuned for much more this week.

Background

Talk about your first great barrel horse. Who started him/her, what was his/her name, what did the two of you accomplish?

Mister Te Dandy – I got him Feb. of his 4-year-old year from Matt Boice. Matt had him started well and ready to go. We won a lot together, 3x Congress Sweepstakes Finalist, Penn-Ohio BRA Champion, BBRA Champion, Speedhorse Average Champion, Congress Reserve Champion Jr. Horse, and numerous Pro Rodeo and Open shows wins and placings.

Which one of your horses would you consider your greatest?

I have had the pleasure of riding several great horses Bugawsome Aggie, Hears The Deal, Impress Me Ms Jackie, SF Who Shot Doc, De Great Pass, Sissys Panama, Modan Fancy. But Mister Te Dandy was in a class of his own I lost him to colic in 2002.

What are your proudest accomplishments as a competitor?

I’d say that I have won on so many different horses and that most of those horses are now winning for someone else.

What are your proudest accomplishments as a trainer?

My proudest accomplishments as a trainer are when I see a horse that I have trained or sold continue to do very well for the owner.

Laura Lee Thomas On Her Big St. Tite Win

Current World #2 in the IPRA standings, Laura Lee Thomas is poised to have a big winter to match her stunning summer aboard Verily Six Bugs. The duo will run at the All American Quarter Horse Congress this week and then get ready for the IFR in Oklahoma City come January. Read about their St. Tite performance and find out what her pre-IFR game plan will be.

Start from the beginning. How did Tanner haul to St. Tite?

Bruce (my husband) offered to go with me but he didn’t have too much vacation time left, so we left Tuesday after work and I had to run in the Wednesday night perf. We gave him a big hay bag and away we went. Tanner usually hauls well unless he’s in the trailer too long, he can get really bored! We arrived around 7 a.m., but there was open arena time in the morning so I saddled him up and headed to the arena. They require your horse to pass a vet check too so after I rode I took him to the vet check.  It was then off to a stall for a little rest before the night perf.

How did he adjust to staying on the grounds? Did he stay in a stall, and was that hard with his being a stud?

The weather can be pretty rotten up there so I usually get a stall, however some of them are pretty small.  His wasn’t the worst one, but it wasn’t real big. When I do have to stall him I make sure horses on each side are geldings. He had geldings on both sides so that was good. I just don’t like him where he can touch a mare in case she’d be in heat! I’ve had him places with mares on the backside with stalls that had big spaces between boards, but he was the one behaving and the mare wasn’t!  He was fine except that during the night Thursday he must have gotten cast in his stall. Friday his legs were all swelled and beat up when we took his wraps off.  Upon further inspection we found a lot of hoof marks on his stall and could tell what happened.  He likes to roll a lot!

When you saw the pen and the alleyway, what was your game plan? Did you have to make any adjustments to the way you always ride him?

I have run at St. Tite several times in the past and even made it to the short go before and placed in a go or so and the average, so I knew what to expect with the pen. I’ve been excited all year to run him there because he likes the big pens!  He really likes when he can have a lot of room to really run before the first, so I didn’t really have to make any adjustments.

What was it about the pen that Tanner liked so much?

I think he liked the fact that he could really run!  Most of the horses I’ve had love to really run and turn the first and that’s a great place for them!  Seems like they really don’t fire if they can really run to the first.  I have had some horses that I have to watch and can’t go all out but not with Tanner!

How were your barrels both days?

My patterns were pretty good except that he might have stepped out a little on the 3rd.  I ended up running last for the short go since I was 1st in the average (they reversed the order).  He was really flying going to the first and set so hard in the short go that he lost his butt!  He went so far down that he brush burned his stifle!  He came up and cruised across the pen then really picked up speed and still ran a 16.8!!!  I had run two 16.4’s to win the average!

Did he change at all from run to run?

Not really – he ran 16.4 and another 16.4 – the 2nd one was a bit faster.  He felt good all week!

What was the crowd like?

