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Meet the Member Ashley Lawson
story by Ruth Nicolaus
Ashley Lawson was terrified of going fast on a horse when she was a kid.
Now going fast is her favorite thing to do.
The Caldwell, Idaho barrel racer, the barrel racing director for the Idaho Cowboys Association, grew up in a race horse family, the daughter of Kerry and Lisa Lawson. As a kid competing in jumping and show horses, she did the walk and trot events.
As she got older, the speed interested her and she wanted to gallop race horses on the track. But her parents wouldn’t have it. “It’s dangerous,” they said. “You need to do something else.”
Someone suggested barrel racing, and Ashely immediately thought, “I need to do this.”
She was fourteen years old when she began the barrels, and because she couldn’t do high school sports due to a knee injury, rodeo was her number one choice.
She had a horse that taught her the ropes, a mare who was fifteen years old when Ashley got her. The mare, named Mandy, “was stubborn,” she said, and not acclimated to rodeos. “I probably hold the record for the most turn-outs,” Ashley laughed. The mare “would not go in the arena. She was a phenomenal jackpot horse, and I won multiple jackpots on her, but when it came to rodeoing, she was, ‘nope.’”
Mandy had a reputation of getting her own way, no matter what. “When she wanted to go in and lay down a run, it was like, get out of her way,” Ashley said. “Everyone would clear out of our way,” when they entered the arena. “If she was ready to go, there was no stopping her.”
In 2019, she had her best rodeo season, after which Ashley decided to retire her.
After graduating high school in 2015, she competed in college rodeo for a year before choosing to focus on pro rodeos.
She works as a medical assistant, after having earned her medical assistant degree from St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center. She spent two years working in a Level 2 Trauma center before moving to urgent care three years ago.
She loves the fast pace of trauma and urgent care, and says there are similarities between them and rodeo. When she walks into work, “you don’t know what’s going to happen, or who’s going to show up. With rodeo, you don’t know what’s going to happen in the barrel racing. It can come down to the last second or go-round, and everything is a factor.”
She’s added two more horses to her barn. Dottie, a nine-year-old sorrel is her primary barrel horse now. And a seven-year-old gelding named Baby Huey is also one of her barrel horses.
Ashley got Dottie last year right before the ICA finals, and even though Dottie had never been to a rodeo, she did well. “We didn’t place, but for never having been to a rodeo, I was happy with her performance.”
Baby Huey, a liver chestnut, had never rodeoed either, and had a “silly, goofy personality,” she said. “I thought we’d get to a rodeo and he’d lose it. But he was all business.”
Ashley has bred Mandy and hopes to get some good barrel prospects out of her.
She became an ICA member in 2015 and is also in her rookie year as a Women’s Pro Rodeo Association member.
Her parents have taken a real interest in barrel racing. Her mom goes to almost all of her rodeos with her. Her dad loves to watch her, too, and is happy that she enjoys what she does.