On the Trail with Dave Dahl
Dave Dahl can spot one of his saddles from a mile away. When the bronc saddle maker from Ft. Pierre, S.D. watches pro rodeo, he […]
Similar to Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, a pair of ruby red shoes were hard to remove from Tru Most’s feet. These, however, were glittering cowgirl boots that accompanied Tru everywhere from the time she was 2 years old until the shoes were no longer sold. They were part of the outfit that brought Tru’s favorite Toy Story character, Jessie, to life. “She was obsessed with those boots and wore them until all the glitter fell off,” said Tru’s mom, Nichole Most. “I probably replaced those boots three times before I couldn’t find them anymore. Tru wanted to be a cowgirl like Jessie, so she had a rope and would chase our English bulldog around the house trying to catch him.” Tru’s older sister, Alivia, took an interest in horses first. At the end of her sister’s riding lessons, Tru found her way into the saddle for a few minutes. It was enough to appease the brewing horse craze, but in a few years that passion would explode and take her family on a wild ride. “My brother [Michael Paulsen] got married and they lived on a ranch with horses,” Nichole explained. “Tru was probably 7 at the time and she’s been hooked [on horses] ever since.”
“We didn’t grow up with horses, but there was no stopping Tru,” said her dad, Josh Most. “When she has a goal in mind, she’s relentless and there’s no stopping her so you might as well get on board.” The Longview, Washington, cowgirl is a tornado, personified. She’s the only type of natural disaster that can be classified as good. Those first few years of lessons were on western pleasure horses. And while Tru loved horses of any discipline, she knew speed was in her future. “We found ourselves in my hometown at the 4-H fair horse show when Tru saw barrels for the first time and that’s all she wanted to do from then on out,” Nichole said.
Diving in with both feet, Josh and Nichole bought Tru a barrel horse. The seller disclosed that the horse, Cash, was herd bound, but that didn’t resonate until they got him home. “We just didn’t know what that meant, so we eventually had to get a pony [Flo] to even get Cash on the trailer,” Nichole said. “For a long time it was Flo and I in the arena while Tru and Cash ran their barrels.” He was a strong, powerful horse that didn’t actually enjoy his job running around the barrels. He loved his little girl and would do anything for her, but their story didn’t begin that way.
“I was scared of him at first and even hated him because of that. Probably because I was used to lesson ponies who listened to me,” Tru said. “We had some family stuff going on at the time and I found my comfort in Cash. He became my best friend, and we formed a bond on the ground. After that we worked a lot better together in the saddle.” That transformation took about six months. Even though Tru trusted Cash, every ride was a little more about survival than anything else according to her dad. He was a lot of horse for Tru, but he’s very likely one of the reasons Tru found success at the 2022 Junior World Finals.
A Step Up Mount
“Knowing what I know now, I would have never put my little girl on Cash, but we just had no idea at the time,” Nichole said. “We took him to a clinic put on by Ryan Lovendahl and KC Groves hoping they could fix him.” Ryan and KC fixed Cash’s problem, but not in the way Tru or her parents expected. “Ryan came up to me and said quietly: ‘I’ve seen thousands of horses and only said this to one other person, your daughter is not safe on that horse. He takes care of her, but he hates his job and he’s fighting everything,’” Josh explained of Cash’s immediate retirement. “Ryan and KC got us on the path we’re on now with Tru; from running barrels as a hobby to executing the plan Tru always had in her head.” Leo was one of Ryan and KC’s horses who became Tru’s next barrel mount. He was the type of horse who ran the same pattern every time. Where Cash made Tru fearless, Leo kept her honest and developed her horsemanship as a jockey.
“She’s always been a great rider, but Leo helped Tru get comfortable so she could work on her skills,” Josh said. “He taught her how a barrel turn should feel but he was also the kind of horse who would hit the barrel if she gave him too much rein. It was such a great experience for her.” It only took a year before Tru was ready for her next step up in horsepower. Since Cash always had a home with the Most family, Leo had to move on down the road to make room for Tru’s next mount. “It was really hard for Tru to make that decision, but also for me,” Nichole said. “I looked that horse in the eyes and told him to take care of my little girl. And then we all bonded with him and loved him, and it was hard to let him go.” The Most’s were reunited with Leo in Vegas where he carried his new little girl through the pole pattern. He’s thriving with his new family, just like Tru is with his replacement.
