Green Barrel Horses on the Rodeo Trail
- November 19, 2020
- Ruth Nicolaus
There’s a lot more to being a barrel racer than the sixteen or seventeen second runs that fans see in the arena. It takes time and patience to make a good barrel horse, and Tana Poppino knows that. The Big Cabin, Okla. cowgirl qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three times, in 2006-07 and 2010, all aboard horses she trained herself.
The veteran barrel racer offers tips for young horses and getting barrel horses used to the rodeo world. This year, she’s hauling two horses: Esta, a six-year-old mare who is a granddaughter of Firewater Fiesta out of an own daughter of Marthas Six Moons, and Chrome, an eight-year-old gelding who is a registered Paint off the race track, by Judy’s Lineage out of an own daughter of Awesome Chrome.
“Barrel racers usually start young horses at jackpots and at home,” Poppino said. “They’ve got to be doing good and showing some promise,” before they get hauled to rodeos.
There’s a big difference between rodeos and jackpots, Poppino said, with so many different variables at rodeos, like arena conditions and arena pattern. “The ground’s not perfect at rodeos, and it’s different in every part of the country.” Where the barrels are placed makes a difference, too. The first barrel might be close to the fence or in the middle of the arena, and the horse must make an adjustment for each different pattern.
And the noises at rodeos are plentiful and varied. “Speakers, fireworks, the crowd, and getting used to generators are just a few of them,” Poppino said. “They don’t have those (noises) at home.” Getting used to other horses being close to them is another new encounter.
The hot wire Poppino stretches in a 16 x 20 foot area around her trailer is another new thing for the horses to experience. Esta and Chrome had never been around the hot wire, “and it’s been a big experience for these two,” she said. “Last night was a little tricky,” she said, referring to being at a pro rodeo. “He got into the hot wire.”
Tana makes sure her horses get rest on the road, “taking time to make sure they rest good so they’re not stressed. I try to make pens where they can walk around and be on the grass, where it’s more like home. My horses don’t stay in stalls at home, so I prefer to keep them (on grass) where they can move around and be horses.”
Water can taste different, depending on the rodeo’s location, but Poppino doesn’t haul water from home. “They just have to learn to drink (different water).” She adds electrolytes to their feed, to encourage them to drink.
She also uses big buckets that are about 2 and a half feet by 2 and a half feet and hold about fifteen gallons. Tana believes they drink better when there’s a bigger area to put their faces in.
She believes in knowing her horses’ personalities well. “The more you know about your horse, the faster you’re going to be out there (in the arena). Those teeny tiny little things that you know, that only come from being here and knowing, can help.”
About Ruth Nicolaus
Ruth is a rodeo publicist who loves the Great Plains and its people. She can be found behind the chutes at a rodeo, working in her flower garden, or cooking, some of her favorite things to do....