Written by: Lily Weinacht< Back to Articles
Tami Semas—professional barrel racer, saddle designer, and wife and mother of two—found her niche in the horse industry in high school, and dug deep into her passion after college. The first of her family to rodeo growing up, the 41-year-old from Brock, Texas, learned by trial and error, and her persistence earned her two qualifications to the PRCA Columbia River Circuit Finals, and a place at The American’s inaugural rodeo in 2014. In 2015, she was Equi-Stat’s highest-earning rider of futurity horses, and has trained multiple futurity and derby winners. “Where a lot of people who’ve had parents in that event have the process narrowed down a little bit, I had my biggest successes from my biggest failures,” says Tami. “I’ve spent a lot of time learning from horsemen how to get a horse really broke. I understand the game of barrel racing, and to combine that with horsemanship is kind of my approach. I wanted a very smooth motion in my horses around the turn, and I have learned to get a horse to be soft. I’m a small person—I can’t hold the horse around a barrel—and I’ve learned through various horsemen how to get a horse to respond through weight, leverage, and positioning to keep them light.”
Searching for a saddle that was balanced for Tami’s smaller stature led her to becoming a saddle dealer for seven years, and ultimately, launching her very own line of Tami Semas Barrel Saddles. “A lot of saddles on the market didn’t feel like they balanced my weight great, and either pushed me forward or back. I ride everything centered, and I bought a saddle from one company that worked pretty good,” explains Tami, who at that time was Double J Saddlery’s highest-selling dealer without a store. “I learned a lot about what many riders were wanting and needing. I came up with some ideas on how I would tweak things if I would ever be able to build my own saddle from scratch.”
Tami quit her dealer job in 2014, and she approached a manufacturing company about building her own saddle that same year. “A lot of things are the same with saddle parts, but they can be put together to have a uniquely different feel,” Tami explains. Her saddle came out in the 2015, her best futurity year to date, and the Tami Semas Barrel Saddle was a success. They now sponsor several athletes, including Hallie Hanssen, a futurity horse trainer from South Dakota. After two-and-a-half years, Tami decided to go out on her own for manufacturing, and with the aid of her custom tree maker and a new manufacturer, the latest line of Tami Semas Barrel Saddles will launch this fall.
Of equal importance to a balanced saddle is the saddle pad underneath, and 5 Star Equine became one of Tami’s sponsors the year her first saddle came out. “I’m a firm believer in their product. I’d used their pads over the last 10 years, and they’ve been a sponsor over the last 3 years, and we also promote them with our saddles,” says Tami, who is also using 5 Star’s new line of leg gear. “The things I use for my barrel racing and riding I call timeless tools. I’m not someone to use the latest and greatest thing that’s come out on the market; I’m going to use the tools that have stood the test of time, and I believe 5 Star is a product that has stood the test of time. That 100 percent natural wool has always allowed my horses’ backs to breathe well, especially down in Texas. I want a pad that absorbs shock, breathes well, fits comfortably on my horse, and can withstand weather conditions, and 5 Star has been that product for us.”
Tami, who trains all of her horses, sold her futurity horses this year, thinking 2018 was her year to rodeo. But when her horse Smooth N Famous, who won nearly $200,000 during his futurity career, had an injury this year, she had to turn him out to pasture and make a new plan. That became running and seasoning a 6-year-old, Colour Me Gone, she trained and sold but bought back recently. “I’ve pretty much seasoned him at the pro rodeos, and I’ve gone to Northside, which is an open rodeo every weekend. I always like the Diamonds and Dirt Derby, and we just keep training horses this year and selling them. Next year we’re hoping to have our horse better seasoned for the rodeos,” says Tami.
Her 15-year-old daughter, Madison, traveled with her most of the summer, and enjoys riding and other sports, while Tami’s 16-year-old son, Myles, plays football. Aaron, Tami’s husband, rode bulls for 18 years and qualified for the WNFR 7 times, while he’s also one of the founders of the PBR. “He’s doing some fixer-upper homes down here and ropes, and when you have a family and kids at this age, it’s definitely a busy time. What we’re doing is just trying to train good horses, build a good saddle, and let the horses tell us where we’ll be going.”