Friday, June 30, 2017

Roping & Riding with LeAnna Billie

LeAnna Billie
Archived Freelance from the June 2017 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.

From Okeechobee, Florida, USA, welcome seven-time EIRA Year-end Woman's All-round rodeo champion, and more, LeAnna Billie! As a professional rodeo rider, LeAnna has competed against some of the best riders in the USA. She began loving horses at young age, and tells young riders, “Never limit yourself or your dreams based on what other people think you can or cannot do.”

GM: You have an amazing history with horses! You have roped against the PRCA and INFR Rodeo Pros. Your passion for your sport shines through!  Who do you accredit your love for riding and your success as a horsewoman? 
LB:  Well even though I come from a non-horse/rodeo family I grew up with a love of horses. After watching my first rodeo at the age of 13, I was determined to learn how to ride horses and compete in rodeo. I accredit my mom for supporting me every step of the way, and for my love of riding. I accredit my husband, Ivan BruisedHead, for my success as a horsewoman. He is the one who believed in me, helped me to accomplish my goals, and pushed me to be the best I can be, and much more. I am still learning everyday.
GM: Throughout your career you have ridden several horses - Jet, your big black quarter horse - and others. What does it take to be a rodeo horse and how do you pick the right one?  
LB: Well what I look for in a rodeo horse is a stout build, good conformation, a good mind, to be able to handle the pressure of the rodeo scene, to have speed and athleticism.

GM: As a rodeo cowgirl, you frequent and ride the best venues. Where is your favorite arena to compete?
LB: My favorite arena to compete in is in Reno, Nevada, during the PRCA rodeo and BFI roping. The Reno Rodeo Committee is very accommodating to its contestants and horses. It’s just an all-out fun rodeo to go to.  

GM: You have a lot of accolades to your credit. What accomplishment/titles have you won? 
LB:  Seven-times EIRA Year-end Woman's All-round champion. In 2011 I was the first Seminole to win two Breakaway Roping Go-round buckles at the INFR. Six-times INFR Qualifier in the Breakaway, also I was the only female to qualify and compete in the team roping at the 2014 INFR, also the only Female hazer in the steer wrestling. I hazed for the 2008 Indian World Champion steer wrestler Ivan BruisedHead at the 2014 INFR. I am the only Seminole to compete three-times at the WPRA roping finals in the Tie-Down roping, Breakaway roping, and Team roping. I am the only Seminole to make the WPRA roping world standing in both Tie-down roping and Breakaway roping standings. In 2016, I made the top 15 in the WPRA world standings in Tie-down roping and Breakaway roping. I am the only female Hazer in the steer wrestling in the PRCA Southeastern circuit. I am the only female to win money and make the PRCA Southeastern Circuit standings in Team roping.

GM: Rodeo requires a lot of stamina and grace. How do you stay fit?
LB: One of the most important things I do is try to eat healthy to keep up my energy for the day. Just everyday working, stacking hay bales and loading feed, working horses and practicing team roping, calf roping, is in my way a work out.
GM: What routine, if any, do you do that helps you to focus on the patterns and rodeo routine?  
LB: What helps me to stay sharp in my roping events - I do a lot of slow work practicing my basics on the ground, roping the dummy. I never practice on live cattle, so to keep my rope horses and my barrel horses tuned up, I do a lot of slow work on my horse with my perfect calf and heel-Omatic steer dummies that get pulled around with a four-wheeler. When I get ready for a rodeo, since I compete in more than one event, I do a checklist to make sure I have what I need for each horse. I will load saddles and saddle pads that I will need to get to first at the top, then so on. I always make sure I check all my tack in case something needs to be fixed or changed out.

GM: Do you have a mentor/trainer who helps you to stay focused?  
LB:  My Aunt Darlene Fletcher and my husband Ivan BruisedHead. They are the ones who motivate me to improve myself in my rodeo. My horses help me to stay focused when I am feeling overwhelmed, by being in a slump in my rodeo, or if I have issues with a horse and need help, they are always there for me.

