Monday, April 5, 2021

Meeting Megan: An Interview with Megan Etcheberry


Megan Etcheberry

Meeting Megan: An Interview with Megan Etcheberry
by Gina McKnight
Archived from the March 2021 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication with Permission
“Barrel racing is a never-ending learning process…”
Megan Etcheberry loves horses. Her horse history is the envy of every cowgirl - riding at an early age, she grew up in Oregon with a cowgirl mom, western sunsets, and ranch horses. Her mother introduced her to barrel racing and the rest is history. The topic of many articles and once a cast member of the A&E reality show Rodeo Girls, Megan is super busy these days. Even though she has “hung up my cowgirl hat” Megan can offer sound wisdom to all riders. I caught up with Megan at her home in Spain to talk about horses, barrel racing, her non-profits, and horsemanship!
Welcome, Megan!
GM: Looking through your cowgirl profile, you have been in major magazines, including Cosmopolitan, talking about Rodeo Girls, the A&E reality show. Besides all the press, I know your first love is horses. What does it take to be a professional barrel racer?
ME: Horses will always be my first love. Don’t tell my dog! Home for me is riding bareback in the forest, galloping up the trails, feeling every muscle in my horse’s back as we fly in unison. It’s where all negativity melts away and my mind goes quiet. Which is quite the opposite of barrel racing! However, both require complete trust, courage and synergy from both horse and rider. I have asked my horses to do a lot of petrifying things: run into dark tunnels, loud arenas and shifty ground. You can train, train, train but at the end of the day, the unbreakable bond that you have with your horse is what it takes to barrel race.
GM: A successful career, doing what you love! When did you meet your first horse?
ME: Horses have been in my life since I can remember. My mother grew up on a ranch and was glued to a horse at every waking moment. With time, her passion only grew stronger so there has never been a time that our family has been without horses. My first memory of riding a horse is on my Aunt’s ranch herding cows. I remember riding all day long then getting off and feeling so incredibly small. It wasn’t until my 7th birthday that I got a horse of my very own, Birdie. He was the perfect babysitter. I couldn’t lift a saddle nor put on a bridle, but I could throw on a hackamore, push him up to a fence and be off to the races. We have been fortunate enough to have a lot of great horses come through our barn, but that was one special dude.
GM: What advice do you have for girls starting out on the barrel racing circuit?
ME: Barrel racing is a never ending learning process, a process unique to you and your horse. Focus on your personal goals for your horse, and celebrate their small victories along the way. You will experience extreme highs immediately followed by crushing lows. Everyone will be quick to give you advice and pick apart each and every run. Stay strong cowgirl! Find someone whom you admire to adopt as your mentor. Learn from the good and kindly leave the bad, knowing that at the end of the day, you do what’s best for your horse. Also...wear a helmet!
GM: You're not riding the rodeo now. Do you miss it? What do you miss the most?
ME: I hung up my cowgirl hat to finish college and take on new adventures life threw my way. But I will forever be grateful for that magical time in my life! It is a time I will cherish forever because I was able to spend with my mom. We had way too much fun truckin’ down the rodeo trail, barrel racing together. All of the small towns, long drives, hit barrels, flat tires, and grueling weather. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! 
GM: Tell us about Reins of Grace and Breaking Chains, your two non-profits to help human trafficking…
ME: When I moved to Portland to attend Portland State University, I learned about the human trafficking problem in Portland. It broke my heart to know that young girls right outside my door were being bought and sold on a daily basis. My mom and I put our li’l noggins together and founded an organization called Reins of Grace. Our mission is to outreach to sex-trafficked girls in Portland by using equine therapy at our farm. Horses are empathetic, perceptive and act as a safe place for people who have experienced trauma to connect in a way that might not be possible with another person. We always say that the horses do all of the work, we are just there to facilitate. When the Rodeo Girls opportunity popped up, I saw it as an opportunity to spread awareness on a national platform, thus the birth of Breaking Chains. I was able to spread awareness of sex-trafficking while raising money for safe houses in Portland. 
GM: Horses are spiritual and your endeavors to help others is inspiring. Describe a day in your life...
ME: My daily life may have changed since the days of rodeo but my gypsy heart sure hasn’t. I am still impulsively popping around, just on a global scale these days. I live in the Basque Country, where my family is from. I work from home so most of my days are spent enjoying the company of my partner, spending time with friends and learning languages. Two of those things are a lot easier than the other. And in the future, who knows? I could start the first Basque Country barrel racing association. 
GM: What horses do you currently stable?
ME: We have had a rainbow of horses join our family throughout the years. From giant warm-bloods to gritty rodeo veterans to beautiful palomino divas to rehabilitation horses that were going to be put down. But our family is pretty small at the moment. 
We currently have my girl HG Tainis Eagle, “Indy”. I was under contract with Rodeo Girls when my previous horse got hurt and was out for the season. Indy was a god-send that came to me right before the show started taping - thanks to a good friend in Indiana. She is a little barrel racing fire-cracker with more grit than Clint Eastwood.
We also have my mom’s barrel racing horse, LF Soon to be Famous, aka “Sooner”. I’ve never ridden a faster horse. It feels like riding a sling-shot. I don’t know how my mom does it!
We also have Sooner’s baby, JB. He is learning the barrel racing ropes right now. But if he has half of the speed that his mamma does, he’s going to be fun!
GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
ME: Many people can ride a horse but not very many people possess true horsemanship. I know I sure don’t! I have, however, been fortunate enough to know people who do, from whom I have learned. I’ve been able to ride with some badass ladies and taken clinics from pros to pick up tips and tricks throughout my life. To me, horsemanship means patience, kindness and forgiveness. It doesn’t take a half-decent rider to bully a horse into submission. It’s the riders who know what to ask, how to ask and also when to stop, that I admire. 
Connect with Megan…
Reins of Grace
Breaking Chains

Megan Etcheberry

Megan Etcheberry

Megan Etcheberry
All photos courtesy of Megan Etcheberry.

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