Annesa Self (pronounced 'Aneesa') and her 9-year-old gelding Rare Dillion (pronounced 'Dillon') first turned heads in a big way in December 2006 when they won the derby world championship sanctioned by Barrel Futurities of America.
Their first major foray into professional rodeo in 2007 went just as well, with the duo beating out champs like Brittany Pharr and Sixth Vision at RodeoAustin, among other places.
Self, of Valley View, Texas, was careful not to put too much pressure on her young horse or get after him for mistakes, and he matured beautifully.
"I'm so blessed," she said of Dillion. "Big or little patterns; deep or hard ground-he just handles it."
The gelding helped make the Wrangler NFR dream come true for Self in 2008, and the duo finished sixth in the world with $126,514. During their first trip to Las Vegas, they placed in five of 10 rounds, picking up penalties in four-one of which happened while Self was recording the fourth-fastest time of the 150 runs made at the Finals (a 13.70).
She purchased the buckskin gelding as a 2-year-old based on his size and go get 'em attitude.
"Dillion" is by the Fire Water Flit son Firecracker Fire, who's out of a granddaughter of Dash For Cash. On the bottom side, Dillion is out of Rare Class, a mare by Rare Jet and out of a Raise A Native granddaughter.
Rare Jet is also the paternal grandsire of Rare Fred-the horse that carried Mary Burger to the 2006 WPRA world championship.
"I've always liked Firewater Flits for their 'want to' attitude," Self said. "And as far as the Rare Jet side, the cross has worked really well where you get the speed, too. I like the combination-a little sense with a little run."
As a 5-year-old, Dillion placed at all but two of the futurities he competed in, then Self started hauling him to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo to season him to crowds, music, lights and different ground.
Self and Dillion have qualified for the ultra-competitive Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo each of the past three years. In fact, she tends to stick when she can to Texas rodeos so she can "still be a mom."
Self, who's been married for 16 years to two-time Wrangler NFR team roper Tom Self, spends a lot of time cheering for their 11-year-old son T.J. at his baseball games.
"I'm more nervous when he plays baseball than when I run barrels," she laughed.
In the meantime, around her duties as wife and mother and competitive barrel racer, Self trains colts that she later sells. In addition, the Selfs spend time helping Tom's family run Sandy Lake Amusement Park in Carrollton, Texas.
Self reserves a giant "thank you" for her sponsors, which include UlcerGard by Merial and Martindale Feed Mill (MFM) of Valley View, Texas.
"As long as my horse is winning and I'm having fun, I'll go to the ones I go to and hopefully win enough to keep me in the standings," said Self, who was ranked 13th at press time.
"I just play it one day at a time."
San antonio Stock Show and Rodeo 2009
In this picture, my reins are guiding and encouraging forward motion in Dillion. My body is centered over my horse, and my feet are under me and slightly forward for balance.
Notice the power and drive Dillion gets out of his hind end leaving a barrel. He sometimes has a stiff look to him when he's performing, but as you can see, Dillion does have a roundness to him in the turns.
I feel a horse should be extremely broke and soft (responsive) in the face to a rider's touch of the reins. I remember a saying my mother (barrel horse trainer Marva Beavers) used to use-"Horses can feel a fly on them." This has always stuck in my mind, so when I'm training and competing, I try and keep my commands very light and encouraging.
2008 Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Championship
Dillion is really easy to ride-just kick, guide and have fun. My reins are loose here, which shows that not much pulling in a turn is involved. And my body is forward in the saddle from pushing Dillion up into the turn.
When Dillion was 5, I used a smooth mouthpiece half-Wonder bit and a tie-down. As he got older and more mature, I felt like he needed less controlling and more just guiding.
In these pictures I'm using a Jim Warner rope noseband, short-shanked hackamore and a bonnet. Dillion likes to get his nose stretched out to run, but sometimes when he was younger and really getting on his hind end, he'd elevate too much on the backside leaving a barrel.
The loose bonnet balances Dillion out leaving the barrel, but still allows him to get his nose out and keep moving. Now that he's older, he really doesn't need the bonnet, so sometimes I run him in a bit and tie-down or just a hackamore.
Third Round at 2008 Wrangler NFR
Dillion is really trying hard in this picture at his first NFR, and if you look at his left front (inside) leg, you can see that it's slipped out from underneath him. That slip got me off-balance, which is why my shoulders are leaned back in this picture.
I tried hard to keep my lower body position centered and forward in my saddle to keep from throwing Dillion off and causing him to slip more.
I have to say Dillion has been one of the easiest horses to ride and train. He's had that "want to please" attitude since I got him at age 2.
You have to keep in mind that every horse is different in size, shape, attitude and the way they move. My key thought is that you have to help your horses find their comfort zone!