Trailer Troubles and Announcer Antics: Idaho Barrel Race with New Traveling Partners

New friends mean new adventures and a lot went down at the Idaho Barrel Horse Jackpot last weekend.

This was my maiden voyage hauling with barrel racers other than Jenna Smeenk. I was lucky enough to stow away with Whitney Diamond and Jemima Street for the barrel race in Nampa, Idaho. You may remember this duo from the Beauty Battalion magazine cover shoot Jenna and I did. I was a little nervous if we'd all jive together but I couldn't have asked for sweeter, more supportive, or cooler girls to hang with.

Whitney offered to let us take her rig which is the Taj Mahal of all horse trailers. Her adorable family came with her so Jemima and I followed the rig in her truck, swapping stories and rocking out to music. We planned to meet at my ranch Friday afternoon and head north from there; well, at least that was the plan. My demanding full-time job that pays the barrel racing bills kept me in the office later than I had anticipated. The poor girls were left waiting for me at my ranch. Not a great start to a brand-spanking-new partnership. Thankfully, they were extremely patient and good natured about my tardiness.

The true test of our friendship came later that night when we finally pulled into the rodeo grounds. Stryker liked their fancy trailer a little too much and we found out the hard way that he doesn't know how to back out of a trailer. Forty-five minutes, three helpful grounds crew men,

three barrel racers, onlookers with camera phones out, and a whole lotta patience is what it took to finally coax him out.

Speaking of the amazing grounds crew, they were my heroes the following morning as well. We remembered to pack a shovel to clean stalls but not a wheelbarrow. I was talking to one of the grounds crew guys about my dilemma and he informed me that it wasn’t a problem at all. That he had a wheelbarrow at home and would race right over and pick it up for me. Sure enough he did! A few of our stall neighbors utilized the wheelbarrow and when I told them the story of the stranger’s kindness they couldn’t believe it! It is just the western way to help someone out anyway you can and this man’s kindness certainly stuck with me.

The next day was slow moving, as races often are, but just being around such fun girls made the time fly by. We were also joined by a special guest to watch Stryker run, his breeder and former owner. I loved showing her how far Stryker and I have come in such a short amount of time and the Rocket did not disappoint.

Announcers seem to enjoy Stryker's registered name, "Haulin' A". When it was our turn to run, she loudly exclaimed, "Next up is Renae Cowley on Haulin' A! We all know what that “A” means...." I actually laughed out loud as we were walking up the alley before our run. On the run home the announcer said, “She’s really haulin’ A!” and the entire stands erupted in cheers. Large jackpots like this usually have fairly subdued crowds after watching run after run all day. I think their cheers really helped the Rocket kick things into high gear. Stryker lived up to his name and we pulled a check placing 15th in the 1D out of nearly 400 horses.  

This race was enormous! Bigger than most other jackpots I have entered. They even livestreamed it online. My mom usually comes with me to most races but wasn’t able to make it to this one. She not only watched us online she put the word out to the entire extended family that they could see me run online. I didn’t know she had instigated the family grapevine until after my run and I started to receive the flood of texts from grandparents, uncles, cousins, and friends that they were cheering us on from every corner of the country. This is barrel racing in the 21st century!

One of the highlights of the weekend was meeting a few Insta lovers from the Gem State. One cute girl even told me, "I follow Stryker on Instagram." Stryker, not me, but who are we kidding? He's the real celebrity among us. Meeting these Insta babes opened my eyes to how fortunate I am to be a part of a community of real, genuine people who love their horses and enjoy testing their horsemanship skills. It always catches me off guard a little to be reminded that there are real people watching my barrel racing journey, not just numbers and statistics of views, followers, and likes.

In addition to new hauling partners, I gained another important gal in my life that weekend, Diva. I have been searching for a younger mare to grow my barrel horse herd and I thought the logical first step was to go back to the breeder I bought Stryker from. That is where I found Diva, a four-year-old little bay mare who is Stryker's half sister. We are officially making barrel racing the family business.

Speaking of family, I would be remiss if I didn't say a few words about Whitney's cute family. I had a blast getting to know her funny husband and cute kids better. Rodeo is a family oriented sport and having her kids there kept things entertaining. They were our official cheering section and downright helpful taking care of horses and, of course, documenting the whole weekend with pictures and videos.

After the last barrel was turned and the trailer packed up, we hit the road headed home. The race was so huge we were pretty late pulling out but we had to get home so we could get to work Monday morning (big girl problems). Thankfully Jemima kept us wide-eyed and alert with all the best car karaoke from Michael Jackson to Jim Croce.

It was an unforgettable weekend full of great friends & fast horses. What more could a cowgirl ask for?