The Wrangler sits down with futurity barrel horse trainer Joy Wargo to discuss her horse training journey, and the educational movement behind the latest online learning resource for barrel racers; Between The Reins.
Jolene Montgomery, Joy Wargo and Ashley Schafer. Photo Credit Bee Silva.
Joy Wargo is a household name in the barrel racing industry, not only for her phenomenal barrel horse training program, but also for the educational movement she has sparked with the online accessible learning project between herself, Jolene Montgomery and Ashley Schafer; Between The Reins. Of course like many horsemen, Wargo’s horsemanship journey didn’t start at the top of the mountain, and if you ask how she got into horses, she will jokingly tell you it was really “by accident.”
“I grew up on a ranch in the southwest corner of Wyoming, over by Mountain View,” Wargo explained, “we always had horses on the ranch and I grew up loving them, but it was a train your own horse kind of deal, and when I started I didn’t know very much about barrel racing.”
“What I can tell you is that my first one was not so good,” she laughed, “so my parents ended up buying me an older horse that was perfect for me to learn on. As I grew out of that horse, there were two ladies that really mentored me; Wendy Platts and Deana Hamilton. Those two women were the biggest influences I had early on with horses.” Wargo would continue to ride horses through high school, improving her skills until she got a horse she could be competitive on at the high school rodeo level. “I got a little better every year, and I had a really nice horse that later allowed me to attend the University of Wyoming on a rodeo scholarship, and from there is where I met my husband, Trent.” “Trent knew he wanted to move south a lot sooner than I did, but we both agreed it was something we needed to do, so as soon as we graduated college he took a teaching position in Denton, Texas, and we made the big move and never looked back!” “The weather in Texas is much more conducive for horse training,” Wargo explained, “you can ride horses pretty much year round down here, and in Wyoming and the northern states where it is cold 9 months of the year, it is a lot tougher to train horses unless you have an indoor facility for that extreme winter weather.” “Originally when I started training horses for myself, I wanted to rodeo. My college rodeo mare got older and wasn’t fast enough anymore to compete down here in Texas, and that’s how I got started really training horses; if I was going to have another barrel horse that could win, I was going to have to make my own.”
One horse can change everything. Wargo and her husband, who was a steer wrestler and also team roped himself, had a plan in place; they started buying a couple horses a year and training them. As it progressed, they used the money from those colts to invest back into their program, until they finally got a colt talented enough to put Joy in the barrel racing limelight. His name was Smokin Koa Lena. “I got lucky pretty early on when we started riding futurity horses,” Wargo recalled, “Smoke was my third futurity horse, and he was just a freak. He did really well and won quite a bit his futurity year, and I ended up selling him for what was life chaining money at the time. Because of him I had the opportunity to leave my normal daytime job at the dentist office and try and become a real horse trainer.” Smoke would go on to win much more over the years, and Joy and Trent would later be given the opportunity to purchase Smoke back. With AQHA titles and American Rodeo qualifications, the big bay horse boasts a long record of wins at both barrel races and rodeos. His lifetime earnings in the barrel racing arena total at $170,000. For those that don’t know, Smoke is also an incredible head and heel horse, and these days he enjoys his semi-retirement in the roping pen with Trent. Wargo started out riding mostly her own futurity colts with the help of her husband, who along with being a great horseman himself, is also a very talented farrier in many of the big reining barns in North Texas. With time their program evolved into taking a few outside horses for clients, and from there it just took off, creating the successful training business they have today in Collinsville, Texas.
Everyone needs someone to learn from, and we are never done learning. “While I’ve been in Texas I have had a lot of different mentors, maybe not in the classical internship way like lots of girls do these days. But I spent a lot of time working for a snaffle bit and cow horse trainer,” Wargo spoke of her past mentors, “and I would always spend a lot of time watching and studying the big name barrel racing trainers form the fence in the warm up pen. I was also very lucky to spend a lot of time riding with Latricia Duke and Jolene Montgomery early on during my career.” Wargo is a firm believer in having mentors and people to learn from, people in your corner that will help you develop and improve your horsemanship in the saddle, and encourage you to be a better rider and horseman. “Some people are born with natural talent on the back of the horse, but the reality is that most of us have to learn how to be good, so if you’re not studying the guys that are winning, you’re definitely missing out and doing a deserve to yourself. Sit on the fence at the races, watch the videos that get posted on social media; there is always a way to learn.”
It is this attitude of having a growth mindset that was the birthing place for the online barrel racing education sensation; Between The Reins (BTR). Joy Wargo joined forces with Jolene Montgomery and Ashely Schafer; two colleagues, friends and excellent barrel horse trainers. They wanted to create a resource that was accessible to every barrel racer and give back to the barrel racing community that has given so much for them. BTR has members not just across the country, but across the world, from Canada to Brazil, and from the United States to Europe. The constantly growing online library of BTR videos can be accessed by members online for just $30 a month or $299 a year. There are hundreds of videos in the library vault, from starting horses on the pattern for the very first time, to schooling seasoned finished horses. The videos showcase the raw, real truth behind training futurity barrel horses, and viewers get to watch step by step in real time as Wargo, Montgomery and Schafer work through their training processes with each individual horse in their programs. “Between The Reins was a way we could reach more people that didn’t necessarily have access to clinics,” Wargo explained, “Jolene, Ashley and I have been very fortunate. The barrel racing industry has treated us very well, and to me I think it’s important to give back. That’s how BTR started out, it’s about being able to help people, and we couldn’t be more excited with how it’s taken off.”
Joy Wargo & Smokin Koa Lena. Photo Credit Bee Silva.
What are you doing today, for the Legacy you may leave tomorrow? “I also think Between The Reins is about leaving a legacy,” Wargo reflected, “for me, I’m not the person that’s going to win the most at the barrel race, and that’s ok. But I wanted to leave a legacy too and affect positive change in our industry. The more we can grow and learn and change for the better, is only better for everyone; the animals and for us.” “I also think it’s important to note that some people think it’s a great day every day when you’re training horses,” Wargo laughed, “but the reality is that there are more bad days than good, and with BTR we can really share the real stuff. We get into the trouble shooting and problem solving behind each horse as an individual, and we can share how we train those horses as individuals. People get to see the raw reality behind what we do, and it expands the amount of people we can reach and help learn by having it all in one place.” “We have huge goals and dreams for BTR,” Wargo admitted, “but at the end of the day I also think it’s important to note that BTR is about elevating our game as barrel racers. Encouraging us to be better in everything we do, to have pride in our sport, from taking care of our horses to keeping our stall fronts clean at shows. To put our best foot forward in everything we do, because being complacent will bleed into the rest of your life. And when you’re chasing excellence, consistency is what shows up when motivation isn’t there. That’s the real important stuff.” “It’s also important to remember to cheer for each other,” Wargo added, “barrel racers get a bad rap for being petty.
With Between The Reins, we want to encourage our members and barrel racers everywhere to be the ones that cheer for each other. That build each other up. To raise each other up and make our sport fun, and to know that there is enough winning to be done for everyone.” It is arguable that, like many other things in the world today, barrel racing has its negative moments.
However, it is the efforts by Joy Wargo, Jolene Montgomery and Ashley Schafer with their movement at Between The Reins that is shaking up the narrative in the barrel racing industry. BTR is a resource that not only promotes improving our horsemanship as barrel racers but improving our lives as a whole with an attitude of gratitude and always being willing to learn. It is an exciting and limitless time to be a barrel racer on the education front, and BTR is without a doubt at the forefront of it. For more information about Between The Reins, membership options, or other questions, please visit their website: www.betweenthereins.us
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