The first horse I ever ran barrels with was my best friend, my teacher, and most importantly my team mate! We did awesome together for 6 years until I moved away and I had to say bye to this horse who taught be everything I knew at that point. I spent a weekend with him trying to make the best of every moment, but Sunday came and I had to say bye to Jack. I just cried into his neck and told him how much he meant to me. My grandma told me it was time to go as we had a long drive to the cities. I didnít know as soon as I walked out of the barn that day it was the last time I would ever see Jack, if I would have known that I wouldnít have left.
I was in the cities for a year or so before I got the chance to come back up to my home town and the first thing I wanted to do was go see Jack. I hadnít kept in contact with my trainer so I showed up as a surprise. When she opened the door she gave me a big hug and invited me in so we could talk and catch up. After talking for awhile I asked if we could go out and see Jack. She said yes of course but what I didnít know is that she meant we could go see his grave. So we were walking out to the pasture and I was wondering where he was cause I couldnít see him. We got to this pile of dirt and she said this is grave. I looked at her shocked and she said she thought someone would have called and told me what had happened. Jack had been put down after a bad trailer accident a year ago. I fell to my knees in tears not knowing what to say or do. He was after all my best friend and my team mate. After a hour or so I walked back up to the house and talked with my trainer for a little while. I said my goodbyes and was headed back to the cities.
When I got back I asked to move back up the International falls, and my dad said it was ok as long as I went and stayed with my aunt and uncle. It wasnít a easy move for me I left all my friends behind and quit all my sports! But I was determined to get back into barrel racing because I know Jack would have wanted me to. After all even if I had been up there Jack would have died eventually. So I set a date to go see my old trainer and start looking for a new horse.
A week later after getting settled into my aunts and uncles house it was time for me to go meet up with my trainer. The moment I got there we were already looking. After a couple of hours we had found a few that I had really liked. But she didnít think any of them would fit me perfectly. So I had given up for the day and asked if I could just take one of her horses out for a little ride. And with out hesitating she said yes. I grabbed her grandson Jakeís horse Moe and took him out. We went for a pretty long ride and when I got back Jake was waiting for me. I hadnít seen him in years and he had changed that was for sure but I still had that crush on him. Ever since I was three I was in love with the kid and I could tell I still was when I saw him. He greeted me with a big hug and gave me crap for taking his horse without asking! I just laughed while I was unsaddling Moe. After as we were walking up to the house I told him why I was back and that I was looking for another horse. And he said he would keep his eye out for one, but I had to go so we said our goodbyes and I got in my car and drove home. A couple of days went past and Jake called telling me his grandma had found me the perfect horse and that I should come over and take a look. I threw some decent clothes on and left right away, on the way there I was thinking I donít have much time until rodeo season starts. I pulled in the driveway and noticed the trailer was parked by the barn and had been used that day because the doors were open, so I guessed they had hauled a horse over from the other farm. I sat in my car for a minute and then noticed Laura, Rob and Jake all walking out of the house. Wondering what they were doing I got out and first thing they said was lets go to the barn and get some stuff done first. So I walked out there with them and the first thing I saw when I walked into the main barn was this big black stallion standing tied up. And instantly I fell in love with him! He was big and built, but I didnít know anything about him. They walked in be hind me and asked what I thought and I told them exactly what I thought. Jake said he was mine and I had a lot of work to do. But they had to talk to me first. Laura sat me down and told me his story. Runner was his name and he had been abused for the 3 years of his life. He was about to turn four and January and would be ready for me to run this summer if I could get him trained. The most important thing was that he had no trust for people at all he was scared and you could tell. When we walked up to him he lunged out and started sweating and shaking. I said thank you to them and hugged them all, but then I asked them if they could leave us alone while I tried to get to Runner. They left and I was left there alone to figure out how to get to him. Being a stud didnít help anything but I didnít want to geld him. So I shut the doors and opened the gate to the arena and chased him down to the indoor arena and shut the gate.
I didnít know where to start but I just started yelling at him because he wouldnít let me touch him. As I was yelling he ran around and around not stopping even for a second. I finally got tired of yelling and sat down in the center. We had been at this for a couple of hours and I finally laid down and fell asleep knowing he wouldnít hurt me. I woke up to him standing over me. My face lit up with a smile because he had started to trust me, and it was a start. I was getting up but sure to not make and any quick movements and scare him away again. I just stood there once up and waited to see what he was going to do. He just stood there staring at me, relaxed and content. I grabbed his halter and started petting him just to reassure him it was ok. He didnít move once just stood there and I was thinking if he trusts me already we are going to be perfect. I stood there looking him over and he was nothing but muscle and I knew he was ready to be worked. But I wasnít going to get carried away and start him right away. I decided it was enough for the day and led him to a empty stall and left him for the night.
