Years ago, I dreamed of becoming a barrel racer. When horse fever attacked me at age seven, it never left, and visions of flying around a barrel pattern, riding perfect figure eights all the way, while at a full out run against the clock with everyone cheering me on, was a dream: and a real adrenaline rush.
Ten years ago, while at our ranch one day, a cowboy Raul knew came to visit him. He said he had a horse for sale, and he just happened to have the horse with him in his stock trailer. Either he was overly confident Raul would buy the horse, since the local ranchers knew Raul was always on the lookout for a good ranch horse, or he was desperate for money and took his chances Raul would buy him outright.
This horse was an ex ¼ mile racehorse. In Mexico where I live, they have match races where only two horses run. The winner of course wins the purse money, but he also wins the loser’s horse. This is what happened to Pajaro, (Pa-ha-ro, bird in Spanish). He lost the race, and the new owner didn’t want him.
Raul agreed to look at the horse. The cowboy obliged and backed him out of the trailer. My jaw nearly fell on the ground when I saw how beautiful he was and so well put together. Long legs and muscular hind quarters with a shiny red bay coat.
Raul saw me and jabbed me in the ribs. “Don’t look excited!” he said sternly.
Raul road him and told the cowboy he didn’t think he would be useful for the groups we lead on trail rides since we have so many people who visit us that aren’t riders. This horse would be too much for a non-rider to handle.
I made a little squeak in my throat and Raul swiveled his head in my direction.
“I’d like to try him.”
“Are you sure?” Raul asked me.
“Yes, I said. “I had a feeling about this one.
After Raul gave me the “Be Careful Speech” He held the horse. I put my foot in the stirrup, grabbed the reins, and hoisted myself up on his back. Easy! And he didn’t move an inch. Some horses jig when you get on them.
We started a nice easy walk out the gate, I waved to Raul and the cowboy who both stood next to the stock trailer probably wondering if they’d ever see me again, alive.
Pajaro had an easy going walk. As soon as we disappeared around the mountain the excitement started. We had reached the Barley fields. Pajaro saw so much open space, he began to prance and jig. I held him steady. The miraculous part of this story was I felt incredibly secure on this horse. It’s hard to explain but I already knew he was the perfect horse I needed at that time.
Anyone who knows horses, also knows when you try out a brand-new horse it’s not a good idea to try him at a full-on run. Well, I was younger then and feeling mighty confident that day. Slowly we eased into a lope. He began pulling on the reins asking for more. I gave him another inch. We went faster, then another inch. We went faster until finally I gave him his head. As soon as his hind quarters kicked in, I felt an incredible surge of power ripple through me, and I swear I thought the damn horse had sprouted wings. Tears were streaming down my eyes as we raced across the Barley fields!
When we reach the end of the field, he eventually slowed down but was now very hot, so I thought it best to walk him back to the ranch. He did very well. We practiced walking over rocks around bushes, turn left, turn right, back up; he did it all. Yep! I remember thinking to myself, this was the horse for me as I reached down and patted his sweaty neck.
When I returned, Raul didn’t have to ask me. He saw my face. We ended up buying him that day. Lucky cowboy he said.
I rode him everywhere with our group trail rides and pack expeditions. We road at night, over rocky canyons, up mountains, we chased cattle, and never once did he refuse to do what I asked. I think during those days, I felt safer on my horse than with my own two feet on the ground.
Winter came and went. Spring was here. On one of my trips to San Diego I was in Barnes and Nobles Bookstore when I found a magazine. “How to Train a Barrel Racing Horse in Six Weeks!”. Upon reading the title of the article, my adrenaline shot through the roof. I made a mad grab for the magazine, mumbled a quick hello to the cashier, paid for the magazine and I was out the door.
The next weekend, what else? I was sitting in the dirt in the middle of the Barley field with one arm holding Pajero’s reins and the other balanced the magazine in my hand while I read and cautiously eyed the three barrels I’d set up in the field: each 90 ft apart. I looked at Pajaro and he looked at me. He was probably just as perplexed as I was, but this was the beginning!
We started off loping in large circles which formed a spiral, smaller and smaller, so he learned to bend easier. Then we transitioned to figure eight patterns and I showed him what I wanted him to do as we trotted first then galloped around the barrels pattern.
Once he got the hang of that I taught him to do lead changes which are extremely important for barrel racing. As the horse comes off one barrel the rider cues him to switch leads, or gallop on the opposite foot, so when he approaches the next barrel and turns, he doesn’t have to slow down or break stride.
This took a bit of doing but we finally got it.
Our first barrel race was a horrible 40 seconds. It was terribly embarrassing when the other girls where clocking 16 or 17 seconds! Finally, after 4 years, in our last race we clocked 16.47 seconds! I was so happy! Pajaro and I had come so far, and truth be told, I don’t think he liked running barrels. He did it for me and I’m so grateful to him. Never, not even during practice did he knock down a barrel, which would have been a five second penalty in a race. That horse was fast, and he could turn on a dime. I had a feeling about Pajaro the day I first rode him, and I was right. He was the horse who ran like the wind.
Thank you Pajaro for teaching me to believe in myself, and about responsibility and patience. I’ll never forget you!
Thank you for reading this!
My authors website is: stories4ourlittleones.com
About the Creator
Hi there! I’m a fiction writer. Written all my life. Want to inspire if I can. Living on a guest horse ranch in Baja California, Mexico. Married to a Mexican Cowboy!