Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Tao of Stall Cleaning

Tao is a Chinese word signifying 'way', 'path', or 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle'. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of "life" that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one's everyday being.

So what does an ancient Chinese philosophy have to do with cleaning the stalls of horses? After many hours spent trying to solve mental problems and road blocks while cleaning stalls, I'm starting to actually think it has a lot more in common than most may think or see at first.

I've been trying to teach him to clean his own stall, so far our attempts have been futile at best

If you own, love, work with, or train, show horses, you have more than likely come in contact with cleaning stalls. You may do it yourself or you may pay someone to do it, but either way, your show horse has probably had their stall cleaned many, many times in its life. Recently, a few "Looking For Work" ads have caught my eye in the cutting horse world, and they've all said "not too proud to clean a stall." Which, at first may seem a little redundant, if you work with horses you have to clean stalls, what does that have to do with "pride"? But, in reality, if you dig into it a little, it isn't as cut and dry as one may think.

One of my first jobs in the horse world consisted of cleaning 30 stalls, that had to be pristine when I was done with them. Let me tell you, that is some back breaking work, day in and day out, especially in the winter hauling waste out and shavings back in to the barn from outside. Many barns are lucky enough to have stall cleaners, whose sole responsibility is to keep the barn and stalls clean and in working order. Many show barns i've been too don't turn out their horses every day, and as such, their stall cleaners will clean stalls 2-3 times a day to make sure they stay as clean as possible. This is much more common in the States than up here in Canada, where many Canadian lopers find themselves also being the stall cleaners, or starting out in stall cleaning roles and going up the ranks from there. No matter which side of the border you lay your hat, or if you have a stall cleaner at home, if you are on the road going to overnight shows, chances are you as a loper will be cleaning stalls as part of your roles and responsibilities. Let me tell you how I feel about the concept of being "too proud to clean a stall". If I were to bring someone to a show, and have them turn their nose up at the thought of cleaning a stall, no matter how good they were on horseback, that person would be heading home on the bus. It's as simple as that in my mind.

Tucking Lady into Bed for the Night
That brings me to the concept of the Trainer or Client cleaning stalls. I have had many clients that prefer to clean their own stalls, or are happy to help clean the stalls of the horses that we have brought to shows. At the same time, I've had other clients that don't offer to help. In my mind, if you pay a lot of money to have your horse in training, you do not have to clean your own stalls unless you want too, that is part in parcel for the monthly training bill and show bills you pay. As a trainer, if you have honed your skills enough to be able to have horses in training and pay employees, then you definitely don't have to clean stalls. In a way, you have graduated from that level. But, this is where that pride thing comes in again, if you are too proud to clean a stall, to lend a hand when your employee desperately needs the help, that's a bit of a different situation entirely.

I remember a time with a previous boss where a high maintenance client demanded she clean her own stalls at shows because she felt we took too many shavings out, however she did a terrible job. Later on, after the client had left, I came around the corner to see my boss cleaning her three stalls over again. I told her that she had already done them, and her response was "not good enough." She shrugged as she picked through the waste and said, "Look, she doesn't want to pull all the urine out because she wants to save money on shavings, but that's not how I do things around here. Stalls have to be clean at all times. We ask so much from these animals, and then to return them to a dirty stall is unacceptable to me." She continued, "It doesn't have to be a big thing, and I'll use my own shavings from my turn back horse if I need too, and I also don't want you to have to deal with it, so i'll just do it." She showed me then that she wasn't too proud to clean a stall, and paid enough attention to her operation that even small tasks such as that were important to her. More over, the entire story shows that her horses health and comfort was the most imperative thing to her, before anything else.

All this pride talk aside, there is another few key aspects to stall cleaning that can't be overlooked. You can learn a lot about a horse by what you find in their stall in the morning. If there's no manure, that may show signs the horse is colicing. If you have a horse that is very consistent in how they "keep their house", and all of a sudden it's changed, that may reflect upon something as well. If the horse was clearly restless and pawing and pacing all night, that may effect them during the day. What about how much water they've had to drink? If they finished all their hay, or if they pawed through it? There are so many insights in your horses activity the night before that you can glean from a stall.

Too Tired to Horse Today, Human, Maybe Another Time
Furthermore, like I alluded too earlier, I find I can solve a lot mentally while I'm cleaning stalls. It's the peacefulness of the earning morning, just you and the horses in the barn, where you can fully engrossed in your own mind as you go through your stalls. I often can think of blog posts, visualize my day, and how I want it to go, or my show runs, and how I want those to go, while i'm cleaning stalls. I can "solve world problems" as it were, as I quietly go through a task that is so key in our horses comfort. While i'm in those stalls, I am also with the horses, and you find out the small things about them that you wouldn't while riding him. This horse loves having his neck scratched, another is younger and a little wary of your rake, go slower, bond with them a little during the process.

