Many athletes are willing to work hard to accomplish their goals, but few would be willing to commit two decades to the task like Big Valley barrel-racer Kirsty White, who just put her first-ever Canadian Finals Rodeo in the books.
Bubbling with gratitude, White said on the Saturday afternoon of the CFR: “This is such a relief. You know I think I have been mailed the CFR contestants package seven times in my career, but when the numbers came in, I was always short. Last year, I missed the finals by just $19 and it was heartbreaking.”
White’s story is a lesson in tenacity that is not for the faint of heart. Born and raised in the remote interior of British Columbia, White was the daughter of champion all-around Cowgirl Diane White, who tragically lost her life in a roping accident when Kirsty, the youngest of two girls, was just 13 years old.
In spite, or because of, Kirsty has gone on to forge her way in the rough and tumble rodeo life by becoming self-sufficient and self-made. The diminutive 48-year-old puts out more manpower per square inch of her body than anyone I know. Training eight to 10 horses a year for outside customers, White also raises and trains several futurity horses each season and competes at the professional level. The workload is physically demanding and to top it off, White shoes horses to supplement her income and proudly states that she wouldn’t let anyone else shoe the seven-year-old mare Racey that White ran at the CFR.
The partnership between White and her horses is always a 50/50 deal, but Kirsty talks about Racey with a special fondness.
“You know I sold other good horses that could’ve taken me to the Finals, but it was a business decision,” she said. “Maybe this was meant to be because Racey has taught me so much. She’s not an easy horse to ride, she’s young and explosive, but I feel I have her trust and she is willing to let me guide her.”
White has been careful not to pressure the mare, who was ranked third in Canada after the futurity stats were in. “I basically chose not to derby her and gave her time off. Now she will be 8 next spring. We are going to test the waters at some of the winter PRCA rodeos. I am really excited because as she gets more mature, she is going to smooth out and just get better and better. She is very efficient in her turns and the rest will take care of itself.”
For White, it has been a long journey to this place where she has felt vindicated. “I had a horse in ’92 called ‘Sprint to the Mint’ and in June of that year, I was ranked fifth in Canada. That horse developed colic and we couldn’t save her.”
White has won plenty of awards in her 20-year career, despite her cat and mouse chase with the CFR. In 2012, she was honored by the Canadian Professional barrel racers with the Cowgirl of the Year Award.
“Rodeo takes so much focus and commitment. Women are nurturers, and as a single mom and woman on my own, I am so thankful for my family and really wonderful friends. My sister Allison, my dad Doug and son Dane make this all so special. Canadian champion Rayel Robinson (now Little) has also been a person I owe much to, for all I’ve learned.”
White is optimistic about her rodeo future. “I love the Big Valley, Stettler area. This community has so many champions in it, you can thrive here.”
Kirsty will winter in Arizona like many other Alberta rodeo competitors in order to keep on top of her game and get as much training time in as possible.
Looking back on her first CFR, White couldn’t be more pleased with her horse Racey. “She let me partner with her and the final round told the story.” A winning time of 14.627 was Racey’s best of the week. The smile on Kirsty’s face said it all as she took home a go-round buckle and $23,817. With her trailer loaded to head to Arizona, White said “rodeo is all about being in the moment, but then isn’t that all we really have?”