Horse Buying and Selling Q&A With NFR Barrel Racer Jimmie Smith

Jimmie Smith weighs in on recent market trends for barrel horses.
Jimmie Smith-Tew barrel racing in Denver.
Jimmie Smith-Tew and Nicky running the fastest time of the 2023 NWSSR. Image by Ric Andersen/CBarC Photography.

NFR barrel racer Jimmie Smith knows how to sniff out promising horses of all ages, but here’s some of her insight into recent trends in the industry. A lot of folks are talking about the rising prices of horses in the barrel industry. What are your thoughts on where that’s at and where it’s going?

Jimmie Smith: It’s been really interesting to watch the industry grow. There’s so many good horses out there. It is amazing to see breeders, trainers and other people actually making money on horses after all the blood, sweat and tears they put in. We all like things to be affordable, but the fact is that stud fees, vet bills, cost of feeding mares, all of it is also going up. It’s not cheap to breed these great mares to these amazing stallions, plus the recip mares, the embryos, paying them into incentives all costs big money. However, what people don’t realize is that when you support these responsible breeders who work hard on these horses, and the trainers, you’re supporting the industry. That’s how we keep these big payouts going, we encourage owners to get into incentives. If you’re at a sale or looking at horses online, what are some things you look for that clue you into whether or not the horse could be great on the rodeo trail?

Jimmie Smith: You know, that’s a hard one. I mean bloodlines are big, yes. But so many of these horses are bred absolutely outstanding, they have great confirmation, they look great on paper, all that. If I’m looking for a rodeo horse, though, it’s going to be their heart that makes the difference. So you can do all your research but maybe they can’t handle the ground, the hauling just don’t have the try someday—there’s no way of knowing that from looking at a sale book. I try to minimize my risk. What do you mean by minimizing risk?

Jimmie Smith: So, you have to know what you like to ride and train. Or, if you’re planning on sending it to a trainer, know what they like. You need to have a plan, whether it’s a yearling that you’ll send to somebody for 60 days, or one that you purchased already started that you’re going to finish it out, whatever. But definitely choose horses that have qualities you’re capable of training and riding, and that you’re comfortable with. Some horses fit people better than others, and you need to be real and learn as much as you can. I like a running-cow cross, for example. That doesn’t work for everybody. If all that’s important for somebody purchasing a horse to keep in their program, is it the same for those looking to sell the horse later on?

Jimmie Smith: It’s similar. Maybe if you want to make great youth or open horses, you might look for laid-back bloodlines or ones that tend to make user-friendly horses. You’re going to want to carefully select your colt-starter and trainer if you’re sending the horse out, because you want reputable people that will give that horse the best chance, and preferably ones that understand the end goal.

Depending on how much control you have over the new owners—the age of the horse, whether you use a sale or private treaty—you’ll want to make sure you’re being selective with your buyers, too. You want to make sure those people seem like they’ll truly fit well with that horse based off their situation, goals and skill level. Not every horse can be a college rodeo superstar, or keep a kid safe at a youth rodeo. Likewise, not every rider is a smart fit for every horse. What do you do when you purchase a horse with a goal to futurity or ProRodeo on it and it doesn’t fit your program?

Jimmie Smith: I have a lot of horses that I keep until they’re five or six honestly, and then I work on finding them other programs to go to—don’t think all trainers are selling horses just because they didn’t make the cut.

Obviously not every horse is going to be a 1D superstar, but there is a market for every kind of horse. There’s so many people that need divisional horses or step-up youth horses, or just one to make the same clean, consistent run every time so they can have fun. A lot of college rodeo horses don’t work at the ProRodeos, or vice versa. But people are still putting a ton of time and energy and years into those horses, too, and people need them at all levels of the sport. So what’s different about your rodeo schedule this year, and what’s up ahead?

Jimmie Smith: (laughing) I didn’t even think about rodeoing this year, so I’m just going with the flow out here. God had different plans than I did, that’s for sure. But honestly, I’m still hitting a lot of the incentive races—the (Pink and Ruby) Buckles, the Royal Crowns, the bigger jackpots—there’s just so much money in it, and it’s nice to not have to drive all over the world to win those bigger checks. I’m honestly just going to have fun, enter where it makes sense and see where the year takes me.

Jimmie Smith is a Gold Buckle Pro with Gold Buckle Horse Sales. They get the industry because they eat, sleep and breathe it, and they know finding the perfect horse can be tough. From looks, demeanor, soundness, temperament, athleticism, to overall mind there are a lot of factors that go into finding the right horse for each individual. Gold Buckle has come up with a process to take the guesswork out of finding the right horse. Each Gold Buckle Certified horse is photographed & videoed professionally as well as previewed and tested by a Gold Buckle Pro. To learn more, click here.