Making “Magic” with Redmond Champion Rachelle Riggers

Rachelle Riggers and Magic French Flight are one team to pay attention to in the 2023
Rachelle Riggers turns a barrel on Magic.
Rachelle Riggers and Magic French Flight won the 2023 High Desert Stampede in Redmond, Oregon. Image by Roseanna Sales.

Rachelle Riggers has been turning heads since she filled her WPRA permit at one barrel race in Redmond, Oregon, in 2021 and returned to dominate in that arena again, and again, and again most recently with a win at the 2023 PRCA/WPRA High Desert Stampede on Magic First Flight.

“Redmond is a cool part of Magic’s story,” Riggers (31) explained. “He’s got a lot of confidence in that arena. He knows exactly what the ground will feel like before he gets to the turn—where he needs to put himself to stay safe and clock.”

Magic French Flight— “Magic,” as the 2013 gelding is known—loved Redmond in April 2023 to the tune of $4,758 for his 16.20-second run that earned the duo the win. He turned that in after Riggers made a decision to leave San Angelo, Texas, and drive nearly 30 hours to Redmond to make the rodeo before returning to her home in Lewiston, Idaho, for the first time in four months.

Riggers works remotely as a program manager for the Providence Health System Neuroscience Institute with the goal of helping hospital patients have the best experience possible within their 54 locations across seven states. Riggers spent the past four months rodeoing in Texas, taking advantage of her virtual working options.

Not only does her career offer her the freedom to travel with Magic and her 10-year-old daughter, Ezrah, it’s the reason she got to play in the ProRodeo sphere in the first place.

Back to the Beginning

A third-generation barrel racer, Riggers grew up running barrels and competing at local events. In high school she climbed aboard a mare trained by her mother, Renee Cook Riggers, named Quick Dinner Flight. The mare was a standout in the pole bending, goat tying and barrel racing for young Riggers. Then, it was time that the family decided to raise colts out of the beloved mare, so they selected the most athletic Northwestern stallion they had at the top of mind—Dats A Frenchman. That cross produced Magic, the first of “Quick’s,” babies to hit the ground.

Magic French Flight horse papers

While Riggers hung up her barrel racing gear and doubled down on her achieving a degree and building her career in Oregon, young Magic was growing up at Rachelle’s mom, Renee’s. Riggers moved back to Idaho, purchased her own place and decided to dip her toe back into barrel racing waters around the time Magic was ready to enter.

“Mom told me that Magic was ready for me and she couldn’t ride him anymore,” Riggers explained. “I started out by taking him to some novice events, but didn’t get to run him much. He was 7 at the time.”

Magic started showing potential right around the time the world slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and Riggers took advantage of the shift to a remote working lifestyle to pack up and head to Arizona for the winter with Ezrah as 2021 kicked off.

That’s when Magic blossomed,” Riggers said. “My mom encouraged me to buy my WPRA permit, but I was so scared!”

She did eventually purchase her permit upon arriving back in the North, and after the fateful day in Redmond where she filled it in one swoop Riggers purchased her full WPRA card and set her sights on the ProRodeo trail.

“Magic actually won a check at his first ProRodeo in Pleasant Grove, Utah,” Riggers said. “I was entered up that night with Sissy Winn, Dona Kay Rule, Ivy Saebens, Hailey Kinsel and others. It was so intimidating! I knew I had something special because he was hanging with some of the best.”

Riggers was immediately brought into the fold, finding herself welcomed by the women she met in the warmup arenas. She mentioned a specific act of kindness after her run in Pleasant Grove that eased her feeling of not belonging.

“After I ran, I walked out past Dona Kay Rule, who had also just ran,” Riggers said. “She said ‘Wow, good run!’ and I said ‘Thank you, it’s his first rodeo!’ She grabbed my hand and said ‘I am so happy for you,” and that was just so sweet and genuine. The girls were all really nice .”

