story by Lindsay Humphrey Putting a bad run out of your head is a feat every successful rodeo competitor has needed to master to reach […]
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Meet the Member Lainey Tarwater
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Riding skills and the competitive spirit of a working cowboy were cultivated in Osage county for Lainey Tarwater by her great grandfather, Carl Taylor. “Great grandpa Taylor was a foreman of a ranch in Osage county and so my dad (“Dubber”) basically grew up on that ranch. And that’s how my dad learned how to ride and do everything he knows on a horse,” said the 14-year-old from Barnsdall, Oklahoma. “Then my dad taught me, and I just fell in love with it and I’m still going at it today.” Now an eighth-grade competitor in the OKJHSRA, Lainey got her first pony when she was 6 years old. She stepped up to a second pony before upgrading to a full-sized horse, the same one she uses in poles today.
“I have a really jam up pole horse. It was my thing, my favorite event before I got my new barrel horse last summer.” Fifteen-year-old Tex came into Lainey’s life just two weeks before she was scheduled to attend a Martha Josey clinic in Texas. “We went through the clinic together and really clicked well. The final run of the clinic was only the third time I had ever ran him in the pattern. We won the finals and walked away with a saddle for it. I knew from the start he was special and that we had a bright future ahead of us.” Tex has effectively made barrels Lainey’s favorite event out of the four she competes in: barrels, poles, goats and ribbon roping.
Winning that clinic was a huge confidence boost for the duo and they’ve been laying down smokin’ fast patterns ever since. “Tex gives me everything he has on every run. I’ve always struggled a bit in barrels, so I was really proud of myself and Tex for that win.” As the fall season came to a close, Lainey and Tex were sitting in the top ten of the barrels. She was also in third place in the ribbon roping with her partner, Jett Carr. Last year was Lainey’s first year with the OKJHSRA and she finished in the top 15 in the poles and ribbons, but was just short of making nationals. “My goal this year is to make nationals in [barrels and ribbons]. I think I’ve really stepped up my game this year and I’m confident that we can make it. I’m just going to keep practicing and have confidence that we’re going to make it.”
Getting that practice time in during the long, dark months of winter can be tough for Lainey and her peers. “Keeping three or more horses legged up and practicing for myself can be a challenge when you throw going to school for eight hours a day into the mix. I’ve learned that you just have to figure out a way to get everything done.” Luckily, Lainey has Fridays off, so she has an extra day to ride her horses and get ready to head out for the next OKJHSRA event. Backed by both her parents, Lainey has plenty of helping hands that keep everything rolling when the challenge gets a little too daunting.
“My mom didn’t grow up in rodeo, but she plays just as big of a role as anyone else. She always helps me when I’m practicing at home. And now I think she loves it [rodeo] just as much as my dad and I.” When it came to learning the fundamental skills of her events, family friend Alexis Howell took the reins. “Alexis was a godsend for us. She taught me all the horsemanship that I needed to know and was who got me started on the barrels. She has helped me a lot.” Growing up in the small, tight-knit community of Barnsdall gave Lainey a glimpse of what the rodeo world would be like, but on a smaller scale. “What I love about rodeo is that I get to meet all kinds of people and have opportunities to forge friendships with people that I wouldn’t meet anywhere else. I’m very thankful that I have gotten to be a part of it [rodeo] and grow up in it.”