By Maggie Beitz
Paige Cannon of Linesville, Pennsylvania hasn’t always been a barrel racer, but from the very first right hand turn, she was hooked and hasn’t looked back.
“I started off riding English as a hunter/jumper for about nine years when I was introduced to barrel racing and fell in love! I then made the switch,” she said. “I sold all my English tack for western tack and started teaching myself everything I could through videos and trial and error.”
She found out quickly that barrel racing was much more enjoyable and laid back. So she threw the serious attitude, fancy show clothes and critical judges out the window.
“English was always serious. You needed the perfect show clothes and the perfect look, but barrels was go in the pen and run the best you can,” she said. “No one could judge you if you clocked the fastest time of the race.”
Paige has trained all of her own barrel horses and has recently dipped her boot into the barrel racing futurity world. She said it’s been tough, but she loves the process and challenges that come with it.
“It can be a struggle when training young horses because they are young. Every day can be different when starting them out,” she said. “But, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Training a good barrel horse is a process. I just try to be 1% better every day. Go back to the practice pen and work on progressing each day and if you stay consistent it will come to you.”
She also knows what she wants when it comes to picking her next prospect; personality, heart and good conformation.
“I want a sound, sturdy and decent sized horse that has the ‘look’ of athleticism. I also love a horse with some ‘spice’ or personality,” she said. “Something that wants to work and tries to please me is what I put at the top of my list!”
Paige realizes it takes an army to keep her horses in top performance condition. Nutrition is a large part of her program. She also keeps them up-to-date with regular dentist and chiropractic checks, and of course a solid exercise program.
“No matter the horse, they all deserve the best. Having a solid feeding program, exercise schedule and even a little pampering will keep them performing at a high level,” she said.
But putting the barrel racing and training aside, she gets the most joy from helping and teaching others.
“Watching a rider and their horse learn and grow together is very rewarding and only makes the sport of barrel racing better,” she said. “I love making a positive impact on the sport.”