The barrel pattern might be simple—three turns and home—but that doesn’t mean the gritty gals who spend their nights chasing cans are all the same.
Flash caught up with barrel racer and team roper Nikki Robinson of Circleville, Kansas, to learn more about what makes Paint-loving speed addicts tick.
Who is your Paint Horse?
I ride Minnesota Commanche, a 2005 bay overo gelding by Sonnys Silent Style and out of Maxs Maggie. I bought “Easy” from my brother about five years ago when I was having some pain in my back; my bother offered to loan me Easy for a day because he’s pretty smooth to ride. I rode him all day long, and my back never hurt once—I was hooked!
What is his biggest strength? His weakness?
I would say Easy’s biggest strength is his versatility. I can work cattle on him all day long, run barrels, team rope, ranch rodeo and even throw my 4-year-old niece up on him and let her swing a rope at the Hot Heels. I trust him; he is gentle on the ground, I can take him down the road and pony three other horses off of him. He’s flashy too, of course!
One of Easy’s major weaknesses, though, is the fact that he is not a trail-ride kind of horse—he likes to have a job. For some reason when you take him on a trail ride with other horses it’s like his mind is blown and he doesn’t know for sure where he should be. He’ll get nervous and start prancing. I think he feels more comfortable with an arena fence around him, which is OK with me.
What brought you to speed events? Why do you love them?
I grew up going to rodeos as a little girl to watch my father rodeo and be a pick up man, and I always wanted to be a part of it. I love the speed of a fast horse underneath me and the sound of the announcer calling my name. Plus, good music playing over the speakers gets me pumped and excited to race!
What’s been your biggest training accomplishment?
I take pride in knowing I played a major part in making my Paint Horse the nice all-around rodeo horse he is today. He was more of a ranch horse/ heel horse for my brother, and I’ve put in almost all of the training to make him the great barrel horse he’s become. I’m still always working on training him to be better. Plus, I’ve had my hand in making him a nice head horse, too.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
We’re currently working at turning the first barrel while still staying collected and adding speed. If I keep him gathered up and really collected and take him slower to the first barrel, we have a nice barrel. When I go to add speed and let him run in a little freer and faster, though, we end up actually being slower. I have confidence in him and know it will all come together soon.
What exercises do you work on to fix this?
We work on a lot of right turns around all three barrels. Also, when I exercise him down the road I try to keep him collected and his body moving forward while driving him into the bit.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My father once said, “Quit training on your horse all the time and just let him work.”
I think I get so focused on the little things all the time that I forget to just ride him and have fun; that’s when we both work the best anyways! When I just ride in the arena with a smile on my face and trust in my horse, that’s when he works the best.
Why do you love Paints?
A lot of people will tease me when I tell them I ride a Paint, but when they see what all he can do and how pretty he looks while he’s doing it, they take it back!
[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to Flash and a link provided back to myflashyride.com]
Flash is an annual publication produced by the American Paint Horse Association that celebrates Paint Horses excelling in timed events—racing, barrel racing, roping, shooting and sorting/penning—along with the people who love them. Check out our free digital magazine at MyFlashyRide.com or pick up a printed copy of Flash at major events across the country. And check MyFlashyRide.com/news often for the latest news about fast, flashy Paints.