So, if you grappling with some issues that you haven't solved yet through cups of coffee and conversation, why not go grab a fork and clean a stall, it might help. If you are questioning how your trainer is treating your horse, or their employees, be more observant at the next show. Is he, or she, around to lend a helping hand if needed, not even really to help the employee, but to ensure that your horse is getting the absolute best care they can receive? You can have won all the millions in the world, but if you don't care about how your horses are being treated and the care they're receiving at even the smallest level, then maybe there's some darker issues at play there.

Now, let's bring it back to my own situation. In any given day, we find ourselves very, very busy at our operation. I also find I am not the fastest stall cleaner in the world, there's no shame in my stall cleaning game, but it may take me thirty minutes longer than the next person. Hiring a stall cleaner has helped relieve atleast one to two hours out of our day to focus on the training and riding of our horses. It has been a big help, and not only that, it lessens even a little bit the physical aspect of what we do. So, if like me, you are lucky enough to have someone that comes to clean your stalls, and keeps your barn clean, tell them thank you, and that you appreciate them. They deserve it. Finally, if you are "too proud" to clean a stall, maybe you should go ahead and check yourself. Just saying.

Rewards of Stall Cleaning, Two Year Old Kisses

Sunday, 7 August 2016

One Year with Lady

This blog has really become a Lady love fest lately, but today marks a special day. One year ago, I decided to take the big leap of buying a new to me horse. At the time, an 11 year old sorrel mare, a trained cutting horse, who had been sitting in a pasture for a year, using that time to specialize in obesity.

She was a little older than I wanted, but she was so quiet, and so nice to be around, and I thought maybe she would be a really nice partner for me, and would be able to help me fulfill my dreams of finally starting to show. In the blog post from last year I wrote, "So, to now put a big investment into another horse? It was hard, and emotional, and some days, I'm still not 100% ready and there with her. But, I think, over time, it will get easier, and she truly is just a nice horse to be around - she makes me feel content, and happy. So I think, for right now, that's all I can ask for. "

Big Mama the day I bought her
Like any horse-rider combo, we didn't click right away, she's a little reserved, and she definitely still rolls her eyes at me sometimes, but after going through my archives of photos, I've realized the key to really getting with your new horse is selfies...

Lots & Lots of selfies...

I promise you, given the sheer volume I had to choose from, it apparently worked for us.

In late October I moved Lady to my boss' ranch, and we managed to survive cattle drives, and winter together. I worked Lady on cows maybe once before winter hit and we shipped ours, then we banged around on the flag until late November. December we spent long trotting in hay fields, and working some of that belly off that Lady likes to keep around.

Then in January, I timidly asked my boss if he thought we could show in the winter series, he said yes, and the rest is history, we started showing!

At our first show, we marked the first of many, many 60s we have since accumulated
Lady & I banged through the winter series cutting with a lot of low scores, and a lot of learning experiences, but it was good for us, because somewhere towards early Spring I started to really, really trust my horse. I started to just let her do her thing, and work on my own riding, and now thanks to that mindset, I can now work on both of us a little bit more comfortably.

From the Winter Series Cutting.
Photo by: Sandy Hansma

The hours, and hours, and hours of working on and thinking about our craft finally paid off in early June when she won me my first buckle, and first two cheques. It came at the right time, because I was starting to wonder if we'd ever achieve our first success together! Of course, as I've detailed in this blog, she then had a colic episode, and I gave her five weeks off to get some well earned rest and just be a horse for awhile. Now, after three weeks of slowly legging her back up, I can start working her again, and I'm so excited to pick up where we left off.

Somewhere, in between hauling down the road, trotting down fence lines in the snow, quiet moments in her stall, warming her up to show her, cooling her out, baths and down time in the arena, Lady and I have become a pretty strong partnership in the year I've had her. More than just a horse I can go show, Lady has become, in a year, one of my most treasured companions. She is kind, and sweet, and trustworthy, she is gritty, and hard working, and sometimes goofy. She loves water, she is a camel in horse form, and she loves cutting cows, and i'm pretty sure that she loves me too. 

