Meet the Member AJae Griffin
story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
story by Michele Toberer
As a third-generation cowgirl, running barrels is more of a lifestyle than anything to Darian Gaines of Piedmont, Alabama. Not only did her grandma, Martha Wood, compete as a barrel racer; Darian’s mom, Tammy Gaines grew up following the barrel racer path, competing in the Alabama High School Rodeo Association as a barrel racer as she was also the rodeo queen. So, it was no surprise that Darian, the only child of Tammy and Mark Gaines started running barrels at just 7 years old, as she was immersed in the barrel racing environment, and the horses she’s had along the way help tell the story of her life.
“My first was a little Welsh paint pony with an attitude, Harley ran away with me at the first show I ever entered, so I went back to the lead-line class for a little while.” It wasn’t long before she stepped up to an older sorrel gelding named Cross, and at 10, she was able to find her confidence and start running the barrels in true barrel racer fashion. “Cross was my caretaker, we competed in the Christian Horseman’s Association as well as National Barrel Horse Association shows.” At 13, after two years of blazing the barrels on Cross, Darian stepped up again, to a little unregistered, sorrel cowpony named Blaze. “Blaze got me into rodeos, he would go in there and eat a pattern up.” Darian was 15 years old when she and Blaze competed in a H & H Bulls and Barrels tour and won the series in 2012. Darian wanted to do high school rodeo like her mom had and competed her senior year in the Georgia High School Rodeo Association, while she also stayed busy playing basketball and volleyball for Spring Garden High School.
Since graduating high school in 2015, Darian has been attending Jacksonville State University. She will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in the spring of 2019 and hopes to become a PE teacher. Although she started out playing basketball for the college her freshman year, she found that juggling horses and sports was more than she wanted for her schedule. “It became too much like a job doing all of it, and I really wanted to spend more time with my horses, so I stopped playing basketball.” Darian still lives on her family farm while attending school, since it’s just 15-minutes from the college. On the farm, they have a small herd of beef cattle, chicken houses where they raise broilers, and 7 horses that Darian can be near as she lives in her barn apartment. “Four of the horses are retired, and three are rodeo horses. I just retired Blaze this year, we believe he’s over 25 years old, but he still acts like a colt.”
Darian bought her card with the Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association this year and is thoroughly enjoying her rookie year with the SPRA. She is seasoning a 5-year-old colt named Bubba but winning quite a few checks on her 10-year-old bay gelding she calls Pepsi. “This has been a year of seasoning horses since I retired Blaze; I didn’t realize how hard it was to start over and season a new horse. I’ve had Pepsi for three years, and the first year all we did was hit barrels and really struggled to get through the pattern. We started clicking two years ago and were doing good at some barrel races, so I started taking him to rodeos. He’s handling the atmosphere, and even though he’s a taller horse, he can handle smaller patterns well, I’m really proud of how he’s done this year.” Darian is hoping to make the season finals, but regardless of the outcome she is excited about how she’s done this year in the SPRA. “Sometimes I just tell myself that I’ve got to keep going. It’s all in God’s timing, and hard work pays off.”
Darian is very appreciative of her dad, mom, and grandma, who she calls “Nonnie,” for all the support they have given her over the years. “They taught me everything I know, and I thank them so much for going with me everywhere and supporting me through it all.”
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