Reaching For The Stars: Lexee Jo Barvian
Written by: Andrea Stevens< Back to Articles
Lexee Jo Barvian started riding horses before she could stand on her own two feet, but these days the 18-year-old from Attica, New York, does both as a professional trick rider. While the graceful drama of a death drag is one of Lexee Jo’s favorites, the liberty stand is where she literally stands her tallest, feet planted on her trusty palomino while the stars and stripes of the American flag in her hands streams out behind them.
She takes her talents to APRA, IPRA, and SEBRA rodeos on the East Coast, performing for Rawhide Rodeo Company and Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, and competing in the barrel racing as well. “I know most of the contractors pretty well, and they help me out with where my performances go so I can barrel race,” says Lexee Jo. Her hometown rodeo is the Attica Rodeo, voted number one in the APRA, and Lexee Jo performed there in 2018 for the first time alongside one of her trick riding idols, Dusti Dickerson. “I’ve always watched her ride, and she’s been on the Dixie Stampede, and just to perform with her was a dream come true. I was smiling from ear to ear.”
Lexee Jo grew up trail riding, though after a horse ran off with her during a ride when she was 3, it took her a year before she wanted to saddle up again. However, Lexee Jo spent her summers with a family friend who owned a trail riding business, and her courage grew as she rode everything from ponies to Percherons. When she turned 10, Lexee Jo was given a 2-year-old gelding for Christmas, Kutter, and she trained him with the help of friends. Kutter carried her through both English and Western disciplines, as well as high school barrel racing, before becoming her trick riding horse.
When Lexee Jo started trick riding seven years ago, she and a friend read an article online, cinched up their trail riding saddles, and started experimenting. “We started looking up YouTube videos on how to do tricks right, and our parents said if we were really serious about it, they would take us somewhere to teach us the right way to do it. Later that year we went to Tennessee to train with Loretta Pemberton, and we learned the basics of trick riding there,” says Lexee Jo. “For the last six years I’ve been learning from my mistakes and trick riding with other trick riders.” Her trick riding career took off soon after when family friend Sam Swearingen, the owner of Rawhide Rodeo Company, hired her to perform at one of his rodeos. “I liked it so much that I’ve been trick riding since.”
Lexee Jo’s background as a base for cheerleading—helping lift the flyers—has helped her with the strength and flexibility needed for trick riding. She’s also strong in the support of her family, particularly her parents, Todd and Suzette, and her older brother and sister, Brock and Laura. “Me and my mom are together all the time. Before rodeos she helps me wash my horse and get my costumes and saddle ready, and put glitter on my horse. It’s a lot of work to get done before a performance, and it’s definitely a lot of fun. My brother and sister are always pushing me to do my best.”
A new member of the 5 Star Equine team through the Reaching for the Stars competition, Lexee Jo also appreciates the support of quality tools for her horses. Several years ago, her trick riding horse developed a rearing problem, and Lexee Jo discovered his back was sore from an inadequate pad. “A friend of mine let me use his 5 Star pad and I got Kutter adjusted, and he quit lunging forward. Ever since then I’ve been using a 5 Star pad for my trick riding horse and my barrel horse. I use the thickest pad possible for my trick riding horse because his saddle is so big. Trick riding saddles are very heavy, and they’re not really built to fit a horse that well—they’re built to stay in place and not shift around, so I needed a quality pad because of that,” Lexee Jo explains. “I use their sport boots and bell boots as well, and they fit really close to the legs. I like that a lot because no dirt can get in. When you’re going fast around the arena, you don’t want anything getting in there.”
A recent graduate from Attica Central School, Lexee Jo plans to move to Oklahoma and work with a barrel horse futurity trainer this fall. A four-time NHSFR qualifier, she’s also making her first trip to Nationals this July in honor of her senior year, and plans to attend several college fairs while she’s out West. “If I’m going to college, it will definitely be a rodeo college. For my trick riding goals, I would really like to do the IFR Specialty Act Contest. And for barrel racing, I really want to make it to The American because I know my horse has the ability, so that’s one of my ultimate goals.”