GM: You teach kids in your neighborhood how to ride and care for horses. Finding time for other people is inspirational; taking time out of your busy schedule to devote to others is something we all should do. What advice do you have for novice riders and those looking to become rodeo riders?  
LB: Rodeo is an unforgiving sport. Things are not always going to go your way, so don't get frustrated and don't start blaming others, instead learn from it, fix it, get over it, and move on to the next one. I see this a lot in both novice and Pro riders in rodeo. Also, try not to get caught up in watching what others are doing because what may work for them and their horse, may not work for you and your horse. And remember your top priority should be the healthcare of your horse, your horse works hard for you in competition. You should work hard to care for your horse. Be competitive, but also have fun. Never limit yourself or your dreams based on what other people think you can or cannot do.

GM: When you're not practicing, competing, or helping others learn to ride, what is your favorite thing to do?  
LB: I like to go fishing and hunting.  

GM: What would you like people to know about horses, riding, and the rodeo, that they may not already know?
LB: What I think a lot of people don’t see about rodeo is how unchanging it is in its traditional values compared to other sports. Rodeo is the one sport that stands strong in their belief. When I hear people talk about how bad they think some of the events are, it is because they don't really ever take the time to fully understand why we have these events and see that we take every step we can to insure the safety of all the rodeo livestock and the competitors. But they do need to understand the fact that they are animals and accidents happen, somethings we cannot control in rodeo. We know that and we do what we can to be prepared for those things. What they also don't know is that the rodeo family has the strongest bond. We are not blood related, but we stick together as if we are.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
LB: To me horsemanship starts with good healthcare of the horse. Then it is in building of trust and also to gain the respect from the horse on the ground. When you start with getting a horse’s trust and having them respect you on the ground, it makes them so much more responsive when you get in the saddle and start working with them. Unfortunately, horses with no ground manners or respect for their rider is something I see a lot of when I am at shows. It’s also usually the main problem I deal with when someone sends me a horse that they are having problems with. I strive to educate more people on the importance of ground work, its where trust and bond between horse and rider will start to build. It’s something that requires a lot of dedication and patience for because it is not something that happens quickly, it takes time, a lot energy, and it can really get frustrating at times. But I can tell you this, the work is all worth it. To me it is the best feeling in the world and if I had to do it all over again, I would.    

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer and author from Ohio, USA.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The South High Horseman: Stories and Poems by a Teen Cowboy

The South High Horseman
Stories and Poems by a Teen Cowboy
Written by Peter Smith
Compiled by Gina McKnight
Illustrations by Kelly Lincoln

Journey to 1956, South High School, Denver, Colorado. In this heartfelt volume of essays, South High teenager Peter Smith writes of cowboys, poachers, horses, rodeos, and much more.
A sincere writer who brings to life his perils on and off horseback.

Available from

Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review!
Reviewed By Ashley Tetzlaff for Readers’ Favorite

Saddle up and ride the Colorado range as seen through the eyes of Peter Smith’s 1950s High School Essays in The South High Horseman: Stories and Poems by a Teen Cowboy. There are about ten essays and two or three poems written by Peter as well as about twenty comments from friends that were written in his high school year book. The collection was published by family members as a way to remember and honor their father/grandfather after his death in 2010. The tales cover things like breaking in horses, climbing a mountain in winter, hunting wild cats, thoughts on God and religion, and much more! Recommended reading age is for Middle Schoolers and up.

The South High Horseman: Stories and Poems by a Teen Cowboy is a great tribute to a simpler time as seen through the eyes of a high school cowboy. Reading Peter Smith’s work, it is hard to believe he was a high schooler when he wrote these! They reflect the musings of a much more mature mind. Peter’s dry wit and attention to detail make each stand-alone tale something to be amazed at and chuckle over. I felt like I got a very good picture of what being a cowboy in Colorado was like in the 1950s. I felt the bitter cold nights, the joy of scaring off poachers, the exhaustion of riding from sunup to sunset, the satisfaction of a night of deep sleep after a grueling day of work. Very descriptive and enjoyable. I soaked in every word and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m so glad the family published Peter Smith’s writings so we too could enjoy them. Wonderful read!

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