Rodeo Is Tough. But Horse Health Can Be Easy.

The rodeo road can be a rollercoaster. Sherrylynn Johnson makes sure her horses' health isn't.
Sherrylynn Johnson barrel racing
Sherrylynn Johnson competing at the 2007 NFR. | Hubbell Rodeo Photos

Anyone who’s hauled to ProRodoes knows the rollercoaster of highs and lows that occur. Four-time NFR barrel racer Sherrylynn Johnson knows this better than anybody. At 57, she’s still on the road and still on that rollercoaster.

🎢 The ups and downs

Let’s take her 2007 rollercoaster, for example. That winter, Johnson’s good horse had gotten hurt so she leased the renowned Pass Em Up grandson View This Jet from Lamar and Diane Quakenbush. The chestnut gelding was in his prime. He and Johnson blazed their way to a $19,000 Fourth of July, won the short round at Ellensburg and then, incredibly, won all four rounds of the second-ever Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Finale in Puyallup, Washington, for another $18,600.

“Jet” ran smooth like a fighter jet—in an O-ring snaffle no less—and made some of the tightest two-point turns in history. He was so tight with each barrel that the Ellensburg committee created a bronze off his image. But it was bittersweet. Just after the rodeo, Jet sustained a season-ending injury and Johnson had to undergo cancer surgery for a tumor (that thankfully turned out to be benign).

She then borrowed 12-year-old mare Tink N Run for the first NFR she’d made in seven years, which should have been magical, considering she and husband Mike had both qualified that year. But she hit four barrels in the first two rounds, after which Johnson had to switch to her home-raised 5-year-old, Little Dash Priest, whose youth and inexperience didn’t quite land her in the money.

Fast-forward 17 years to today. The Johnsons—who still hit about 20 rodeos a year, mostly in Canada each summer—had to return to sweltering Oklahoma after Mike pulled a muscle. June and July are supposed to be their fun months to rodeo, around a jam-packed year of hosting clinics and putting on qualifiers in more than 30 states for their annual Vegas Tuffest Junior World Championships, where last year the 12-and-under champion barrel racer went home with $42,000 and a truck.

Rollercoaster indeed.

🪣 Prioritizing barrel horse health—and making it easy

Despite their hectic travel schedule and the constant carnival ride that is rodeo, the Johnsons do what it takes to keep their horses’ lives consistent. They have always relied on SmartPak to make sure their horses get their custom supplements, whether at home or on the road. Sherrylynn understands the importance of routine when it comes to horses. If she needs to switch a headstall, she’ll measure it to make sure the bit hangs in the horse’s mouth exactly the same way. It’s the same with feed.

Of course, Mike often feeds for Sherrylynn, too. Have you ever tried to explain to your husband exactly what to add to your horse’s feed—and have those instructions followed precisely? Exactly. Sherrylynn loves that Mike can simply rip open the package and dump it in the feed, accurate every time. It’s even in-law-proof when they come to feed. Locate the container with her mare’s name. Open it. Feed it. Simple.

💪 Stay consistent to see the difference

SmartGI pellets
SmartGI Pellets provide support for the whole digestive tract, including both the stomach and the hindgut.

Johnson’s latest good horse is a grey mare she bought out of Canada during Covid in 2020. Recently, the duo won Grand Prairie and Rocky Mountain House, among other rodeos. She has SmartPak include supplements in that particular mare’s container for hormonal support, joint support and gut health—especially SmartGI pellets for the hindgut. It’s a product she’s seen help calm down calf horses in the box, barrel horses in the alley, and her mare in general.

“My little mare now is super easy and fun,” Johnson said. “But I can feel her heart beating through the saddle like KA POW POW POW. You wouldn’t think she’d need the gut support because she walks in the gate so quiet. But her heart is going a hundred miles an hour. And she cribs. I know it’s helped a lot with her cribbing.”

The difference is so significant that when the Johnsons are about to hit the road for the summer, Sherylynn has SmartPak send her two months of daily supplements. Or when she sent a horse to a student rider for a month, SmartPak just shipped the easy-to-give containers directly there. What’s more, she said, the company is willing to add virtually anything you might want to try for your horse.

“Barrel racers always want to give their horses something that helps them see the difference,” she said. “Any product or ingredient you’re interested in trying, they’ll put it in there for you. We’ve been believers for years.”