The crowd there is CRAZY!!!  It is the loudest most exciting rodeo I have ever been to! The pickup men carry flags with fireworks on them and they have fireworks going off during the rough stock events! It really is and experience!!! Most people speak only French that are from the area so that makes it tough. I’ve noticed over the last couple of years compared to about 1999 or so, that some can speak a bit of English so it’s a lot easier than it used to be!

How was the atmosphere around the grounds?

The French Canadians like to party! Some of the cowboys do too, I stay away from that crowd!  It’s a bit wild and crazy too!

How were the other barrel racers? Kind and courteous?

I know a lot of the barrel racers and did meet some new ones as well.  All were kind!  However arena time is a little wild and people don’t wait their turn like we do in the states! I didn’t know any of the ones that “cut” in front of me but I quickly decided to just do my thing, you can’t wait around for your turn!  LOLJ

Talk about what it is like to come out of St. Tite sitting #2 in the world standings. Did you expect Tanner to do that well?

I did expect to do well and was hoping to do really well in the average. I had hoped to get a check in the short go but you can’t win them all! I sure did well and can’t complain! I guess I didn’t expect to place as high as I did in both goes.

After Tanner’s fall in the finals, are you worried about soundness or confidence issues for him?

Mostly I was worried if he was hurt or sore. I gave him a week off and he seems to be fine and is back to competition.

What’s your post-St. Tite, pre-IFR game plan?

Well, I was going to be done going to rodeos for this fall until I found out I was #2!! I decided I’d better drive South and hit a couple of more! We’ll be heading to the Congress then have a rodeo the week after. There’s not too much going on then, but there is one more rodeo in November in South Carolina that I’ll probably go to or there’s a bigger one in Arizona, but with the South Carolina rodeo being so much closer I’m sure that’s probably what I’ll do!

Are you making any adjustments for the uncertain ground and loooong run to the first barrel at Congress?

Tanner loves a long run so I imagine I shouldn’t have too much trouble with the first barrel, at least I hope not, however the ground can be tricky! I’ve been last on the drag there for the first go and then last again if they had scratches, they just move the drag up, which is unfair often times, because if you were last when it gets reversed you should get to be first. I’m just going to put new shoes on him next week before I go. Other than St. Tite he usually doesn’t have too much trouble with the ground.

How early do you plan to get to Congress, and will you ride in the arena at night during the open ride times?

I am going to leave Wednesday and then plan to ride that night and then I run Thursday.  It should be good enough and that way he can rest a bit at home and be turned out. He hates being cooped up in a stall for very long! Rodeo horses seem to not need as much arena time as some that I’ve had that weren’t that rodeo seasoned.

Check out this video of Thomas and Tanner last winter at Dave Martin’s BullRide Mania at Sundance Arena



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!

More Good News from Thomas and Tanner

Laura Lee Thomas, aboard Verily Six Bugs, placed second in the first go-round at the IPRA’s St. Tite last night. We’ll have more from Thomas on her performance at St. Tite when she gets back to the States, but for now enjoy reading about Tanner’s banner year in the APRA and IPRA, as Thomas walks us through her summer.

Thomas with Tanner and her gelding.

Talk about Tanner this year. This is the second time you’ve won the APRA on him, how has he changed since 2007?

I think he is more like the seasoned veteran of rodeo now.  He doesn’t seem that different but is more solid.  He’s 8  now and he was only a 5 year old with one year of hauling when I won it the first time.

What was your favorite rodeo this year? Why?

I think I’d have to say Attica, NY.  Even though I’m from PA my family used to go to the Attica area to rope and barrel race when I was growing up.  We used to spend the whole weekend at Attica for the rodeo back then  and I got to have fun with kids my age.  We still have a lot of friends there.  Attica isn’t too far for me either so it’s kind of like my home town rodeo.  This year I didn’t win it but I did get 2nd and I was only a few thousands off of first.  It was nice to have a real good run there were a lot of people know me.  I never was able to run Tanner there yet either due to a QH show that Rita likes me to take him to in Sussex, NJ.