Lady has been turned out with her buddy in a big turn out that follows the path of our km long driveway, it takes about five minutes to walk out to her turn out and she's generally way down at the end, so I have to hike out to get her. It has become our routine that I grab her in a halter and then swing on to her bareback, using any device I can find to boost me. The other day it was a rock and I scrambled onto her back, spurs hitting her sides as I swung over her neck and scooted back. I clucked at her to walk on and away we went down the driveway, past the dogs, and big garden with a spooky scarecrow, and around the lawn mower running and beside a vehicle all the way to our tack room. In that moment, I had the comforting feeling that Lady would truly take care of me in any situation, that even though she can be stoic and quiet, and even though she sometimes questions why I feel the need to ride her all the time, especially bareback! haha, she is the type of mare that thinks her duty is to keep me out of trouble, and she has done such a good job of it this year. I am so thankful for her. Every day I look forward to next show season with her, and then the future of hopefully being granted the luck and blessings to ride her babies.

I love this photo because I think it embodies her heart and try
Photo by: Sandy Hansma

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Videos From The Claresholm Show!

I finally got around to getting and uploading the videos from Claresholm in June. I talked all about the show on this post - here - but the summary is that I achieved three of my major goals for this year... Win a Class, Win a Circuit (I won both days, with a 72 and 71 respectively), and Win a Buckle... it was a wicked high having everything click for us, and the reward being two wins proving how we are becoming more and more consistent together.

Here is our 72 run, we were first in the herd...

There is always room for improvement, and after watching both these videos, I know where I need to take my riding to get even better, and even more consistent. I swear, some shows my cuts are nearly perfect, and my runs go to absolute shit, and others, my runs are nearly perfect, and my cuts are absolute garbage. This show, both days, my cuts need some serious help. My nervousness gets the best of me, you can see it in the above video with how I'm hanging my hand up in the air a lot and not stepping her with my feet forward fluidly amongst the cows. However, this was bar none the best run I've ever had on my mare, and that second cow was absolutely, 100%, the best she has ever worked for me, and I, her.

Here is our 71 run the second day, we were second last in a big combined herd of 14 riders...

This video just makes me laugh and smile, I was so dang nervous. Shaking nervous. The cows were also freaking tough and had bested a lot of the big Non-Pros that were combined before us in this class. After telling you guys the second cow from the first day was the best we've ever cut, this first cow was the absolute scariest cow I have ever cut. Watching how hard Lady worked to control that cow and get it in the centre of the pen makes me so proud. Watching back now I really wish I had worked it a bit longer, but I was so nervous I wanted off of that cow like yesterday. Cuts were still a little messy in this video, and I needed to drop my hand a bit sooner in all three cuts that I did. That second cut went to hell pretty quick because I focused in on a cow that wasn't meant too be too early, if you listen close you can hear a friend scream "LOOK UP" at me, and that's what I did. That red cow was good, and once I got it cut, it worked well for us. Realistically the judge did me a favour with the 71 he gave us, but my horse worked her heart out for me, and I'm glad the score reflected that.

So there ya go, rare good quality videos of Lady and I doing what we love! I have been slowly legging Lady back up after her five weeks off, and for the past four weeks she has felt really good. Next week, she goes back into work, and hopefully Mid-September if the stars align for us, we can get back to doing what we love for real.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Calgary Stampede 2016

Another Calgary Stampede has come and gone, and like usual, it feels like the shortest and longest ten days of my life, all at the same time.

Hey, that's me with the Blue Bareback flag!
Photo Credit: Calgary Stampede Rodeo
As many of you know that follow this blog, I've had the honour of being one of the Calgary Stampede Ranch Girls for the past four years. The group of girls that you see shooting out of the centre alley gate, amongst smoke and flame and fireworks, carrying the flags of the rodeo during the greatest outdoor show on earth. It's crazy, honestly it is, it is one of the craziest, best, coolest, glitziest, fastest things I have ever done, or will ever hope to do, and I always count myself lucky to be included amongst such a fantastic group of girls.

Little pre-show pep talk as we head in to the Agrium Event Centre for the Mercuria
This year was also incredibly special to me, as I got to split Ranch Girl duty with loping my most favourite stallion in the whole wide world, Reys From Heaven, owned and shown by my boss, at the Pre-Stampede show at Silver Slate, and at the Mercuria show at the Stampede itself. The Mercuria is a massive show in the cutting horse world, and only the best of the best are entered. Many of the horses we competed against this year are hauled down the road and showed at most of the major shows, a lot of them are amongst the top ten best Open horses in the world right now. We don't haul Rey down the road, but we know that he is special and incredibly talented. It has been a good year for Rey, coming off an exceptionally strong breeding season, where we bred tons of amazing mares and were shown so much support from the cutting horse community.

