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Meet the Member Carson Rutherford
story by Lily Weinacht
“I definitely think it is my horse that motivates me, and it’s just fun getting to do it,” says Carson Rutherford of rodeo. “Of course it’s fun when you’re winning, but you also learn from when you lose, so there’s always good stuff coming out of it.”
The 15-year-old from Montgomery, Texas, is familiar with both the highs and lows of rodeo competition, and a highlight of her 2019 season was winning the KK Run for Vegas qualifier in Texarkana, Arkansas, in June. “My horse had been off for about three months before that, so that was my first run back, and my only run before state finals, so I was kind of nervous but I was excited,” Carson explains. “I just wanted a clean run, and I was very surprised with the run—I didn’t think I’d do that well. I was very excited and it was a big confidence booster.”
Carson and her gelding, Hustle—who was just coming back from a strained suspensory ligament—stopped the clock at 14.874. She qualified for the Junior NFR in 2018 through points and advanced to the short round last year. “Their qualifiers are always run really great, and they run fast and they’re always at great facilities. And the ground is always good, which is super important,” says Carson. “I don’t think I’ll do much different (at the Junior World Finals) this year, just not be stressed. Last year I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and now I just want to have more fun with it.”
Immediately following her run in Texarkana, Carson headed home for a day before leaving for the THSRA state finals. She’s competing in Region 9 this fall and hopes to do both barrels and work with Hustle on pole bending. “I most enjoy barrels because I’m reserved but it’s the one thing I can do, and I’m not fearful of it, and I get to do it with my friends and family. I truly enjoy it because of my horse and he makes it easy, so I’ve been really blessed with that. I find it challenging because it’s not always the same—there are so many different factors that come into it.”
Carson started riding when she was 8, inspired by her nana, Debra Summers, who ran barrels. “Jennifer Sharp has definitely been one of the most influential people in my barrel racing,” she adds. “She’s helped me with myself and my horses for a really long time and I’m grateful to have her.” Jennifer trained Hustle for barrels when he came to the Rutherfords five years ago. “He was given to us randomly and we were going to sell him, but we decided to try him as a barrel horse, and he gives it his all every time. He’s a little guy—only 14.3 hands—so you wouldn’t think he’d be as fast as he is, and he’s just amazing.” Carson has several other horses she’s working with as well, along with a foal she plans to start training in several years.
When she’s not at a barrel race, Carson goes to watch her 13-year-old brother, Case, play baseball. Their parents, Dustin and Sarah, divide and conquer to get the siblings to their sports, but they all plan to travel to Las Vegas together for the Junior World Finals. Carson, who is a sophomore at Montgomery High School, will have to work ahead and take some schoolwork on the road with her since her finals are the same week.
“I really want to qualify for The American Semi-Finals this year, and obviously I want to do good in Vegas,” Carson finishes. “Qualifying was one of my goals, so now we have to do good once we get there. And I want to make state again hopefully this year.”