What was your least favorite rodeo? Why?

Honestly I didn’t do that bad or have that bad of an experience at any of them.  I knocked a barrel once so far right before I left for Texas for Mandi’s wedding.  I would’ve place too.  Another time on a tiny race track pen, I think in Oak Harbor, OH, Tanner got lost.  As my 5 year old son said, “Tanner just freaked out”!  He went so fast he got lost even on the 1st , but turned it, then couldn’t find the 2nd barrel, we actually were off pattern.  I don’t think that’s ever happened except the time when he was young that I worked him on all right turns!  I guess I’d have to say that rodeo then.

Benton, PA wasn’t too fun for me.  Mandi was home from Texas so she went with me and was going to ride my gelding for some seasoning.  We thought it’d be fun to actually get to go together to a rodeo since it’d been since last summer.  The gate people were really mean, not only to us.  They came over and told Mandi she couldn’t ride at all and she’d have to tie up the horse and go sit in the stands since she didn’t have a contestant armband!  They didn’t even want her in the back to help me or anything like that either!  They also had marked me off for armbands even though they didn’t give me any and told me I could ride in the arena without one, in other words I couldn’t compete!  I might mention that my family always rides or comes to the back with me and Mandi is working as a trainer herself right now.  I placed 2nd at the rodeo for a pretty decent pay check, so that part was good.

What was your game plan going into this season? Were you hauling with the goal of winning the APRA and qualifying for the IFR?

I had hoped to get to go to the good rodeos in my area, the ones with nice pens and decent added money.  Most of them are IPRA/APRA so I could get points with both associations.  I thought I’d try to make the AFR at least and just see how the summer went and decide from there.  I didn’t start rodeoing until the end of June and Tanner had a bad abscess brewing, he even placed at one of the first two but I knew he wasn’t quite himself.  We finally had to go to my vet, Dr Genovese of Cleveland Equine Clinic, where he dug most of the inside wall of his right front out and drilled a drain line for it as well.  I left the vet and went to an IBRA super show and had to leave Tanner standing in a stall!  Doc told me to wait about 9 days until I tried shoeing him, due to the fact the foot was still draining and I was packing it etc.  I said but that ruins “Cowboy Christmas” (rodeos over the 4th of July).  He said try putting a shoe on the night before I had to leave (which was only 5 days) and see how it goes.  We did just that and I loaded him to leave with my back up horse “Tater” belonging to Teresa Quay and thought I’d see how Tanner was when we got there.  After the shoeing he was probably 65% better, but by the time of the rodeo he seemed fine.  I ran him all weekend and won or placed all three I ran him at.  I ran Tater at a PBR that weekend and placed on him too.  Since then Tanner has been running fantastic!  Part way through July, I thought why not go to a few more IPRA’s too and see what happens.  Pretty soon I was in the standings there too!  As of now I still am and we qualified for St. Tite, QU, Canada probably where am at as you read this.  If I do well I sure should be making the IFR too.

What are your goals for the rest of the year and on into the rest of Tanner’s career?

For now I hope to do well at Congress.  We haven’t had him there since he was 5, I think.  I hope to make the IFR and see how he does in Oklahoma City!  I think he’ll handle the ground there and is consistent.  I have been there since 2001, IFR 31 so it’ll be cool if I get to go back.  I hope for him to stay sound and continue to run him for many years to come!

What are your pre- and post-race routines/rituals?

I always use “Cool Pack Green Jelly” under my wraps and wrap before I load to go or even sooner.  Basically I am not too into a “rituals” but I do check them over well before I load (especially when I’m wrapping the legs) also before and after I ride/run each time.  When I’m at a rodeo it’s easier to know what to do and when to be ready, since barrel racing is most always shortly after intermission.  I find that horse shows are harder to know when to be prepared because you never know how long it’s really going to take.  When I’m done running I get them cooled out and then brush or sponge them off.  Once they’re cooled down I’ll wrap them again with the green jelly.  I use a magnetic sheet when hauling etc. not at home much.  I have magnetic bell boots that I like as well.  I also like having bell boots on in the trailer too as I’ve had many horses step shoes off and that really eliminates that problem.