So, as a warm up, we showed Rey at a few shows, then headed to Calgary.  Rey worked his heart out for my boss in Calgary and they went through to the finals amongst a group of incredible trainers and prestigious horses. It was a great moment, and I am so happy that both my boss, and Rey, received the accolade of making the finals, and the recognition they both deserve.

My Sweet Rey, just love him.
The real story amongst all the glitz and glamour of the Mercuria finals is that Rey is an incredible individual. So often when I'm on him, getting him ready to show, people question if he is one of his offspring, because he's so quiet and well behaved. At the breeding farm, he comes off the trailer quietly, jumps the dummy, then goes for a quick and quiet graze, before he quietly get's back on the trailer. He is the epitome of a gentleman, one of the best looking "Dual Rey's" you will hope to find and he passes on his wonderful, sweet nature, good looks and exceptional talent to his offspring. The oldest being two this year. We, as a team, are so, so excited for their future.

Family Traditions with mama
I was also able to take in a day of the Stampede with my mom, this is the 22 year in a row that we've done our annual "Stampede Extravaganza" and it is always so much fun. Sadly, we didn't win the dream home or the million dollar 50/50 this year, but atleast we were able to take in the sights, sounds and dill pickle corn dogs of the Stampede together for another year. Also, a reminder for next year mom - you don't like corn dogs, as much as you think you do.

Gone Muddin' at the Calgary Stampede
Making the Mercuria finals was a huge high, and right from that high, I went right back to Ranch Girlin'. The last half of the Stampede was very, very wet. One of the absolute rainiest in recent memory, with some crazy storms rolling through. It took a lot to keep smiling through the mud and the slop, but like I said above, thanks to an amazing group of girls and coordinators, it was pretty easy to keep the morale high, and keep having fun. My horse this year, Freckles, was new to me, and he did an incredible job of keeping me safe in the mud. It's a little nerve-wracking to see an arena under water, and be able to trust your horse enough to run out there and have fun doing it. Super thankful for him.

The incredible Mary Burger with us Ranch Girls!
Photo Credit: Gail Cummings
The Stampede is always full of so many incredible stories, my personal favourite (and I know many others too!) narrative was that of Mary Burger, the 67 year old Grandma, who won all four of her go-rounds, then went on to win the finals by 0.001 of a second! Her incredible horse, Moe, handled the intense rounds of Pool A, then a sloppy, wet and raining finals in stride. She was a fan favourite, with the crowd giving her multiple standing ovations, and is incredibly gracious and kind. It really goes to show that at any age you can go out there and follow your dreams, and she is a true testament to that. Love stories like that!

Freckles & I, note the slicker I am wearing... very glamorous ya'll.
& so that's that, back to reality and the "real world", which I'm thankful continues to be horses, horses and more horses for me. (But a lot less hairspray, and makeup). I am so thankful for the Calgary Stampede. For the Rodeo Committee and everyone else that puts on the greatest outdoor show on earth. For everyone that has a hand in letting the Ranch Girls proudly fly the flags of the rodeo. For the Western Performance Horse Committee for putting on the Mercuria World Series of cutting - the crowd was incomparable to any other cutting i've been too, and they do SUCH a good job of keeping it fun and interactive for spectators. It has been such a wonderful ten days, and it's hard to believe it's already come and gone just like that!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Why Horse Ownership is Not for the Faint of Heart

My girl, "Mates Special Lady"
Photo by Sarah Mckenzie
It has been a month since I've blogged, crazy.

I have so many blog posts percolating and swirling around in my mind, but at the end of the day, I don't have the mental capacity to speak, let alone coherently post. Working for a trainer is hard but rewarding work. In any given day we are balancing a million different things, and trying to fit it all in so that we have enough time to sleep before we start all over again. Between working horses, checking cattle, cleaning stalls, feeding, ranch chores, hauling our stallion or mares to the breeding farm, vet and farrier visits, and all the other miscellaneous things that come up in any given day, there isn't a lot of time to do much of anything else. I'm desperately trying to find a balance, but for many of you that own, love and work with horses, you know that there is little balance, especially in the thick of show season. The horses come first, and everything else comes second. It's not always healthy, nobody said it was, it's an obsession, but it's an obsession I love. I really wouldn't have it any other way.

So this blog post is about that obsession, and the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows that come with horse ownership. I have been blessed with many highs, and I have been gutted with lows as well - we all have, that's horses.

