Lavoye Garnhart and JC Casino Rocker made a weekend of fast, consistent runs to win the 2D junior division average at the Sherry Cervi Youth Championship in Tucson, AZ, Jan. 28-30, 2022. Lavoye took home a Martin Sherry Cervi barrel saddle and other prizes made possible by great sponsors, as well as cash earnings from the warm-up open race and placing in both rounds.
The Midwest, WY, cowgirl and Casino had the third-fastest average on 2-runs in the junior division, and the ninth-fastest of the entire championship. Entries were limited to 400 youth. “We ran really well together all weekend and I worked hard at riding him the best I could so he could do his best,” said Lavoye. “It seemed like a dream when Sherry Cervi congratulated me.”
That’s a pretty big accomplishment. But there’s more. On May 15, Lavoye and Casino won the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA) Yearend 9-12 Barrel Racing Championship. The season was made exceptional when she also earned the Yearend 9-12 All-Around title. She used Casino in barrels, goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping.
The winning – or even placing – didn’t come at first. It took a bit to get together as a team. Lavoye had her share of bruised knees and empty loops. Casino never had professional training but it seems he’s one of those special horses that just has what it takes, perhaps teaching his riders as much or more than they teach him.
The 15-year-old “little yellow” gelding is by AJ Oak Rocker (“Rocky,” a son of PC Ikewood Oaks) out of Perfect Casino Jackie, the favorite mare of Guy and Billye Jo Casteel. Rocky is now owned by Lynn Nixon of Alzada, MT, Guy and Billye Jo’s daughter. John Teigen of Belle Fourche, SD, bought Casino as a green 4-year-old, after dickering with Guy over $50 for a couple of weeks. John’s wife, Sharlet, soon claimed Casino as her ranch horse and started him on the barrels and poles, while John continued to head on him occasionally.
Jordyn and her dad Mark McNamee watched Casino at various jackpots and thought he’d make a good match as she started high school rodeo. After she wrapped up her Wyoming high school rodeo career, qualifying for nationals in the poles, Jordyn only sold Casino when she found the right family. Gus and Lisa Garnhart bought Casino in the fall of 2020 for their young family.
“Barrels and poles are okay, but I really love roping and goat tying,” Lavoye said. She uses Casino for everything but poles. “We want to save Casino for barrels, goats, and breakaway, but my dad started heeled on him a couple of times and now he wants him, too. Then my little sister Lanai caught her first breakaway calf on him, and she thinks I should pass him on to her,” Lavoye said.
Even though Casino always worked hard and took care of Lavoye, it seemed there was something bothering him. In Arizona, Garnharts winter home is within 20 minutes of Sharlet and John Teigen’s, who introduced them to barrel horse trainer Becca Gilley from Belle Fourche. A trip to equine lameness specialist Michael Sorum, DVM, paid off. Following his recommendations for joint care and shoeing, along with some shifts in his ration, in a few weeks, Casino was loving every run with Lavoye. And their runs kept getting better and better. With the help of her mom Lisa, they trained Casino for goat horse. When Lavoye found out she really liked to rope, Casino proved to be a great teacher; solid and calm in the box, leaving true, putting her position, and staying honest run after run.
“Garnharts and Casino are meant for each other. We felt Casino had huge potential as an all-around youth horse, but it was a real tough decision to sell him.” said Sharlet, “He learns so fast and puts his heart into everything he’s asked to do. We’d take a pasture full of horses just like him.”
Lavoye, Casino, and the Garnhart family arrived home in Wyoming in May, just in time for the state’s youth rodeo season.
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