What are you thinking running down an alleyway to the first barrel?

Mostly I think I make sure I’m keeping my space going to the first and hustling my horse.  However when I am running poles I always think that Tanner is going faster than I’ve ever gone and then in my mind I’m saying to myself “wow is he fast…is he going to turn…of course he is”  – really!

What are you thinking running home?

Usually not that much, just hustle all the way out and listen for my time.

Verily Six Bugs — The Horse of the Summer in East-Coast Rodeo

Laura Lee Thomas made her mark on rodeo long before she was paired with Verily Six Bugs, but it’s been “Tanner” that’s reminded people that Thomas is a training force to be reckoned with.

What about Tanner sets him apart?

He’s extremely fast but has lots of natural rate; a great combination of what every barrel racer dreams of!  I think that is what helps make him do so well.  He’s very consistent and LOVES running barrels.  Honestly he likes the poles just as much or more…I’m not so fond of pole bending; besides there’s no money in it where I live so we don’t run poles much anymore.  I have run quite a few 20.0’s on him when we have competed.

As a stud, have you ever had to worry about him acting up?

I was nervous when Rita Gambino of Outlaw Acres first contacted me about taking Tanner.  I thought it won’t be so bad but then she said she wanted someone to show him too.  My family had different stallions over the years which I handled and showed.  My mom had her own brood mares and always had a stallion to use of our own.  At one point we had 4 or 5 at the same time, most of which were young.  Honestly stallions can be a REAL pain!  I figured I’d take him and get him started and see what he’d become before I worried about showing him.  Well he was sure too nice to leave home!

I told Rita that I’d prefer to show him one season before she used him for breeding.  I wanted him to know what his job was in the arena.  I also wanted him to have manners away from home before he bred mares.  My idea seemed to work pretty well, however I’m still a firm believer that good stallions aren’t made (by us) they are born that way, we can help form them a little but that’s it.

During Tanner’s first breeding season we hauled him to shows and rodeos.  He was pretty well behaved for the most part.  He can get cocky in the spring but usually by June he’s all barrel racing business.  He usually runs very well during breeding season too.  We still continued to haul him during breeding season, except for the 2008 season when he was injured anyway and a good part of 2009 while he was in Kentucky standing for the Breeder’s Incentive Fund.

Most people don’t even know Tanner is a stallion.  I haul friends whenever I can and Tanner behaves well, in fact, I’ve hauled with Teresa Quay and her stallion before and they both behave well.  We even have hauled him with mares.  I tie him to the trailer next to one of my geldings and he is just one of the boys.

What’s Tanner’s style… pocket, straight at it, etc.?

Tanner likes a wider pocket to the 1st than what Three used to like.  This can get us into trouble on the race track type pens I run at in Ohio and Indiana some, especially if the gate is narrow too.  On the 2nd and 3rd I just run him to a pocket about 3 feet from the side of the barrel and he just sweeps around them nicely.

What’s Tanner’s cue to turn?

I mostly just stop kicking and sit while dropping my outside hand.  He doesn’t need a lot of help by me pulling on the reins.  He naturally wants to rate and turn!  I use a lot of leg and body language that works well for him.  I find this style of horse easiest for me to ride and most of my really good ones end up running a lot like this, however each horse is a bit different.

How hard do you have to push him?

I can push him pretty much as hard as I want to.  He really likes the bigger pens since he likes to run so much.

What kind of ground does Tanner like?

I feel like I keep bragging on this horse but honestly he runs on most anything!  He handles the ground well almost always but would probably like it best when it’s only about 6” deep and soft.  He does really take to rodeo in the fact that he can handle most pens and runs almost as good if he doesn’t even get to go in the arena.

Talk about Tanner’s training. How was he to break, and how fast did he come along?