Photo by Sandy Hansma
The highs, the highs are pretty great. You can ride those highs for a pretty long time.

You are ready for that next level horse
You achieve something you've been working on for months, or years
A new foal is born that is the epitome of your breeding program
You win your first big cheque

I recently had a pretty amazing high. At the beginning of the month Lady and I achieved not one but THREE goals I had for this year. Win a Class, Win a Circuit AND Win a Buckle. It was amazing, but it was hard-earned, I had to change a lot about my riding style to be able to get through a run. A combination of nerves was fuelling a bad habit of gripping with my herd side leg, and not trusting my horse to wait on a cow, and control a cow in her own style. This meant show, after show, after show, I came home empty handed and with lack lustre scores. So I worked harder at it, I took every single thing my boss told me to do, and went home and thought more about it before I went to sleep at night. At home, our consistency and hard work was working, but at shows I was still struggling. So, I took off my spurs, and tried desperately to calm down my riding, and quell those pesky nerves. It came together, and it clicked.

The newest piece of jewellery to add to the collection!
At the NCHA Day's show in Claresholm, AB I went in with my only goal to be clean and consistent runs. I entered a class called the "Never Won a Buckle" where the aggregate champion (best combined score from the two days) wins a buckle and is entered into a finals at the Canadian Supreme in the fall to compete against other NWB winners from the year. The first day we drew first, and won our class with a 72. The second day I knew that if I "pressured-up" I would blow my class, like I have in the past. I tried to just keep telling myself "clean-consistent-clean-consistent." That day we were combined with another Non-Pro herd, so I was second last in the class in a big herd of 14. The cows were really tough, and were proving to be pretty tricky. The first cow I cut took one look at us and tried to run us over, I held my breath the entire time, I heard people gasp and I just thought, I need to ride my horse, it needs to be clean. We survived. The second cow was better. The third cow I chipped off and cut well. The judge scored us a 71. I left the pen, covered in sweat and shaking, I had made it through the run, it was clean and consistent, that's all I had wanted. Then, I heard the score from the last rider in the class and knew I had won the class again, and the buckle. Then I cried, in front of everyone there, like a massive baby. I'll tell you one thing, when you have a horse with a heart as big as mine, who tries so hard every time she walks to the herd, and you've struggled to showcase her ability due to your own shortcomings... to pick up two first places on her, is a very, very special feeling. Our first wins together, like I said - an unbelievable high.

Lady hooked up to fluids at Moore & Co

Then... there are the lows... What goes up, must come down.

Your next level horse comes up lame
You horse starts to sour in the show pen
Your new foal dies from complications
You don't pick up a cheque the entire show season 

Our low came one week later at another small club cutting show. I had given Lady most of the week off, worked her once on the flag, and once on cows, she felt really good. Then when I started to warm her up, she felt a little slow, but nothing crazy. Then right before we were suppose to walk to the herd, she felt dramatically off on her front right. I got off, no heat, didn't overreach, nothing. So I walked her out, and she felt okay, so I went ahead and showed her, she was pretty fresh because of the walking and we didn't have the best show because of it. Afterwards I put her up and she seemed fine. When we got home we jogged her and she now seemed off in her hind end, swinging out her back right leg as she trotted. She seemed lethargic as well. I gave her a bit of bute, and planned to call our lameness vet the next day. When I went to put her into her turnout, she kept trying to lay down, she wasn't rolling, or seemed uncomfortable but again just seemed so lethargic. So I called the vet, he couldn't be sure what was happening, but agreed she didn't seem right. He gave her fluids and told me to monitor her. She seemed fine that night, and looked like she was bouncing back.

I recommend having a good dog to keep you company,
and sleep on the barn floor, in situations like this. <3
The next morning, she seemed even worse, very lethargic, and kept trying to throw herself down, or alternatively stretch out her hind out constantly in a "prayer" type position with her front legs extended. I loaded her on the trailer and took her to Moore and Co. When we got there, after multiple ultrasounds throughout the day, they found she had excessive fluid in her colon, colitis, as well as an impaction. Due to the fact her colon was enlarged her small intestines were moved and displaced as well. They put her on fluids, banamine, and pulled her feed. Throughout the day they were able to physically remove a lot of the impaction by hand, and treated her for the colitis. I was able to get her two days later, and tapered her back onto feed myself at home.

In the end they suspect she contracted a virus or a bug, and by the time it exhibited itself it had already passed through her system so they couldn't be sure what it was. She had a bad spell of diarrhea last fall and they said that may have affected her colon flora, so when faced with a bug, it could have spiked that causing the colitis, which in turn likely caused the impaction.

