Chuting the breeze with Hudson, Colorado barrel racer Paige Conrado
Paige Conrado started last year on a pace that had her in the top 15 of the barrel racing standings until an accident with her horse wiped out all chances of qualifying for the NFR.
Struggling through the start of 2013, Conrado picked up a new ride two months ago in 13-year-old Bubba.
The duo paired well, including winning money at bigger rodeos like Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Greeley Stampede.
Paige took time between rodeos and working at her family’s horse facility to discuss barrel racing and her year, so far.
Note: Questions and answers have been edited for length.
Lincoln: You grew up around horses. Do you remember the first time you rode?
Paige: I can’t really remember the very first time, but when I was one or two, I remember riding around on one of the Firewater Flit mares that my grandma had. I started riding a lot when I was probably 4. We had a little blue roan pony stallion, and we had a little sorrel mare and we terrorized them. (laugh) Which meant getting thrown off and getting back on.
Lincoln: Being around barrel horse bloodlines and training, was it a natural thing to want to be a barrel racer?
Paige: It wasn’t expected by other family members, but in my own head it was expected.
Lincoln: When did you first start barrel racing seriously?
Paige: Probably at the age of 7 or 8. There is always pee wees at almost every event you go to. I started in the pee wees and as I got older I did the Colorado Junior Rodeo Association.
Lincoln: Changing gears to this year. You’ve been successful in the Mountain States Circuit rodeos. What do you think of your year?
Paige: I didn’t start off as strong this year as I did last year. Last year I was in the top 15 until summer and then my mare got in an accident and that totally wiped out all my chances. I struggled with soundness issues at the beginning of this year, (but) it kind of switched gears once I got Bubba. I only had Bubba for about a month and a half and he won close to $20,000, I think. The majority of my earnings that I have now are from Bubba, from this past two months.
Lincoln: It sounds like you and Bubba clicked?
Paige: It was an immediate click. I borrowed him for a rodeo one time last summer. It was Prescott (Arizona) and he placed in the average. We clicked right away. We set the arena record at Steamboat. It was a great opportunity to get to ride him.
Lincoln: Do you have any favorite rodeos?
Paige: Greeley has always been a favorite, because I have ridden in that arena since high school. I also really loved San Antonio. This was my first year going to it and I loved San Antonio when I got to go this year. It’s kind of cool, it’s like you’re playing at the Pepsi Center. The crowd is right in your face, it’s a huge stadium and it’s jam-packed. It’s definitely a big rush.
Lincoln: How nice is it to compete in an atmosphere like San Antonio or the National Western Stock Show with those loud crowds?
Paige: It’s really nice. I’m an adrenaline junkie, to a logical point. When it is illogical, I’m not anymore. (laugh) It’s really awesome. The NWSS is also one of my favorites, too. We run all the way down the tunnel at Denver. It’s definitely big adrenaline. It’s awesome to compete for a big crowd.
Lincoln: This year you made the short round at Greeley and also at Cheyenne. How much fun was that?
Paige: It was a lot of fun. I was in the short round at Greeley last year, so I kind of knew what to expect. But Cheyenne, both years (prior) I didn’t even have a fair shot at any kind of run. It was exciting and I was definitely really grateful for the opportunity. Cheyenne is a great rodeo.
Lincoln: What is that bond with your horse like on the road?
Paige: It’s awesome. It’s hard to explain the bond between a girl and her top horse. It builds a lot of trust between you and the horse. It definitely builds up your work ethic as far as taking care of them. You’ve got to step up your care program. You have a lot more responsibility or your horse isn’t going to hold up.
Lincoln: There are a lot of challenges about being on the road, but what is one of your favorite things about it?
Paige: My favorite thing is being away from home. I hate being just stuck at home. I love getting to see the new places. You never know what is going to happen.
Lincoln: Do you plan to keep barrel racing and work that in with your family’s breeding and training operation?
Paige: I will keep riding. It’s not a matter of if; it is when I make the finals (NFR). My main goal is the world championship, but I’m not going to be obnoxious about it. That’s what I want to shoot towards. ❖