Hazlee McKenzie had a unique babysitter when she was a little girl. When her parents would go to a roping, they’d put her in a […]
Written by: Lily Weinacht< Back to Articles
With warmer weather comes barrel racer Stevi Hillman’s favorite time of year. Outdoor rodeos are her and her horses’ forte, and while the two-time WNFR qualifier from Weatherford, Texas, pulled a check in Houston, she won the first two outdoor rodeos of the year at Los Fresnos and Goliad, Texas. “The horses are really ready to be outside,” says Stevi. “I like Cheyenne, it’s a big outdoor rodeo, but I just like the summer run. We get to go from one outdoor rodeo to the next. Some people don’t like it because the weather can change from one run to the next, but I like the challenge, and the travel is fun.”
Stevi took her horses Truck and Layla with her for the California run in April, and she’ll load up Sharpie, the newest addition to her barn, for the summer run. Whether at work or at play, Stevi always saddles up with a 5 Star Equine pad, which she started using even before her rodeo career took off in 2016. “I’m a firm believer in the pads—they last a long time. I really like the quality of the pads. There are some other good pads out there, but with hundredths of seconds’ difference between you and your competitors, going from a good pad to a great pad makes all the difference. I like to represent companies that stand for a good cause and are good people.” Since using the pads, Stevi also noticed her horses needed fewer chiropractic adjustments. “I feel like the pressure of a saddle and the pressure of a pad over time is a huge impact on the horse’s body condition.”
Her latest venture, which Stevi embarked on with her husband, Ty, is raising their own colts and training them. She’s been training horses since childhood, learning from her step-dad, Dave Salzbrenner. They got an embryo out of Martini, the mare that helped Stevi get to her first WNFR in 2016, and bred to Dash Ta Fame, which gave them Pendleton, now a yearling stud prospect. “We flushed our Dash Ta Fame mare this last year to Slick By Design, which gave us our baby this year. We’re not really wanting to get into the breeding business, but our goal is to have a great mare to sell embryos from. I went from training full time with 17 head of horses around here, including our own, to having our own colts, and I have one of the Dunn’s 3-year-olds here in training.”
Horse training led Stevi to the rodeo world when she trained an off-track quarter horse Im A Royal Design “Hammer” and ran him her rookie year in the PRCA, winning Reserve Barrel Racing Rookie of the Year in 2012. He went on to the WNFR with Carlee Pierce and Jana Bean, while Stevi’s mare she trained, Perfectos Dually “J-Lo” took her to Houston, and later, J-Lo ran with Christina Richman at the 2012 WNFR. “A huge part of my rodeo career was getting into Houston for the first time, and I’m very thankful to be able to train such an amazing animal to do so well,” says Stevi.
She grew up with a strong work ethic that included animals’ needs coming first, but Stevi says setting aside time to take care of herself is also important. “It’s (rodeo) a 24/7 job. I talked to someone recently about being out at 11 at night flexing my horse or giving a massage. It really comes down to your passion. At times, you get mentally or physically tired from going 24/7. It’s all about the horses all the time, which is important, but so is taking time for yourself to refresh.” Hot yoga is her favorite way to shift her focus for a few minutes, along with jogging with her husband. “My motivation lately has been that I’m truly blessed to be doing what I love, and how many people get to be in that position? I not only get to do what I love, but I help other people do what they love, and that’s the dream life in my opinion.”
Stevi’s husband feels similarly. Ty, formerly a professional roper, started his business Prepare To Win in 2016. A success coach, he helps clients reach their peak performance in life and in the arena, and his work allows him to travel all year with Stevi. “We listen to all kinds of motivational books, and that definitely sparks conversation around that, and it helps me,” says Stevi. “We’re both very competitive. He’s been my motivation through my competitive years, and my step-dad is a huge inspiration to me and put that fire in me at a young age. Being able to watch people like Lisa Lockhart and Sherry Cervi growing up and being able to talk to them whenever I want has helped, and Jana Bean has been a great help to me.
“My future goals are always to become better, physically and mentally. Competition wise, I always want to win. I know that’s always in God’s timing in what you win and where you’ll go, and I hope for more doors to open this year for me to help more people.”