It was a very scary and stressful time for me, after losing my three year old bunny last year, I am pretty sensitive to horses getting sick, and tend to jump to the worst possible conclusion. I am so grateful to the team at Moore and Co for taking the best care of my horse, and also happy that we were able to avoid surgery for so many reasons. I am happy to report that it has been a week since Lady has been home and she seems much better, and back to her normal self and feeding schedule. The only small thing I have noticed is she seems to be dragging her hind toes a little when she walks, so we'll see how she feels when I get to start riding her again this week. Our show season was halted a little, but i've refocused my goals with her for the fall, and having her in prime condition for the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer at the end of September. Lady owes me absolutely nothing, if I had to retire her tomorrow I would be gutted, but would move on from it. In my mind, her health and happiness is the forefront before anything else.

So there you have it, that story is in it's very essence why horse ownership is not for the faint of heart. In a week's time you can have a massive high, and a gut-wrenching low, and you still have to roll out of bed the next day and go through the paces. You can come off a big win, but you still have to listen to your coach tell you that you need to fix something in your riding. You can come home with an empty trailer, and you still have to bring the rest of the horses in and feed for the night. That's how it is with horses, because when you care for them, when you take care of them, there will be highs and lows every single day - some bigger and better than others, some worse and more terrible than the ones before them... that's just how it is out here, so you better have pretty thick skin, and be able to roll with the punches. I think, atleast, that it is totally and completely worth it.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Western Horse Review Young Guns

If you haven't picked up the May/June copy of Western Horse Review yet, you probably should. Be sure to flip to the "Young Guns: Top 16 under 25" feature, you may see a familiar face on a familiar paint horse... 

When Western Horse Review reached out to me and asked to feature me as one of their "Young Guns", I was pretty humbled and shocked. It's not everyday you get to see your name, and your blog, highlighted in a major Canadian magazine.

A huge thank you to the team at Western Horse Review, specifically Jennifer Webster, Ingrid Schulz and Cassie Hausauer for taking the time to reach out to me and interview me as one of the Top 16. To be ranked among some of the most fascinating, hard working, ground breaking and competitive up and comers in the country is such an honour, it's truly hard to put into words. 

So go check out the feature & let me know what you think!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Centre Arena with Katy Lucas

