Lee Ann Rust and Harley win the Barrel Racing at the 2011 Pro Rodeo in Airdrie, AB

by Shayna on July 5, 2011

Yesterday I had the chance to talk with Lee Ann Rust from Stephenville, TX who just won the barrel racing at the 2011 Airdrie, AB Canadian Pro Rodeo this past weekend.  Lee Ann and her horse Harley ran a time of 14.67 seconds to win the first place cheque of $4,644.   She could feel him ready like a fire breathing dragon and he worked great.  Lee Ann hasn’t even had a day to sit down and take in her win as she has been busy continuing to travel to and from rodeos (when I talked to her yesterday she had just made a run in Killdeer, ND and was driving to make a run in Mandan, ND that night!).  This is Lee Ann’s first year running barrels on the pro circuit and what is most special about this is she is a 53 year old rookie.  Lee Ann told me two years ago she would’ve had no idea she would be doing this, it is like a fairytale to her.

Lee Ann had nothing but great things to say about her time up in Canada.  She thought that it was a beautiful country, with great people and great rodeos.  Infact, Lee Ann’s first pro rodeo buckle she won was up here at the Grand Prairie pro rodeo!  Here is what Lee Ann had to tell me:

Harley's Pedigree

-What is the name of your horse?  Harley, he is a registered paint horse but you wouldn’t know it because he is a tall bay.  I own his dad who is an APHA registered stallion and half thoroughbred.  I broke him to ride as a 5 year old and he has won many champions since then including world champions in heeling and an APHA championship to name a few.  I also own Harley’s mom who is by Streakin Six out of  a daughter of Dash for Cash.  She is a Quarter  Horse mare and was started on barrels but I never rode her, I just bought her for a broodmare.
-How old is he?  He is 9 years old.
-How long have you been running barrels on him?  I broke him as a 2 year old and then his 3 year old year I got bucked off of a mare who stomped on the calf of my left leg.  I had to spend 45 days flat on my back, had some surgeries and there was also talk about taking my left leg off at the knee.   During this time I sent him to Gina Franklin who rides a lot like I do.  Sharon Hall then ran him in futurities as a 4 year old.  I got Harley back the January of his 5 year old year which was in 2007 and I hadn’t competed since 1980.  It took most of his 5 year old year to get him figured out so when he was six we spent our time getting seasoned up.  When Harley was seven he was doing pretty good then grew an inch and a quarter and by his 8 year old year he got tough and has just kept going from there.
-What is it you like best about Harley?  When he was born there was just something about the outside of him that clicked with the inside of me and I knew he wouldn’t ever be sold.  I like his attitude, temperament and his personality.  It has surprised me how much he is thriving on the road with all the traveling we have been doing.  I think he looks better now then he has when we left home in March.  It also amazes me how quickly he can recover, it doesn’t matter what time it is when we pull into the rodeo grounds he will always come out of the trailer ready to go.  I also like when I switch from my split reins to short reins before our run how he knows it is time to go but then after it is over he is good and relaxed
-With all of the traveling you do how do you keep him in shape and feeling good?  When I can I will swim him twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday).  I started doing this half way through his six and seven year old years.  My sister in law has an aqua tread so I do that twice a week.  The days that we aren’t running I long trot six miles.  Running as often as we do also helps keep him in shape.  I am a real big believer in energy healing such as chiropractic work etc. to help keep his hips, necks, shoulders and ribs adjusted.  I also feed Harley Dynamite feed and supplements.  You have to figure out what works for you and your horse and stick with it.
-Could you tell me about your training/riding style with Harley?  I like a lot of contact.  I ride in a lot shorter stirrups than most people since I come from a cutting horse background.  I will rarely go to his face, just sit down hard and keep my knees bent.  On my slow work I like to give him a lot of room around the barrels.  I will frame him up, get his nose to the barrel and emphasize the bend at the barrel.  I make sure to keep his feet out where they belong at a walk and make sure they are going where I am looking.  I believe the riders eye and where you are looking going into a barrel and your spots are critical, if I know what color the barrel covers are when I leave the arena that’s going to mean my eyes were not looking in the right spot and that barrel will be laying on it’s side.  I will also make sure to never turn a barrel at the same speed I approach it (trot to it and walk around).
-What kind of saddle do you use on him?  A flex tree saddle.  He is long backed so this saddle allows him freedom of motion and allows me the close contact that I like.
-What kind of pad do you use on him?  A Saddle Right pad because it still allows that close contact with Harley.
-What kind of bit(s) do you use on him?  I use a D ring bit with a 4 inch dog bone in the middle with spur rowels on the cheek pieces of the D.  This helps to keep him light.  I also use a light German martingale on the bit because it helps with collection.
-What leg gear do you use on him?  I use Iconoclast Sport Boots that were designed for rehab horses with suspensory injury.
-Do you have any special shoes for Harley?  No, I run him barefoot.
-How long have you been barrel racing for? This is my first year on the pro rodeo circuit although I have always had horses and always fiddled around the barrels to get them going.  I always went to Paint horse competitions but 2007 was my first serious attempt at competition.  This didn’t go as well because we were still trying to figure each other out but then it kept getting better.  We started out just in Texas so it allowed us to work our way into it since we were able to come home between competitions for a break.
-What, if anything have horses/rodeoing taught you about life outside of the arena?  Mostly everything I have figured out about life was taught to me by a horse.  I grew up ranching and my dad trained cutting horses (Lee Ann’s dad is 76 years old and is still showing).  I was an animal health rep for about five years but then transferred to the human side.  When I had to try to figure out how to deal with all the hospitals, pharmacists etc. I would go back to my horses in the round pen.  This allowed me to try and figure out how to deal with some of their personalities.  You always have to be respectful and treat them the way you would like to be treated.  As long as you use good manners and hospitality, are respectful and stay humble and accept life for what it is today and don’t spend too much time dwelling on the past and anticipating on the future I think we all would be living much healthier.
-If you were to share a piece of advice to all of those who are following what would it be?  You can’t dwell on what is behind you, you got to keep looking at what is ahead.

Lee Ann told me a story that really holds true to her piece of advice.  She said she had been winning, doing good and placing and then she got over to California.  This particular arena had a closed gate (Harley had never ran to a closed gate before).  She said Harley kind of took it away from her a bit and they got a bad angle at the start to the first barrel and ending up hitting it but she went ahead and made him make his run.   When she came back to the closed gate he circled to the left and hung her on the right stirrup then he zig-zagged back to the right and she fell off of him in the arena (yes, it even happens to the best of us!).  Lee Ann couldn’t spend time dwelling on this run because she had to get looking ahead of her and start focusing on her next run.

I would personally like to thank Lee Ann for taking the time to speak with me.  She is a very kind and humbling lady who is living her dream.  She offered some great advice that I will always keep in mind.  Good luck Lee Ann and Harley, hopefully we will see you at the CFR and NFR this year!

Here is a run I found of Lee Ann and Harley at Alvarado, TX in February:

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