Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Michele McLeod has been training futurity colts since 2005. “Basically my job was to train and I didn’t travel more than a three hour radius from home to compete,” said 43-year-old mother of three from Whitesboro, Texas. All that changed this March when she met the Black Stallion.
“Every girl’s dream,” said Charlie Cole, co-owner of the five year old stud, with his partner, Jason Martin, (High Point Performance Horses) out of Pilot Point, Texas. “It’s the most random story. I was not looking for a barrel horse at all. I had just sold a horse and I had always wanted a barrel horse sire so I was watching the barrels at the AQHA World Show and he blew everyone away – 2012 World Champion Jr. Barrel Horse. I texted my business partner and said I saw an amazing horse just run. The next day I watched the finals and the way he worked I just knew he was a special horse. He used himself well and had explosive power away from the barrels and accelerated his way to the next one. He kept his feet moving around the barrel. I texted my business partner again and I got him bought in two weeks.” He was dead lame four days later. Slick By Design had to have knee surgery late last December and they took their time rehabbing him. The comeback of the stallion out of Brazilian owned sire Designer Red out of Dreams of Blue – a former barrel horse by Dream on Dancer, “is history. I thought Michele was a good fit and from the moment she stepped on him it was a match made in heaven.”
“They approached me in March to see if I’d start taking him around the house,” said Michele. “Right off the bat we started doing well – it was crazy. After I won Guymon and Duncan, Charlie and Jason asked me if I’d go for the summer to see if we could get into some of the winter rodeos.” Michele wasn’t sure if she wanted to leave home for that long, so she jokingly said if she won the Derby (Slick by Design, Old Fort Days Derby, Fort Smith, Ark.) she would have enough money to leave at home for her three daughters, then she would go. “I won and I hit the road.”
The general plan was to see if the team could get in the top 40 to get into some of the winter rodeos and get some more experience on him. “We hired Ann Thompson to do all the entering for me and she knew exactly what to do. Jason, Charlie and I would laugh that it was the blind leading the blind. We give a lot of credit to her for that. She knew the miles and exactly how long it would take.”
Michele left Katelyn (20), and Lindsay (17) at home to run the place with her husband, John. “He doesn’t travel – he stays home and has a normal job as an insurance adjuster for a body shop.” Daughter Jenna (25), who was living in Los Angeles at the time, came home in August to help run the technical side of the team.
Michele had a great summer. “When you’re winning like that how could you not,” she said. “Some of the all night drives we did were a little nerve wracking. It was so different for me – I’m used to working all day long, riding horses. For the summer I took three horses with me in addition to Slick, but sitting in the trailer waiting for the rodeo took a little adjusting.”
She and Slick quickly climbed the standings and ended the season third in the world. “I’ve never been to Vegas, to watch or anything. I’d said years ago I’d never go unless I make it – so I guess we’re going. The whole family is going – everyone will be there – parents – aunts – uncles. It hasn’t really set in yet because I’ve been so busy, but now that it’s getting closer, sending photos to the WPRA, I’m actually going to the NFR.”
“I had no idea this is what I’d be doing with my life.” Michele grew as an only child and her parents, Gary and Gloria Morrison, didn’t have any interest in animals. “I got a pony as a birthday present when I was 8, but I didn’t learn to run barrels until I was 18.” She went to some college rodeos, but decided to go another route. “I went to the fire academy,” she said. “And then things changed. I got pregnant with my first daughter.” That sizzled the firefighting plan. “Once you start a family, you have to redirect what’s best for having a family.” Michele became a vet tech and worked for the next 16 years on the night shift for a mix practice so she could be home with her daughters. “I trained horses on the side, and finally quit my job to train full time for the public in 2005.”
Her partnership with Charlie and Jason began in 2013 and now she is running another of their recent purchases, Kellies Chick, a mare they purchased in July from Kelly Conrado, Colorado horse breeder and trainer. “When we tried her, I ran her in Steamboat, and won. I sent her home with my daughter, Katelyn, to do some tuning, and Katelyn entered her in the Oklahoma City Summer Shoot-Out and won it. So now I have two great horses. They have very different styles, so we’ve given Slick some time off – he doesn’t like to see a trailer leave without him in it, though. I’m running Skye now for the rodeos that are counting for the 2014 season. I’ll stay on her until after Congress and then I’ll get back on Slick.”
As for Jason and Charlie, they are getting ready for Congress. “That’s a lot of my life,” he said. “Barrel racing is my hobby and I spend most of my time working with the 40 horses we’ve got at Congress. We do things on a giant scale in the horse show world.” The two have accumulated more than 100 World Championships during their 20 plus years of combined training. “I love it – the horse training industry has been unbelievably good to me, I have no complaints.” Charlie has only had barrel horses for 15 years. “I had a rodeo background from being at boarding school, Rawhide Ranch, in Bonsall, California, I went the show horse route and we’ve had a great career doing that. I thought about getting a reiner, but that was judged and I wanted something that was all about the clock. You can blame the ground, yourself, or the horse. You only have three options. So I went the barrel horse route. I got lucky right out of the box.”
As for Michele, she’s still having the time of her life on the road. “We had a great time in Omaha – there were 12 of us there – and we will all be in Vegas.” Her Cruel Girl partnership along with her other sponsors are happy to help get her ready to make her first appearance in Vegas…. Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, Deuces Wild Tack, Alfalfa Express, Professional Choice, Back on Track, Cetyl M, Oxy-Gen, SmartPak, and Shiloh Saddles. “We’re for sure going next year,” she said.
“She is so hard working and so deserving of this,” concludes her family.