Nanton resident one of Canada’s three hopefuls in women’s barrel racing

At this year’s Calgary Stampede, barrel racer Lindsay Sears of Nanton, Alberta will be a rare breed.

Because of the selection process the Calgary Stampede uses to invite competitors for women’s barrel racing, Sears, along with two more Alberta competitors, Cranna Roberts of Lacombe, AB. and and Nancy Csabay of Taber, AB. will be the only women wearing the maple leaf in the 20-athlete field.

“In my opinion, three Canadians, out of 20 competitors is sad,” Sears said while reflecting on the competition she will be facing on her home soil at this year’s Calgary Stampede Rodeo.

Sears also went on to point out that when she competes in the United States she is generally one of the few Canadians competing against a much larger number of Americans.

Under current Stampede rules, barrel racers are invited based on the following criteria: one spot to the Stampede champion, one spot to the Dodge truck champion, 14 spots based on various types of results on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and four spots based on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association results.

A lack of Canadians heading south to compete in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, combined with a rising number of Americans coming north to compete in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association has lead to the decrease in Canadian talent qualifying for the Stampede

The Calgary Stampede did not respond to interview requests about the selection process at the time of publication.

Obstacles to Success

But the steep competition from the south isn’t going to be the only thing standing in Sears’ way of winning her second Calgary Stampede buckle in six years.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle she faces is trying to win without her No. 1 horse Martha – a 13-year-old sorrel mare, which she has shared most of her success with aboard.

Despite her past victories riding with Martha, Sears isn’t sure it’s worth the risk of running her best horse on the Calgary Stampede’s unpredictable ground after an unfortunate slip injured Martha in last year’s final.

Nanton’s Lindsay Sears rounds a barrel on her No. 1 horse Martha. Sears is still unsure of how much action Martha will see at the Stampede.

Photo courtesy of Cowboy Images“It really depends on the ground conditions. If they fix the ground and make it decent, then yes, you might see her in Calgary,.” Sears said.

“The least I can do is take the best possible care of her and not put her in a position where it’s going to be risky.”

Sears also began doing embryo work with Martha this past year, and for this reason it generally isn’t good to have her competing regularly – and that is largely why the 2008 Barrel Horse of the Year Award winner hasn’t raced since February, in San Antonio.

The process isn’t a quick one, but one of Martha’s embryos was placed inside a recipient mare in early June and Sears hopes to do some more work on it sometime in July. At that point she will make a decision on whether Martha will race at all this year.

And if all goes well with the embryo work, Sears may have a new No. 1 horse down the road to take the reigns from Martha, which she originally stumbled upon by fluke.

“It wasn’t an accident, but I definitely got very lucky getting a horse like Martha,” Sears reflected.

And as for what has made Martha the horse she is today, that comes down to a couple of things.

One, the many long days Sears put in years ago to teach Martha to run to the left barrel first.

And two, that special attitude toward competition that all great athletes seem to have.

“Horses are just like human athletes; you can have two people who are equally athletic, but one is a better competitor because mentally they’re tougher. Martha just loves to compete is what it boils down to. “

Winning the Stampede again

But even without Martha, one thing that Sears does have in her favour is the unpredictability that the Calgary Stampede offers and the fastest horse going into the event is not always a shoe-in to win.

“Calgary’s a hard rodeo to gauge because of the ground conditions. Calgary in the past has had terrible ground and so it’s really hard to gauge how you’re going to do there. It all depends on how your horse handles the ground in Calgary.”

And that unpredictability certainly gives Sears, the 2008 Calgary Stampede barrel racing champion, a chance during this year’s Stampede no matter what horse she rides with.

You can cheer on Lindsay Sears, Cranna Roberts and Nancy Csabay in women’s barrel racing at the Calgary Stampede on, July 5-14, 2013.

iesplen@cjournal.ca