I got him in the fall (about November) of his 3-year-old year. Someone that worked for Rita had him riding.  I don’t have an indoor but DO ride outdoors in PA (yes it’s true); we have really nice ground.  I also can haul most anytime I want to my mom’s which is about 6 miles away to her indoor.   By April I took Tanner to a QH show in NJ and he ended up doing super well!  If I remember right we got 3rd the first day and won it the 2nd day! (QH only places 1D)  I had hauled him a couple of times prior for some seasoning and to see how he’d do around other horses, manners wise.  This was the year he earned the AQHA High Point Stallion Award in just 3 shows!  NJ was getting a lot of entries at the time and Tanner had to run against the Senior horses because they always put them together.  They had some tough competitors at the time too!

How do you exercise/school a finished horse like Tanner? Does he need tuning?

I mostly exercise Tanner out in the field and any other finished horse like him.  I don’t ride them in the arena much.  He really doesn’t get tuned and neither did Three.  They both were pretty much a done deal.  I think two times this year Tanner went around barrels at home.  In the summer if you rodeo much they don’t need ridden a lot at home either, depending on how much you’re gone.

Check out this video of Tanner in 2007.

Laura Lee Thomas Hits It Big in 2010

Laura Lee Thomas of Union City, Penn. took the rodeo  world by storm this summer as she and her mount Verily Six Bugs ran one of the most consistent summers is recent memory, knocking just one barrel and placing or  winning at every major rodeo of the season. For a duo that didn’t begin running until the end of June, this summer was something special. But then again, most people have come to expect that type of dynamite style from Thomas, who has qualified for two IFRs and won the APRA three times. This year, Thomas and “Tanner” claimed the APRA title yet again, winning the average at the AFR and winning Horse of the Year to round off the season. Thomas isn’t done yet, though. As you’re reading this, she’s en route to St. Tite,  where she’ll compete against almost 100 other barrel racers for $15,000 in added money in the biggest IPRA rodeo of the year. Sitting 9th in the IPRA World Standings, Thomas and Tanner hope to solidify a spot at the IFR. After St. Tite, Thomas will switch gears and get Tanner ready to run in the Sweepstakes at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, putting the seasoned rodeo veteran to the ultimate horse show test.

Over the next few days, The Barrel Racing Blog will give you a chance to get to know Thomas and Tanner like never before. You’ll learn how Tanner was trained, what kind of gear Thomas loves, and much, much  more.

Laura Lee Thomas and Verily Six Bugs making a run that won them a saddle at the Kim Hollis Hamm Memorial Barrel Race.

How did you begin running barrels?

I was 2 years old and began “barrel racing” bareback on my pony.  As I got older I had my mom’s older horses to ride until I began training my own.  She had a real nice gelding that I got to run a bit as a teenager in the  youth classes.

Who taught you to ride?

My mom (Joan Wurst) – I grew up in a rodeo family.

How long have you been training horses?

Officially about 28 years but I trained some for myself and family when I was a teenager.

Rodeos or barrel races?

Rodeos!  You can’t beat the atmosphere at rodeos.  I do go to barrel races to season some of the less finished horses.

What are your biggest accomplishments horseback?

When I was younger I received a Master Showman award at the State 4-H show I was pretty proud of.  It was a bonus award you could earn while showing halter if you did an exceptional job.

I also placed in versatility at the Quarterama showing in Hunter Under Saddle, Western Pleasure, Reining, and Barrel Racing.  Ironically I did the worst in the Barrel Racing!  I always thought this class was pretty cool if you could get one horse to do well in all the events.

I think more recently qualifying for the International Finals Rodeo two times was pretty cool!

In 2006 I was honored by having the AQHA High Point Stallion with Tanner when he was just a 4 year old.  I only took him to 3 shows.  Rita was pretty thrilled receiving this award too!