Katy Lucas is taking the rodeo world by storm as a competitor, a queen, and a business woman.
Photo Credit: Stills by Jill
It is pretty rare to be able to meet a young woman that can transition from the roping arena, to the world stage as Miss Rodeo Canada. Even more rare is a woman that can set down her roping gloves, take off her tiara, and walk into a room as the Director of Marketing/Communications & Public Relations for the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association. Katy Lucas manages to do all of this, while still remaining humble, positive and energetic, and is proving herself as a major player in the business side of the highly competitive pro rodeo world.
            Katy grew up in, and still calls, Carstairs, Alberta, home. The daughter of six-time National Finals Rodeo Qualified, and four-time Canadian Tie Down Roping Champion, Joe Lucas, Katy also called the rodeo-road home from an early age. She says that growing up in a rodeo family in general is unique because they spent so much time together, on the road, cheering her dad on. Katy credits rodeo to teaching her many life lessons, early on in life, that include accountability, independence, sportsmanship, and financial responsibility. In the Lucas household, horses were always a big part of life, and Katy was on a horse the minute she was born. On her forehead she even boasts a permanent goose egg from falling off a horse when she was only eight months old. She jokes that, “I’m sure my mom stills asks herself why my dad thought a baby would know what “hold on” meant when he lead the horse I was on through a gate!”
Katy at a Roping in Arizona
            Katy has been a tried and true roper from an early age, and never strayed far from her roping roots. At home, she had a great teacher in her father, who she says, “always put me on horses that I could win on, but didn’t win for me. Once I got the roping bug I never looked back.” In fact, she recalls a story told to her by a family friend who came to attend one of her father’s roping clinics. Katy was five at the time, and the family friend was roping the dummy, trying her best to learn. Katy walked right up, handed her dad her fuzzy pink purse, roped the dummy “like my daddy taught me”, collected her purse and walked away. The family friend, and other clinic attendants, stood there stunned by the fact this five year old had just roped the dummy with ease, while they were struggling to master the technique themselves!
            In the roping pen, her earliest success was winning the T.R.A.S.H. for Kids roping school in 2004 (TRASH stands for Team Roping at Schmidt House). It’s a team roping clinic that is judged based on roping technique, horsemanship, steer handling, and more. Katy has since gone on to win the 2014 Team Roping Canada Finals with her brother, Kyle. Her biggest success in the roping pen to date, she said it was a tough competition and an even tougher win for the Lucas kids. Katy says, “When it came time for the final round we were sitting number one, which is notorious in the team roping jackpot world for being the hardest spot to win from. When it was our turn to go all we had to do was have a clean run but when I roped my steer my horse really dropped off to the left and I was burning the rope through my hand, missing my dally. My rope finally connected with the saddle horn with about three feet to spare and luckily my brother came flying in and cleaned up the run by catching both back feet and winning it for us. It was my first saddle win and I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that I cried like a baby in the middle of the arena when I realized I had won.”
            Obviously the Lucas family partnership as worked successfully in the past, but Katy also loves getting out and learning from other’s as well. Riding with other ropers elevates Katy’s game and she tries to rope with higher numbered (higher skilled) heelers when she competes. She says riding among these skilled ropers is a great inspiration and she can take a lot from riding with them. “A lot of the heelers I rope with in competition are professional ropers that make my job easier. They really push steers towards me and that makes it easier for me to catch a higher percentage of steers.” Aside from riding alongside the big guns, Katy also believes in visualization before competition. For Katy, being successful boils down to mental ability over physical. “Every time I get nervous about a run I visualize making it perfectly in my head and it helps calm me down. When I actually go to make the run, I feel like I’ve already done it!”
Katy with her beloved horse, Tater.
Skilled ropers have helped Katy in elevating her game, but so has her horse, Mr. Rai Chicks, also known as “Bear”. Bear came from Keith Grad, and was mainly a heel horse when they purchased him, but with the help from her dad, they have turned him into a heading horse. Katy says that Bear just fits her, and tries so hard to do the right thing and does whatever you ask him to do. “He really takes care of me, and always waits until I’m ready to make a move on a steer, but he can also be cranked right up if someone better rides him and needs to move a little faster.” Bear does indeed come with some quirks though, he can be a bit broncy on the ground, and every so often snorts at a human like he’s never seen one before, especially when he’s fresh. He’s been known to break a few, (or a hundred!) halters because of pulling back and Katy says it truly bothers him when you miss a steer. So much so that he will keep bringing you closer and closer to the steer after that, in the hopes you will finally get it right and catch the darn thing! Katy says that she just keeps forcing her love on him and he’s slowly starting to calm down and trust her. Since buying Bear, Katy has become twice the roper and says that her great mount has paid for himself three times over since buying him.
            In regards to the most memorable advice she has been given for her riding is a saying that the family says to each other every time they head out the door down the rodeo road. That saying is, “go get your money”, for the Lucas family, it’s kind of saying to the other person that you’ve worked hard enough that winning should be rightfully yours, it’s just up to you to step up and claim it. As far as roping goes, Katy has her sights set on continuing to go and get her money. She’s attempting to make it down to the Reno rodeo to compete in the woman’s category, called “One Day One Million”, as well as the ladies category in the Wildfire Roping in Texas. She also competes in the World Series Team Roping every year, and has been to the finals twice. Last year the finals paid out over $10 million, and she would definitely like to cut herself off a piece of that pie soon.