I came back the next day and saddled him up and did simple things before I got on him. I will admit I was pretty scared to get on him at first but I put my foot in the stirrup and swung on. Shockingly he didnít even flinch. I just started a walk and he went into it easily. As I was walking around I started to think he once had been ridden because he had to problems so far. A couple hours past and we had trotted and even galloped around the arena, no buck at all he did it with ease. My confidence was boosted knowing that I got this far with him in only two days! I was just imagine how far we would go in a few months.
Five months went by and we were doing amazing, already running the pattern and never knocking. But I had been the only person to ever handle him since we had gotten him. And we had never ran the barrels with others around us. Those were the two biggest mistakes I had made in this whole thing.
Tomorrow we had a barrel run a couple hours away and everyone was coming to watch our first competition run. I never once thought about how he would do with the new surroundings at all. And Saturday came and we were heading down there, the ride down was fine Runner had been ok. Once out of the trailer he was fine took it in good not spooky or jumpy just relaxed. Of course he was getting excited especially for being a stud but he was fine. I got him saddled up and all ready so I asked Jake to hold him while I went and changed, and Laura and Rob went and got my entry number. At first he was fine, then Jake went to pet his neck and Runner freaked he reared up and bolted a couple feet away from him. When I got out he walked right up to me but was very cautious of Jake standing by me. After a few minutes he calmed down and I got on, and started to warm him up. We walked into the arena and he was getting hot and I could feel he was ready to run, but I held him back and we just trotted around to get him going. About where the 2nd barrel would be there was a group of people who were cheering and getting rowdy. Runner noticed them and spooked and started rearing! I got him calmed down and walked him out of the arena and right away I was thinking why didnít I do little shows first, or run with a few people watching?? I was just worrying to much and needed to stop because Runner was picking up on it. On the other hand though he was acting really well with all the mares that were around us, so I knew he wasnít going be distracted by that. When we got to the trailer I got down and tied him up for awhile while I went and watched the exhibition runs. Jake walked up behind me and stood there for a minute before he asked how I was doing? He knew I hadnít competed since I was little and had Jack. Knowing that he cared and was there to support me helped a lot but there was still this feeling that something wasnít going to go right and I started to get paranoid. Jake told me my division was coming up soon so we headed back to the trailer and Laura was sitting there waiting to talk to me before I was up. As Rob and Jake left she sat down away from Runner not daring to go to close and said ďremember the first time you ran jack? How excited you were but when you got to the gate you were just ready to get off and not run, but then I told you if you trust the horse and you know your ready he will be alright so just trust him and let him do his thing. So Iím going to leave you to alone now and you talk to him and do your thing because this horse trusts you with his life he doesnít trust anyone else even a little bit. So Good luck hun and have fun!Ē she hugged me and walked away. I watched her walk away as I grabbed his bridle and put it on, then I looked him in the eyes and just talked to him like he could understand everything. When I said itís time to do your thing his ears perked up and I was ready to go. As I got on the crowd was cheering for the girl who had just finished her run and he got scared a little side stepping. I shook it off so he wouldnít feel my body tense up and headed for the shoot I was next. As the girl walked out of the gate and I walked in something just didnít seem right. He was hot and excited like normal but I could tell he was scared, so I turned his head to the gate so he couldnít see any of the people and rubbed his neck for a minute or so before I grabbed the reins and turned him around. As soon as he saw the first barrel he knew what he was doing, we got there and made a really good turn on the way to the second I heard the announcer say we already had the fastest time unless we knocked. Second barrel was cleared and off to the third, the announcer said something as we were about to turn and the crowd went crazy and then he spooked. I tried to calm him out of the turn but he turned and with that we were falling my foot was stuck in the stirrup and I was trying to get it out but it just wasnít going to happen. All I remember was the sound of him whinnying as he was coming down and then he was on me rolling over, and after that I was on a stretcher. Jake a Laura were by my side and Rob was trying to calm Runner who looked fine from what I could see, at least Rob had a hold of him. But I was in to much pain to talk my head was throbbing and there was what I thought was blood on my cheek, the pain in my waist was unbearable and I was ready to die!! The next time I woke up I was in the hospital and had bandages all over and I could move my hip. Jake was sleeping in the chair next to me and Laura was outside talking to the doctor, I took a guess that I had, had surgery because of the charts by me. Jake jumped when I moved and woke up. He told me what happened and said he had been here the whole time waiting. At first I just wanted to know how Runner was and he said he was fine just really depressed in his stall. Then he said it was going to be a long time before I was even going to be able to try riding again and that I might not ever be able to ride. At first I laughed thinking he was just joking but he had tears in his eyes and I knew he was serious. Every thing after that moment was a blur until the day I was released from the hospital.
