Most barrel horses—and barrel racers—shudder at the thought of a dreaded plastic bag crossing their path.
Ashley Rogers, on the other hand, tied one to her horse. BR Hai Flyin Fire, or “Junior,” a 2013 sorrel gelding, qualified Rogers for the Southeastern Circuit Finals in November of 2021 and helped Rogers capture the rookie title for the Southeastern Circuit.
However, the gelding had a bad habit. He began shutting down at the timer line during rodeos with dark or narrow alleyways, and it became worse as he aged.
Kendal Makovy, Roger’s close friend and mentor, suggested tying a material such as a plastic bag onto her crop and using it after turning the third barrel to encourage the gelding forward without harming him. Rogers wrote the idea off at first due to Junior’s history of bucking whenever he feels frightened.
However, after months of trying traditional methods, the final straw for Rogers came at a circuit rodeo in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at the end of January. Less than a tenth of a second separated first place from fourth place, and Rogers found herself in the latter after Junior shut her out sharply at the timers.
“It definitely cost us money. So, I decided that’s it. I’m trying the bag,” Rogers explained.
Rogers decided to try it out at a jackpot before a professional rodeo. She drove to a local arena, held her breath, and sent it.
“He broke the arena record and was the only horse in the 1D,” Rogers said.
Ecstatic, Rogers immediately sent the video to Makovy. Roger’s mentor first responded with shock, rather than excitement.
“I meant to put a little strip of a plastic bag, not an entire bag!” Makovy said, referring to the large, heavy-duty shopping bag that Rogers duct-taped to her whip.
Laughing despite the misunderstanding, the two ladies decided to stick with the strategy. Rogers used the bag again at Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Junior ran smoothly through the timeline, drawing a paycheck at the PRCA/WPRA rodeo.
Despite her personal success, Rogers warns that a plastic bag may not be the answer for every team.
“People keep asking me about it, and I tell them that it isn’t something every horse and rider should try. It took me an entire year just to muster up the courage to do it,” she explained. “It could honestly all fall apart at any time.”
Genius, or crazy? The verdict may still be out, but Rogers isn’t planning on staying inside the box with her training tactics in the future, regardless.
“It’s never-ending experimentation. I’m an extremely analytical person, so even if I win first place, I sit and analyze my run. My hands, my feet, my posture, I analyze it all so that I can figure out how to get better,” Rogers said.
One thing is certain, Rogers will do what it takes to accomplish her goals. She has the Southeastern Circuit Finals on her radar in 2022 and plans to branch out to more events as she works out the kinks with Junior and her other equine athletes.
For more traditional training methods for finished horses and colts, be sure to check out the great tips from professional trainers at https://barrelracing.com.