BY MELISSA SWORD
Barrel racer Doug Brown of Nakusp, B.C. is a male in a predominantly female world of barrel racers. At 68 years of age, Brown competes in both open and senior classes. He likes the challenge, the speed and the horsemanship of this exciting sport.
Around 1998, Doug Brown went to a jackpot cattle penning at Blair Volanksy’s in Edgewood. He loved it and wanted to compete. “But my riding skills were, well let’s just say, almost nil,” said Brown who had ridden horses in his early twenties for trail riding and hunting but never at the high speeds with hard stops and sharp turns required in team penning. His wife Janet, a barrel racer, suggested that if he wanted to ride competitively he should start by attending gymkhanas to build his skill and experience. Doug took his wife’s advice and, with her coaching and dry work in the arena, he honed his riding skills.
The couple enjoyed competing in cattle penning in British Columbia and Alberta and Brown concluded, “We do everything together, so why not barrel racing?” Janet and her daughter Gina are avid barrel racers and Brown enjoys being a part of that. “It gives us a lot to share with each other and I understand the sport in a way that I could never do otherwise.”
I asked Doug how his wife Janet helps to motivate him. Brown replied, “Janet loves barrel racing. She has a great eye for good horses and knows how to ride. I have to give her most of the credit for my equine accomplishments. She is able to keep finding ways to speed up the runs (usually by improving my horsemanship). She challenges me and vice versa.”
The Browns purchased Dox Zona Lena, aka Phoebe, for a team penning horse in 2007. She is a 15.1hh Quarter Horse by San Zone and out of Doco Salty Lena. Janet really liked her, especially because of the Five Bar Finale in her blood lines. Phoebe was started at Denton Moffats in Armstrong but for Doug, the connection for a good partnership initially seemed to be missing. “I didn’t like riding Phoebe at first, because she was not even close to being as responsive as my last horse was. It took a year of riding nearly every day to get Phoebe listening and more responsive. Arena riding can be boring if you don’t have something to work to, so I taught her to change leads, side pass at a walk, trot and lope. “
Phoebe was also sent to Donna O’Reilly’s in Alberta for some cow work training. Brown kept competing in gymkhanas and barrel racing and it wasn’t long before they realized that Phoebe had speed and a good mind. “She is a turning machine, she loves turning those barrels,” Brown said proudly. “I never have to worry about her not turning, I just have to push her by and keep my eyes off the barrel.”
Doug feels that the last run he made at the 2011 BCBRA Finals held in Kamloops was one of his most memorable. “I had made two clean runs on the previous days and now had to make one more to get into the average. Phoebe gets real excited at the gate and I like that. When she goes, it is all out. I wanted her to go faster so I pushed her as hard as I could and focused on the pocket on the first barrel. When my leg went by the first barrel, I dropped my rein, grabbed the horn and looked at the pocket on the second barrel, kicking her all the way. We made another real tight turn and went on to third the same way. The third barrel was perfect too, her butt in the ground, nice and tight, and no loss of forward motion. For some reason, just after I turned the third barrel I relaxed for a split second, I didn’t keep pushing her and I felt a slight lull. I immediately began riding again but it did cost me. I had the same time as the day before but I think I lost a few tenths on that run.”
“Have I made mistakes on her? Yes, here is one. Three years ago I was watching the outriders jump on their horses at the Calgary Stampede. I thought that would be cool if I could do it on my horse and it would be easy to do on Phoebe because she is quiet. So one winter day while in our outdoor arena, I was standing beside Phoebe talking to someone on the other side of the fence. I said “I’m going to jump up on my horse like the outriders do.” I grabbed the front of the saddle and jumped up to get on. The next thing I knew Phoebe was in the middle of the arena and I was running beside her with the reins still in my hand. I went to mount her and she wouldn’t let me, she just kept running away from this mad man. Needless to say, it took me a few days before I could get on her again and I had to be very careful how I did it for about a year after. She’s fine now, finally forgave me. She’s an awesome horse!”
Check out the video of Doug on Pheobe at the 2011 BCBRA Finals at Kamloops BC, in the 3rd Go, Open Class.