The Climb

Magic sticks out from the pack due to a unique turning motion on the backside of his barrels. The powerful gelding manages to look like he’s pulling himself out of a turn with his front feet—slightly raising his front end and lightly rocking back on his hindquarters— while his ribcage stays warped around the barrel in a perfect “C,” in an athletic motion.

“We call him a climber,” Riggers said. “He has such big, strong shoulders and just throws his front feet out of a turn .He doesn’t get himself in the ground, he climbs out. He elevates himself and comes up with his body. You can see it in pictures too, his action is so much more elevated in the front.” 

Riggers noted that her mother had one horse during her college rodeo days that resembled Magic’s style, so the ladies knew how to mold his natural ability into a barrel racer’s weapon.

I don’t think you can train that into one, but you can feel it,” Riggers said. “At first, it doesn’t feel great. You have to teach them the right way to do it. (Magic) was always smooth, but it was hard to teach him how to stay low. That’s why I use a tie-down on him. He wanted to climb high out of the turn, and he would lose time because he wasn’t going forward. He learned to hit that tie-down and flatten out to keep moving forward.”

Once Riggers and her mom helped Magic smooth out his turns, it turned out he had all the right ingredients to make the ideal rodeo horse.

“Gosh, it was all worth it,” Riggers said. “He’s consistent, smooth and honest. He’s pretty long in the body and neck, so he has to stay pretty supple. He loves to wrap around a turn, he doesn’t like to square up on the backside. I can move him with my hip and use my seat to push him away if he’s coming out of a turn tight. He even adjusts based on how the ground feels beneath him and sets his feet where he feels it’s safe.”

What about the helmet?

It isn’t just Magic’s unique barrel turn that sticks out when the duo competes—Riggers is one of few professional barrel racers that chooses to compete in a helmet.

“You know, I’ve always competed in one,” Riggers said. “My mom had a traumatic brain injury at age 9 riding a horse. It’s impacted her over her entire life. Even today, when I put a hat on, it’s the weirdest feeling. I don’t know how people run barrels in them. It pulls on my head, catches the wind, I’ll run into things with my head. It just feels hindering to me.”

Rachelle Riggers barrel racing as a child.
Young Rachelle Riggers competes in the barrel racing in her helmet on Camote, Idaho. Image courtesy Riggers.

What’s Next?

Riggers just returned from a four-month stint in Texas, where she and Ezrah spent the past four months rodeoing and spending time together around work and school, respectively. Riggers’ big win in Redmond didn’t just help her out in the early Columbia River Circuit standings, it bumped her to No. 21 in the WPRA world standings with $18,408.29 won on the year that’s got Riggers stoked for what’s ahead.

“It’s been quite the journey and we’re excited about this year,” Riggers said. “My strategy for entering is whatever route is the most convenient—I’m thankful to have a horse that can run anywhere and handle it. I know other people have other plans, but I have so much going on that I just can’t factor every variable in, all the time. I couldn’t even do this if I didn’t have the teammates and boss that I do. Everyone in my corner knows this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they are so supportive. I’m so thankful. I will keep doing that as long as I can keep making it all fit together.”

High Desert Stampede Results

Redmond, Oregon, April 6-8

1. Rachelle Riggers, 16.20 seconds, $4,758; 2. (tie) Kacey Gartner and Jennifer Kalafatic, 16.22, $3,450 each; 4. Sharon Gow, 16.24, $2,379; 5. (tie) Jessica Lewis and Teri Bangart, 16.43, $1,665 each; 7. Shelley Holman, 16.50, $1,190; 8. Megan McLeod-Sprague, 16.55, $1,071; 9. Julia Johnson, 16.56, $952; 10. Kara Kreder, 16.60, $833; 11. Italy Sheehan, 16.61, $714; 12. Cheyenne Allan, 16.62, $595; 13. Kaycie Rae Kayser, 16.64, $476; 14. Kailey Mitton, 16.66, $357; 15. Anne Meek, 16.70, $238