Most recent was over Labor Day weekend at the Painted Pony Ranch for the American Finals Rodeo where Tanner and I placed in every go round, won the average, and the year end!  Our average time was quite a bit quicker and we ended up with a lot more money than the #2 cowgirl.  This makes me a 3 time APRA Champion and a 2 time AFR Champion.  I won both the AFR and year end on Three in 1999.  Tanner won the year end twice now and one average.

What horses have you had the most success on?

I have been blessed with several nice horses but there’s really four that stand out to me.  Seems like I end up with someone wanting to buy my horses before I get them totally ready to rodeo, it sure helps pay the bills.  I do like to see others go on and do well with horses I’ve trained and/or raised!

Three Pink Flowers” – aka “Three” won so much for me!  He was an amazing horse I ran for about 7 years before his untimely death.  His death was really heart breaking for me!  I had to force myself to even go to the barn and could still cry now thinking of the bond I had with that horse!  His death was very unexpected!  He was an extremely tough horse and loved rodeo!  We (my family) raised him; we owned both the sire and dam.  I broke and trained him myself.  We sold him for a short time and I begged my parents to buy him back when he was for sale again (at the time I was riding mostly for them).  I should’ve just bought him myself, but didn’t really have the money.  Three came back to me biting, kicking, bucking, you name it!  He really ended up being a one person horse with the exception of Mandi (our daughter) being able to run him very well.  My Dad (Bill Wurst) team roped on him a lot too but he had me ride him down a lot before he did.  Three would sometimes get “high” on a steer so he could kick at it and yes he bucked with Dad too.  After I started placing at the IPRA rodeos on him I told my Dad that team roping horses are easier to come by the really good barrel horses, he shouldn’t make Three work so hard during the week roping when I had so many rodeos to go to!  He knew I was kidding him but somewhat serious about resting him and saving him for rodeos and eventually he completely quit roping on him.

Verily Six Bugs” – aka “Tanner” is the horse I’ve been running for about 4 years, owned by Rita Gambino of Outlaw Acres. He had almost a year off during that time due to a suspensory injury.   He has been extremely amazing!  He is hard to compare to Three since I didn’t have them very long at the same time, but Tanner may be more consistent as I tipped more barrels on Three sometimes due to his running style.  Tanner is very honest in his running style.

Mr Dutch Jack” – aka “Jack” did pretty well for me.  He does literally all the timed events in rodeo, plus poles, and drives as well.  He’s semi retired now at age 25 but still pretty sound and teaching our boys how to rope!  My husband (Bruce) and I fought over him a lot since I wanted to take him to barrel races and he wanted to take him roping.  Eventually I started another horse and quit using Jack altogether.   I passed him on for our daughter Mandi who did very well with him and won some saddles, buckles, and such.

I had a very nice black mare that I raised, “Teaz Classic Jet” – aka “Classy”.  My family owned both the sire and dam on her as well.  I ran her for a few years and sold her on Long Island where she’s still doing well for her owners.  She was very consistent and tried real hard.  She was just getting into the swing of rodeos and I was placing on her when I sold her.  She is related to Teresa Quay’s great gelding “Chico” who took her to several IFR’s.  Chico is semi retired now too, but has been seen at some rodeos this summer still running well as a backup.  My family raised him as well and gave him away as a weanling!

Tell us about Tanner. How is he bred, age, etc.

Tanner is now 8.  He has a fantastic pedigree – all on his papers are Packin Sixes, Streakin Six, Bugs Alive in 75, Top Moon, and On The Money Red!  His Dam, Miss Emma Pyron, has several outstanding performers to her credit.  The breeders, Ken and Pat Smith of Washington State, still have his sire and dam.

He is an extremely smart horse, in fact, one time he was bowing a bit leaving the first barrel more than I liked.  He was 4 at the time and I thought I’d set up barrels in a straight line and work him to the right making him finish hard and not stay bent.  Well…I went to a rodeo that weekend he SMOKED the 1st then tried to turn the 2nd to the right too!  It wasn’t his fault really.  I don’t do that with him anymore, some horses are too smart for this exercise. I didn’t do it a lot either but I think once was too much for him.