Natalie Overholt – Riding and Ethics – Part 4 of 5

Without vet checks at most rodeos, barrel racers on the rodeo trail can get away with more than those showing futurities or some of the larger horse shows. An unspoken questions is often, “What is that horse running on?” Below, Overholt addresses her thoughts on steroids, her own riding ethics and much more.

Riding and Ethics
How much time do you spent reviewing your runs and going over what you did wrong or right?
I watch the run a few times on tape if it was taped, then think about what went wrong and start on a solution as soon as possible. The sooner I can figure out the problem and find a solution to the problem the better.

What do you do to practice on your older horses if you’re having a problem?
Usually if the horse is finished, seasoned and already winning and I start having problems with it I go to the vet to see if they are sore, and that usually fixes the problem.

What do you do best riding-wise?
Getting the most potential possible out of a horse, and I’m light handed.

What do you or have you struggled with the most while riding?
I have trouble keeping my stirrups. It doesn’t matter what I do I seem to lose them. I’ve also had to start over from square one with a lot of green horses.

What rules do you play by? Any ethics you try to follow when it comes to doing what it takes to win?
I try to see each individual horses strength and build from there. I feed vitamin supplements. I’ve seen too many good horses get wrecked or messed up for life because of steroids so I stay away from using that kind of stuff.

What veterinary technique has served you best (i.e. hock injections, Legend, shock wave therapy, etc.)?

Chiropractor adjustments and having the knees, hocks and stifles injected.

Is This Whole Thing Worth the Cost?

This weekend, the BFA is sponsoring a futurity in Canvas, WV, adding $4,000 Friday and Saturday to the Open 4D. With this economy, is a three hour drive, a $25 camper hook up, $80 stall, $52 entry and $20 grounds fee worth it?

I’m going, probably. I just think I need to go this weekend, get it out of my system.  But really, this whole two day/camper fee/grounds fee/entry fee mess is a bunch of nonsense. It’s for the rich – the really, really rich, mostly – who don’t even need to make the payback that they earn. 
I find myself asking this question every weekend. As spring heats up, there’s no shortage of barrel races in the Tri-state area. I’d much rather hit some rodeos, but it does seem like there’s not too many of those around. I end up getting caught up in this barrel racing circuit, even though I’m not an NBHA member. Why? I don’t really know – it just keeps ending up that way. I really need to get out of it, because it really isn’t that much fun, and it’s not where my horse does best. 
But I guess that was just a ramble. The problem really is – how can we justify doing this every weekend against big dogs who use all kinds of illegal substances to make their horses fly? As I mentioned yesterday, barrel horses are just as hyped up as thoroughbreds running on the track – yes, I do mean just as hyped up on drugs as race horses. We don’t get drug tested as often, and we don’t have the same industry watchdogs. It’s bad, guys, really bad, and it makes the rest of us not want to deal with it. 
When NBHA instituted the divisions to give everyone a little payback, they tried to even things out. Well, for me, divisions don’t make barrel racing any better. The rich guys at the top still take home most of the money, and those that get stuck in the lower divisions get a little. It’s a lot about pride. 4-D just makes my bones shiver. Maybe the 2-D horses really are the fastest, fairest horses at the big shows, but its the 1-D horses that are all juiced up that unfairly win. 
I guess it’s a lot like the steroids controversy in baseball – we love to see Barry Bonds smashing homeruns over the left field wall, but when we find out all the drugs he used, its just one big let down. 
That’s the way I feel about these amazingly fast horses that seem to make going to barrel races a crapshoot for the rest of us. They are gorgeous, and the runs that they put down are heartstopping, but in the end, these runs are really just heartbreaking. 

Juices in Our Ponies

After a weekend of drooling over a four-year-old sorrel gelding at Henderson’s Arena, I have been thinking about futurity prospects and all of the ethical implications involved.

At four, this colt was a stout 16 hands tall with a stride from hell. I’m not usually attracted to this type of horse, but his deep croup and straight back legs just screamed run. At this second show of his career, he clocked a 16.8, less eight tenths  off the fastest time of the day – and he was just high loping. 
I’m not speculating as to whether or not this horse was being enhanced by any substances or not, but seeing him made me think about what we all don’t talk about in polite conversations – what our horses are running on. Drugs are the purple elephant in the room, but they shape the way the industry runs at every level.
Futurity horses are one example horses flying high on speed and all other fun juices, but drugs aren’t limited to young horses. It seems like more and more, horses of all ages are being doped in one way or another. 
I’m guilty – my 16-year-old black AQHA mare has broken all four legs, and we have vetted the crap out of her to keep her healthy and running. She has had an IV of Tildren to help rebuild her navicular bone and give her vertebrae more cushion, and if I have enough money she gets Legend every few months. She gets Red Cell, Calf Manna, Grow’n’Win GC, and Omolene 200. She’s a happy, healthy horse, and she runs very consistently. 
Now, all of these supplements will pass a test with flying colors at the Congress, World Show, or any where else. I’ve pretty much only had this horse my whole career, except for some colts here and there, so I’ve been relatively sheltered from the steroid usage of much of my competition. Like steroids and drugs in almost any other sport, the actual extent of their usage will never truly be known. 
I worked for a vet for years, and I saw the underbelly of the industry. I saw nerved horses that couldn’t walk otherwise come in with broken legs that they couldn’t even feel. 
How far have drugs gone in our industry, and at what point do we care about what goes in to our show horses? At what point do you say a horse won’t make it without the drugs and just give it another job?
More importantly, what exactly are the ethical standards in our industry? Are they the spoken standards that we can all talk about on the bleachers pleasantly, or are they really what people do behind closed doors, with IVs and needles?