Firewater Requests, Rockette for short, comes by her name honestly. The 9-year-old palomino is everything Tru needed in a barrel horse and much more. “We actually bought Rockette two months before I ever rode her,” Tru said. “There was a jackpot nearby when we came to pick her up in Utah. It was a KK qualifier. I had only run her once before we entered up. I was just test running her before we took her home, but we won the qualifier. I was shocked because I didn’t know what to expect from her.” Their honesty about Cash poured the foundation of trust that’s built a strong friendship between Ryan and KC and the Mosts. The fruit of that trust was picked in Vegas when Tru not only won the Junior World Finals in the senior barrels but also took home the youth championship at the All In Barrel Race as well as ninth in the open average.
From the outside, Tru’s success looked easy. Even though Tru and Rockette clicked instantly, their climb to the top in less than a year as a team was anything but. “As Tru finished out junior high last spring, she just swept everything she entered,” Josh said. “By the time summer hit, Rockette started declining; and by that, I mean she wasn’t winning every race she entered anymore. We didn’t know that her hocks could get sore or that she might get ulcers being hauled a lot.” After getting Rockette back to peak condition, Tru had some work to do as a rider. But the pair also had to figure out how to get all 16 hands of Rockette around the NFR-sized pattern, something neither had much experience with at that point.
“We had about four months to really train for Vegas, and all of our high school rodeos were in big outdoor pens,” Tru said. “We ended up going to a local jackpot – Rocky Top – almost every week this fall because the pattern was only 12 feet off what we’d do in Vegas. It was rough at first because I wasn’t sure how to set up such a big horse in a small pen.” Through the trials and tribulations that indoor pen presented, Tru never wanted to throw in the towel. It’s this relentless determination that her parents are most proud of, more than anything Tru’s ever won. “She could’ve walked out of there and said she never wanted to go back, but she didn’t,” Josh said. “She never gave up. By the end of that series, she finished third against some top riders who consistently put up times that were tough to beat. Tru needed to see that she wouldn’t win every time she got on that horse, that she had to work for it. That’s when I knew they were ready for Vegas.” As a push-style horse, Rockette was nothing like other horses Tru had ridden before, with the exception of Cash, who shared one similarity.
“When Tru first ran Rockette, Ryan turned to me and said: ‘Because of Cash, she has no idea that she’s riding a literal rocket,’” Josh said. “At 10 years old, Tru learned how to handle a beast and then every other horse out there is nothing by comparison. Her only game plan is to ride well, and it never crosses her mind to be scared to go fast.” It’s this fearless approach that fuels Tru’s confidence. She gets nerves and even entertains occasional doubts much like her peers, but Tru doesn’t let it take hold of what she knows to be true: she’s a skilled horsewoman riding one of the fastest rockets out there.
“Tru went to the world finals never thinking anything less than she could win it,” Josh said.
Taking her turns a bit wide was a safe gamble in the first two rounds of Vegas. Tru knew Rockette had the speed to get them to the finals if they could stay clean. Once in the finals, Tru left it all out in the arena. She pushed Rockette harder simply because she was proud of the fact they even made the short round. Anything after that feat was just extra for Tru. “The whole experience in Vegas was better than I could have ever imagined it to be,” Tru said. “We’ve joked that we won’t be able to top it.”
While outdoing 2022 will be tough, Tru has the determination, work ethic and the horsepower to accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
Tru’s cheering section in Vegas is the perfect illustration of the community surrounding her in this endeavor. “We probably had 15 people fly in from Washington and California to watch her in the short round,” Nichole said. “We’ve all fallen in love with the sport and the people. We get to spend so much time together as a family because of rodeo and that’s been such a blessing.” At 18, Tru’s older sister didn’t pursue horses after hitting the dirt during a riding lesson. “Alivia was a beautiful dancer and later did voice lessons and theater in high school, she just didn’t have any interest in horses like Tru did,” Nichole said. “She’s literally the exact opposite of a cowgirl; like picks up a pitchfork with two fingers.”
Regardless of their divided interests, Alivia is at every one of her sister’s events.
For a family that knew nothing about rodeo only eight years ago, they’ve come a long way together. “Being so big, horses seem like they should be really dangerous but they’re so docile,” Nichole said. “It’s so therapeutic to go out and just brush a horse or clean their stall. I think riding horses makes Tru feel like she’s part of something bigger than herself. She’s a lot more spiritual than anyone else in our family and I think it’s cool that horses brought her closer to God.” Perhaps qualifying for the Junior World Finals was the happiest accident of Tru’s life so far. Or maybe it’s just the very beginning of her story as a barrel racer. “Anyone can be like Tru; yes, it will cost money and be a lot of work, but anyone can make it big,” Josh said. “There are so many kids out there who don’t have anyone propelling them to the next level, but they should all know that it’s within their reach if they work hard.”
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