Dusty My First Barrel Horse
I’ve told quite a few stories about Dusty and I’m sure by now you’ve got a pretty good understanding of our struggles when it came to running. He wasn’t a huge horse but when it came to speed he had a fire in him like none other. Helping him channel that racing spirit was always my challenge. Barrel racing was a perfect sport to help us work on these challenges. The first barrel was always our biggest struggle, if I could keep him under control through that first turn, he usually figured out and if we blew the first one, chances are the rest of the race was disastrous. Part of the problem was he was usually teetering on the edge before we even entered the arena, prancing, rearing, spinning, fighting, and all prior to even starting the race.
One of my most memorable barrel racing experiences with Dusty was a learning event, one which I will remember always. I received some advice from a long time friend and barrel racing competitor. The advice was regarding conditioning and it was good sound advice. The message was simple, like all athletes, performance horses need extra energy. My mentor suggested I start feeding a grain mixture with a multi vitamin supplement regularly to increase Dusty’s stamina. Taking this advice, I started feeding a sweet feed mix of grains, corn, molasses, etc. and included a multi vitamin supplement. As suggested, I started off with smaller doses and increased it leading up to the racing season. The intent of this new program was to continue feeding this larger amount through the entire racing season but as my story goes, I decided against it. When I first started this new regime I noticed a change in Dusty, he seemed even more edgy than normal and it was harder to get him to do things like stand still. He never liked to stand anyways but now it seemed even harder. It was always hard to get him to just walk when we went for a ride but now it seemed impossible. What I didn’t realize was the grain mixture was having an almost adverse effect on him. Looking back now I realize it was like giving a hyperactive child candy, this was not the case for all the horses in my life but for Dusty this mix in this situation, really wasn't my best choice.
When Dusty and I finally competed for the first time after starting this new grain program, it was nothing shy of disastrous. I don’t even think he saw the first barrel and on the run home I couldn’t stop him. I can remember seeing only the whites in his eyes as I was pulling and the next thing I remember we crashed into the fence. Neither of us was hurt which is good but it was a learning lesson. From that day on we went back to our old feeding program and grain was given more as a treat in small doses. We competed for several years but Dusty struggled with bronchitis and eventually we reached a point where the vet recommended he not race any more. It was sad to retire Dusty but as my Nan would say, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good and if we wouldn’t have retired Dusty than Duke would have never come into my life but that's a story for another day.