I Sur-Thrived 2020 (part two, back to my roots)

Updated: Jul 6

Just to give you some insight. I have NO idea what I'm doing with these Blogs, this content either comes to me or I temporarily develop a 99 year old brain and CRS. Nevertheless, let's dive in!

I've ridden, shown, 4-H'd and rodeoed on horseback since the age of two, but after college I got burnt out on the whole "horseman" scene; I had a run in with the wrong people, I spent time trying to "find" myself and I explored other avenues to see what life could offer me. After seven years of being "lost", raising two amazing children and growing as a person, all I learned was that the horse world is my world and right here is exactly where I belong. So that is why part two is named back to my roots. The photo above sums it up and here's the second half of I Sur-Thrived 2020, where I come straight back to the end of County Road 23.

Okay, so I've already told you about all the horses I added and subtracted this year, so now it's onto the stuff and things that speak to my soul!


Meet Ralph Criner.

I grew up right here on Papa's 5 acres in Esparto, at the end of County Rd 23. It's where I learned how to ride and it's where I watched this man start dozens of young horses. (I became his hired crash dummy almost as soon as I could sit a horse. Which means I got on for the first rides, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything) I started and ended my high school rodeo career on horses that Papa trained, and they were just humble, well broke "ranch" horses. But three of them packed me to the CHSRA State finals all four years.

For over two decades Papa opened Criner's Arena to the Criner's Arena Youth Rodeo Association and hundred of kids came out to the arena to learn, practice and compete. At one Jr Rodeo Papa said he counted over 100 trucks with trailers parked at the event. He loved watching the kids ride and it made him extremely happy.

We stopped putting on Rodeo events at the arena in 2013 so it's been pretty quiet at his place.

I was planning on turning 2020 into a building year, and the plan was to put in an arena and horse barn at my house. But I had a better idea. I had the opportunity to bring a handful of kids back out and give lessons at the arena and simultaneously give Papa the chance to enjoy some activity again. He turned 86 this year and he's slowing down, but he still hops on his 4 wheeler four nights a week to come down and sit in the bleachers and watch the kids as they learn to ride in his arena.

Needless to say I am extremely grateful to have Criner's Arena to use and it warms my heart to keep Papa up and about doing what he loves. We even got him back up on his horse this Summer and I got a free lesson! My place can wait, these are some of the best memories!


2020 wasn't all sunshine and roses for us tough, we lost a family member and one of the greatest backyard rodeo horses of my time. Quigley packed me from High School to College to ACTRA to USTRC. He won me thousands of dollars, dozens of buckles and 5 or 6 saddles, taught both of my kids how to ride and ended his run with us last June. So here's to one of the greats. Thank you for all of the memories and I hope your roping in all the big shows up there in Heaven.


One of the biggest highlights of 2020 was having the opportunity to haul my daughter Riata (12) to some barrel races and rodeos. My oh my how she's grown. She started in the Spring with her barrel horse Missy. She spent the Summer and Fall learning what it takes to care for her horses and how to trouble shoot injuries too. She spent the first few races getting over some fears and figuring out how to work with Missy and has progressively been running faster and faster times. She also started Jr High School Rodeo and we branched off into the breakaway roping. So she ended 2020 with Missy and her rope horse Bowinkle and she has officially started her Rodeo career! I am extremely proud of how far she has come and can't wait to see how she grows in the future.


This year I also jumped up and threw my hat in the ring to become the Esparto Capay Valley 4-H Horse Project Leader. My mom was the project leader when I was in 4-H so I decided that I couldn't think of a better way to give back to the community than by volunteering to educate youth about horses! I'm extremely excited about this opportunity and you will just have to follow along to see what fun and exciting things we get up to. So far I have 12 kids signed up and we're fixing to start the 2021 year.

Farmyard Animals

You met my daughter Riata and her horses, but I also have a 10 year old son named Ivan. Ivan is my animal whisperer and is probably going to end up being our stock contractor and he'll definitely keep us all entertained.

Along with a straight A report card this year (both of my kids are keeping straight A's #proudmommoment) he has built his chicken herd and offered eggs for sale here locally. He, too, is putting the work and learning how to care for animals and a little bit about marketing and customer service as well. Being able to stay home with my kids and work from home has given me the ability to spend more time and put more effort into the kids and helping teach them about work ethic and more economical aspects of life.

Ivan is also trail-heading our calf operation so one day hopefully he can handle all the cattle we rope.

Broken J Bar

Lastly (for now) I took a step that I've been thinking on for over 12 years. I made my brand official! When I was in college, rodeoing a million years ago I would scribble this little brand on all of my boots and tack to keep track of what was mine, with the goal to make something of it. The joke was Broken J Bar, "If It Ain't Broke I'll Break It" or "If It Ain't Broke It Ain't Mine". Though I still like the ring of those tag lines, for "businessy" reasons I have to go with "Lessons, Coaching & Sales", but now you're in on the inside joke. The next step is to brand all of the horses that the Broken J Bar Horse Co. starts and sells to start building my "Brand" quite literally. For now Birdie will be the first to wear it and then eventually Nikki's appendix foal will wear it next.

Thank you for letting me share my story with you. 2020 was what it was, but for me it was truly a blessing. So if you take anything away from this let it be; go for your goals and remember that even it's only 1%, it's 1% closer than you were before!

If you have anything you would like me to Blog about I would love to take requests, just leave me a comment below.

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