Barrel horse trainers abound, especially in recent years as the divisional format has taken hold, but one Canadian trainer in particular continues to stand out every season.
Veteran barrel racer Rayel Robinson has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo twice (1991-92) and for the Canadian Finals Rodeo 20 times aboard some 10 different horses.
She has four Canadian championships to her credit on four horses she trained, and one year at the CFR she had trained five of the horses competing there. While Robinson has been relatively quiet on the pro rodeo scene south of the border for the past decade or so, she’s as successful today with young horses as she’s ever been.
Aboard Grant Little’s Dash For Perks mare, Lady Perks, Robinson won the 2004 BFA World Championship Futurity and then the 2005 CPRA championship amid phenomenal Canadian pro rodeo success.
More recently, she enjoyed big wins in 2009 aboard Little’s gelding Shawnes Feature (“Dutch”), then 5. The Feature Mr. Jess son out of a Shawne Bug mare was the Canadian Futurities’ High-Point horse, having won eight futurities that year.
Dutch was sold in 2010 and Robinson has been busy at futurities rather than rodeos. This spring, she was ranked third in the Canadian Barrel Futurity standings on Cari and Murray Suitor’s 5-year-old gelding, Swift Machine, by Plain Special and out of Miss Twist Tivio by Swift Darkness.
And Robinson also owned a top-10 ranking on Suitors’ 5-year-old stallion Ima Little Hottie, by Hot Colours and out of Ima Copper Bug Too (on whom Robinson won thousands of dollars).
“We’re busy enough that I’m not really missing rodeos at the moment, as far as going down the road,” she said. “It’s always nice to be riding a nice horse, there’s no question about that.”
Robinson should have several options coming up. She’s excited to train some babies that Little has coming up out of Lady Perks, by such famous sires as Dash Ta Fame, Frenchman’s Guy, Blazing Jetolena, and Good As Nick Gets. The colts are currently yearlings and
Tricks of the Trade
Feed: Alfalfa/grass mix
Saddle pad: Impact Gel
Leg gear: Impact Gel and polo wraps
2-year-olds, and will compete in about three years.
Much of Robinson’s training takes place in the round pen, where she schools her prospects for at least a year before putting them on the
“I want flexibility with forward motion as I handle these horses,” she said. “And I put pressure on them there so they can handle it later.”
She also puts a priority on how balanced her colts are as they work the pattern. “I’m selling these horses,” she said. “So I want to make it as easy as possible. If a horse has to come with a big, thick owner’s manual, it doesn’t work out as well as if someone can just put their hand in the middle of the rein.”
Robinson annually spends roughly six months in Alix, Alberta and the other six months of the year in Maricopa, Ariz. Her 10-year-old daughter, Reena, is a budding barrel racer, and spends time riding her mother’s former NFR horse, Tia Major, now 27.
For more on Robinson, visit www.rayelrobinson.com or call 520-705-2365. For more on Grant Little’s performance horses, visit www.blueneonranch.com.
Winning second in the average at the 2009 CFR
This picture of Dutch shows the type of form I like to see and ride in a barrel horse. I like to have that front end up and moving freely with the hind leg getting up underneath him as he stays balanced and prepares for a strong leave.
I’m using a leather tie-down on this horse that I feel is only necessary for balance in a turn or if he happened to slip. And the bit I’m using has a chain mouthpiece with a long shank, which allows me to ride confidently with control and form.
Because of Dutch’s “easy to ride” style, I am able to ride relaxed with a longer rein. I was so proud of Dutch—he won seven of 11 futurities and placed at or won 15 of 17 pro rodeos with earnings of more than $150,000 in 2009.
Placing fifth at Sundre, Alberta
I ride with a lot of weight in my stirrups between the barrels. As I approach a barrel, I sit deep in the saddle, giving my horse the cue to prepare to turn.
I ride a lot of young horses and I feel I have to be deliberate with these cues in order to help them throughout the entire pattern.
Swift Machine won the last futurity we entered in Brooks, Alberta, and placed third at the South Country futurity in Cardston, Alberta. He also won a round at the Greg Olsen Futurity in Buckeye, Ariz., earlier this winter.
Placing eighth at Ponoka, Alberta
This picture of Swift Machine in Ponoka this summer also shows the style I like all my horses to have.
The front end is elevated, allowing the hind end to push off leaving a turn, and the front end stays freed up and easy to move throughout the entire turn.
Because the arena is large and wide open at Ponoka, I ran with a shorter rein to keep speed and form under control. I also shortened my tie-down a notch.
I like my horses to allow me to handle them throughout the run so that I can help guide them if necessary.