The Roping Rodeo Queen
Photo Credit: Stills by Jill
            From one area of the rodeo world, to another, Katy has also achieved much success as a rodeo queen, her crowning achievement being Miss Rodeo Canada 2015. When she was a toddler, she met Jennifer (Douglas) Smith, Miss Rodeo America 1995. Ever since then, she wanted to become Miss Rodeo Canada, and held titles as Miss Rodeo Carstairs 2008/2009, Alberta High School Rodeo Queen 2010/2011 and then Miss Ponoka Stampede 2014. For Katy, all of her titles helped her along the way, but Ponoka really set her up for success on a bigger stage. She says, “the level of support that the Ponoka Stampede gave to me was amazing. The entire board at Ponoka is made up of men deeply rooted in the history of rodeo and I worried it may be hard to break through that barrier as a young woman. I think the biggest symbol of their support was when I competed for Miss Rodeo Canada and at least one board member showed up to every single Miss Rodeo Canada event to watch me compete – even if it meant sitting through hours of speeches!”
Never a dull moment - wrestling an alligator in Australia!
            During the Miss Rodeo Canada competition, Katy ran on little sleep and told herself to be as confident as possible. When it came time to announce her name as the winner, her mind went blank and she completely forgot what to do as the crown was placed on her hat. As MRC Katy became even more patriotic, and one of her favorite moments was carrying the Canadian flag at the Armstrong IPE And Stampede. She said the crowd roared as she made her anthem lap and she could feel their cheers right down into her chest. She can’t think of another moment that made her more proud to be a Canadian, than that one. Another moment during her reign that stands out is at the Pro Rodeo Canada Series Final in Calgary where she partnered with the Make-A-Wish foundation who put her in touch with a little girl that had lost her older sister to cancer. Katy made that little girl, Rosie an honorary Miss Rodeo Canada, and she got to participate in grand entry, talked to the crowd on the microphone, schmoozed with sponsors, and signed autographs like a pro! Katy says, “I was so affected, not by her heartbreaking story, but by the happiness she exuded.”
            As Miss Rodeo Canada, there was a lot of pressure, and a lot of eyes on her at all times, and Katy admits it was hard to always measure up to expectations. However, on the flip side, she learned to not care as much about other people and care more about her own expectations for herself. In fact, “because of the title I decided who I wanted to be, not what others wanted me to be.” Indeed, she was herself and worked hard to challenge misconceptions of what it means to be a “Rodeo Queen.” Aside from being “just” a pretty face, like some may think, Katy exuded her passion for rodeo and communication. During her title, Katy made over 700 appearances in three countries, and became a public relations machine for her organization. She brought her pink rodeo dummy with her everywhere she went on the road, and during her Miss Ponoka Stampede reign, even got to rope a steer during the Ponoka rodeo with Miss Rodeo Canada 2014, Nicole Briggs. Instantly, they found themselves plastered all over the internet as “The Rodeo Queens that could rope!”
Katy Lucas, and Nicole Briggs, Miss Rodeo Canada 2015, Roping a steer at the Ponoka Stampede
Photo Credit: Mike Copeman
        So what is the perfect job for a roping, rodeo queen, superstar? Becoming the Director of Marketing/Communications and PR for the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association. Katy has jumped right into the position and is working on athlete development with the CPRA membership to help them improve their marketing skills, media interview tactics and online presence. She’s helping calculate return on investment for sponsors by tracking the number of eyes on their logos. She’s working on fan engagement by creating exciting social media pages and sharing interesting information about their rodeo contestants, stock contractors, and personnel. For this year, Katy hopes to double their social media following, over-communicating with their membership and has a ton of exciting projects in the work to roll out throughout the year. For Katy, “my greatest ambition is to grow the sport of rodeo and make it better in the second hundred years than it was in the first. There are so many positive things on the horizon for the sport of rodeo, I can’t wait to see what happens!”
Showing off her Canadian pride!
Katy is ambitious, and when she does happen to come across free time, she goes a little stir crazy. Instead she prefers to work during the week and ride in the evenings, which includes teaching riding lessons. She also volunteers as an ambassador for a western women’s organization called La Due Ladies Lunch, and on weekends she competes at team roping’s or attends rodeo’s around the country and beyond to promote the sport she loves. Katy herself loves vintage cowgirl style, and one of her favourite pieces that she wore during her year as MRC was a turquoise Double D Vest that she found in her mother’s closet! She loves to layer jewelry and always tries to have a touch of western style but still likes to balance feminine pieces with masculine touches. Whether that’s mens boyfriend jeans with sparkly heels, or a baseball tee with a skirt. Some of her favourite pieces in her closet include a custom Kippy leather jacket, or her fringe and turquoise Patricia Wolf Belt. For Katy, she may show up in fur, rhinestones, or fringe, but as long as she’s decided there’s a rhyme or reason to her outfit – she’s happy with it!

            In the roping pen, she keeps it simple, so she can show off her sponsors, Lone Star Ropes, La Due Ladies Lunch and Lincoln County Oilfield Services. Her sponsors have helped her go down the road, and she’s eternally thankful and grateful for their continued support of her in and out of the roping arena. “I would really like to say a big thank you to my sponsors that have been so faithful tome along the way. Through all my life changes and crazy schedules Lone Star Ropes, La Due Ladies Lunch and Lincoln County Oilfield Services have always been by my side.” Seemingly never idle, Katy lives by the motto, “Though she be but little, she is fierce” by Shakespeare, and what a perfect motto that is to describe the little girl that was born on a horse, and has gone on to transcend so many boundaries as a roping star, rodeo queen and business woman.

Katy Lucas is indeed, little, but fierce.
Photo Credit: Stills by Jill