The first thing I asked to do was go see Runner and see how he was doing. They said I might not want to see him and that he is pretty hurt to and crazy since the day of the accident. But I wanted to see him anyway he after all was my best friend and my team mate and one day we were going to run again. But when I saw him my heart dropped, he had a cast on his front leg and it was because when anyone tried to feed him he freaked out, so more damage was done after the accident in his stall. But the worst part was when he looked at me and freaked out. I took a step back but lost one of my crutches and fell. It had only been a month how could he have forgotten me? Then I thought I will just start over like last time and asked for someone to bring me a chair and I would sit there till he looked at me.
Weeks went by and after spending most of my days out there he still hadnít looked at me. And I was ready to walk and in a couple more months I would be riding again.
The first day I was walking I went into his stall and stood there and I will admit I was terrified not knowing what he would do, at first he reared up and pounded down snorting with his ears pinned!! But I couldnít move I had to show him I wasnít scared or even mad at him. It took a few minutes until he let me touch him. The next step was to get him moving he hadnít been out of his stall in weeks and his leg was pretty stiff. So I slowly coaxed him out and walked him into the arena. Once in there I got him into a lunge but noticed he had a struggle into his gallop his leg was really hurting. I brought him back to a trot which was easier for him but it still was hard. After a few mintues I brought him to a small pen and to let him be outside.
The vet came the next day and said it was all in his head, nothing was wrong with him. So that only meant I had to work with him and I knew no one was going to let me ride without the doctors ok. So that night I went out and out the saddle on and got on. And from there he started moving like he had before and I could feel our connection. I missed this feeling and was ready to be daring and try the barrels. And he did exactly what I asked.
As the healing process went on the months passed by and it had almost been a year since the accident. We had bred him to a few of the top barrel mares at the barn and were hoping to get babies just like him. And it was also the time I was going to go and compete and see how it went.
The first time was good it however wasnít the best we could do we placed 15th out of 55 competitors. I knew we could do better. And I pushed for more and wasnít going to settle for anything less. I had to keep in mind he hadnít really been pushed since the first run so I was going to gradually push him harder and harder each time. The competitions went on weeks and weeks passed. Then when we were down in Texas for a Barrel run something was different, during warm ups he was hot and wanting to go I could barely hold him back. So when we it was our turn I didnít even hold him back I just let him go. We never ran the first to barrels so fast and the third turn was quick and tight so the run home was just great! We broke the clock in record time!! 13.58!! The crowd went wild and I couldnít old my tears back as I was hugging his neck.
After that we continued to win and make lots of money until it all came to a sudden halt one day. And thatís the day I will never forget.
It had been 6 years since the accident and Runner was now 10 and still running like he was five and I expected a few more years out of him till I had to slow him down a little. We were back at the barn in Minnesota and were staying for a week before we were hitting the road for a few weeks to compete again. But that wasnít ever going to happen, because the third day we were home everything was going to coming crashing down on our career.
Thursday I had runner tied up to the post and I was going to give him a bath. As I was going to get the hose I noticed one of the my project colt was out and that was Runners only son out of 5 breedings we only got one colt. He was a dark blue roan and he was just like his dad. Anyways I had to get him back into his pen then go wash Runner. As I was walking Dash back I heard Runner whinny and saw him break off the post. Then the rest went bye to fast for me, it was like it all happened before I could even blink. I still donít know what scared him and caused him to snap his lead and run but I know that was the last time he ever ran again. He had run out onto the road and into a car, after he got up off the road he backed up and fell down the ditch. And he fell wrong and his back leg snapped it was a clean break!
At first the I had the vet harness him up and cast it. But after a couple of weeks I had to make the choice of putting him down. It wasnít fair for me to make him suffer just so he could sit in the stall the rest of his life. So I told the vet to give us one more day to say good bye. After everyone at the barn said there goodbyes I sat in his stall all night with him while he laid there I laid with him and talked. I told him everything and how much I loved him. I didnít want him to feel bad because he had done everything I ever asked him. We had spent so much time together and became a team. I cried into his shoulder and just sat there. When the time came I held his face in my lap as he slowly slipped away. Just before his last breath I told him I loved him and he gave a little whinny and then he was gone.
He wasnít just my friend he was my teacher and my team mate. We won because we had one anothers back the whole time we were together. He left me with a wonderful Son who I hope one day will be just like him. So far Dash has done a wonderful job living up to his dad. And I can say I will never forget the bond me and Runner had!!!