Doug Clark will receive the coveted Ben Johnson Award at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s annual Rodeo Historical Society’s Hall of Fame Gala […]
On the Trail with Jackie Ganter
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Jackie Ganter grew up in Texas, born and raised in College Station. Unlike most people from Texas, Jackie chose the English discipline when she started riding at the age of six. “I’d been around horses through my mom (Angela), who ran barrels,” said Jackie. The family moved to Abilene, Texas, and at the age of 8, Jackie lost her father to a heart attack and complications from diabetes. “He owned nine bars and restaurants in College Station; one of them is the Dixie Chicken.” After he passed away, Jackie focused on her riding, entering shows and winning.
“I rode English until I was 12.” Dixie was her English horse and when she got hurt, Jackie couldn’t find another fit. “I’d won every show I went to on Dixie and my mom still ran barrels, and so I decided to do what my mom did.” Riding English gave Jackie the foundation for running barrels. “The judging (in English) involves watching body posture and it takes a lot more strength and body position to keep it correct. My English teacher used to make me jump the whole course without stirrups.”
Switching to barrel racing involved years of trying to get it right. “I was slow at first,” she remembers. “I had an instructor, Jan Burns, who started me out slowly. I ran 18s and 20s. My mom had the best eye for horses and she kept me on the best horse every step of the way. I’ve gone through so many horses, getting a little faster each time. I learned from every horse she put me on.” Jackie worked her way up a few tenths at a time; a horse at a time; to get where she is now.
When she got Frenchmans Jester, previously having been to the NFR with Jordon Briggs, she learned how to win. “That horse and Bobbie Gene drove my passion into what it is now and something I will do for the rest of my life. My goal had been to win the Resistol Rookie when I was 18 and I did it.” Jester passed away after a lengthy illness. Jester wrote Jackie’s ticket in the junior world.
Jackie and her mother met the Alan and Teri Dufur family three years ago. “From the time my wife and I met them at their place in Abilene, we meshed,” said Alan, whose runs a registered Hereford cattle and Quarter Horse operation in Caddo, Okla. “We have onsite trainers on the Quarter horse side that teach all the rodeo principles.” They partnered with Jackie as a major sponsor and that sponsorship involves not only horses, but assisting with any challenges that may happen on the road, such as last week in Rapid City. Jackie was stranded in Nebraska in a blizzard and Alan made sure she made it for the rodeo. “We let them go through our young horses and pick out potential future mounts for her.” Guys French Jet, who she rode in Ft. Worth and the WNFR, is a partnership horse. “No matter what horse you have, you have to have the work ethic. It’s not unusual for her to ride and exercise her string at two in the morning. To me she is beyond her years in the way she handles herself.”
The battle for the Resistol Rookie position was a tight race all the way to the end between Jackie, as the youngest competitor at the WNFR and Vickie Carter, the oldest competitor at 60. “I didn’t meet her until she started beating me,” said Jackie. “It was late winter and we’d never heard of her. She won several rodeos. It was crazy – towards the end, the last two months of the season, every single week we would trade off on the lead. It was literally week by week we would switch back and forth. I don’t think either one of us would have made the NFR without the other. We were fighting each other for the top spot. We are very good friends now.”
The 19-year-old spent last year making the run for the WNFR. “I graduated high school in the middle of my senior year. I went to public school and graduated in December of my senior year, doubling up on classes so I could travel.” She could only make a few of the fall rodeos because of where her birthday fell, but after December, she hit the road. “I went back home between the California and Canada run to walk the stage with my graduating class.”
She travels with her mom, who has been battling breast cancer since late 2010. “They diagnosed it after she had found a knot under her armpit. It came back Stage 3 breast cancer even after a clear mammogram a month prior. She had 28 lymph nodes removed, and went through chemo and radiation and nine surgeries. She is still on a chemo pill daily, so she is still not in remission.” Sometime in 2016, Angela has her last appointment. The cancer treatment has affected Angela’s balance, so she has not run barrels since then. Instead, she has focused on helping her daughter achieve her goals.
“There are not a lot of people that can say they spent a year on the road with their 18-year-old daughter with only one argument,” said Angela. “Driving all the time was a major change for us all – but we experienced things that we would have never done if we weren’t chasing this dream. We spent a lot of time doing other things than just rodeo – we took a helicopter ride in the Canadian Rockies, we saw Mt. Rushmore. My dream of making the NFR was gone when I got sick, and Jackie started riding my horses and I never got them back.”
They run down the road in a trailer from Stephenville Trailers. “It’s a 53’ Hart trailer, with a two bedroom living quarters. We put the bathroom in between the living room and the bed in the nose. You can shut both doors and have two bedrooms. I’m on the couch and we have two different satellites so we can both watch TV. The horse part has automatic waterers and a huge tack in the back.” They pull it with a Freightliner equipped with a 500 engine. “I could drive it up and down the mountains without a problem.” They haul four or five horses along with two dogs. “We get along great – in fact, the only time we had a fight was when I was in the middle of my slump.”
The slump hit during the July Cowboy Christmas run. “When everyone is supposed to win big and make the NFR, I did not win one dollar. It was horrible and the worst slump I’ve ever been through in my career. I was having horrible runs and couldn’t pull it together. I watched myself go from the top 15 to the top 30. My main horse, Baby J, is only six, and Cartel is only 7. My older horse is 12, but I’d sent him home because he got tired on the road and wasn’t working his best. My young horses fell apart so it was a shock all the way around. I saw that it looked impossible to make the NFR, and I got discouraged because I had this goal to make the NFR and Rookie when I was 18. It looked like that was going up in flames and I kept telling myself how horrible it was and that’s what I told myself. I knew my attitude was affecting my runs.”
Realizing the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, Jackie changed everything from how she worked her horses to how she thought. “I watched videos from past NFRs and told myself how I wanted to be there. I told myself that over and over and it finally worked. After July, I finally placed somewhere in the bottom hole and won a check and then things started turning around.” She got on a pretty good roll the last two months and that landed her a spot at the WNFR. Jackie placed in four go rounds and won second in the average after Callie Dupier, who won the world and the average. “We were the only two that had all ten runs clean.” Jackie won more money than any other Resistol Rookie had won as a barrel racer. The race lasted all the way through the WNFR.
“We set out to have a goal that nobody’s done, and about July I told her it was the stupidest thing we’ve ever done,” admitted Angela. “We were used to winning at the barrel races and I wanted to go home. She bawled and cried and I told her to find another driver. She made me give her until the end of July. And she did it. This life is like being in a carnival circus – I remember at the end drawing up as bad as could be and driving two full days and nights to get into four rodeos.” In the end, walking down the alley with her daughter at the Thomas & Mack was this mother’s best dream. And it’s not over.
Jackie’s goal for this year is making the WNFR again, and getting the gold buckle. “Making the NFR is the most incredible thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “My horses are great and I’m going to go as long as I can.” She is also attending college online.