International Cowgirl Shannon Kerr
It is my honor to introduce Shannon Kerr to our On The Rodeo Road fans. Shannon is an international cowgirl that has dominated the barrel racing scene. Having lived in the United States, Italy and now Brazil she has experienced a life a lot of us only dream of. This Cowgirl’s resume is incredible. In 2011, she had 19 horses that she had trained herself winning the 1D or futurities with novice/amateur riders in five different countries. Shannon’s last barrel racing clinic had 35 attendants. Not only is she a tough trainer, competitor and breeder, she is as motivating and determined as anyone in the barrel racing arena. She is a hard worker and a chance taker……a combination that has proved success for Shannon. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we have.
Shannon, we read that you didn’t start barrel racing until you were 24, tell us how you got in to the sport?
I always wanted a horse since I was a little girl. I was raised by my father’s parents, my grandparents, and they never would let me have a horse because of their age. My mother and father divorced when I was 3 years old and my father gave custody to my mother, but then she abandoned me and my father found me and was granted custody. When I was eleven he was killed in the line of duty, he was a policeman. Anyway, my grandparents were afraid they would end up taking care of the horse if they gave me one, so when I was 16 I drove down to a local racehorse training facility and asked a trainer there if I could ride some horses, so my first real horse experience was exercising race horses. I went from exercising race horses to showing jumping horses and then in college met a saddle bronc rider. I remember watching the rodeo waiting for him and seeing the girls run barrels. My immediate thought was, ¨well, if I can jump big fences and exercise racehorses, than this sport should be simple.¨ Boy was I wrong!!!
So, I trained my boyfriend’s rope horse to run barrels so we could rodeo together, and the rest is history! My first year and half to run barrels, I took this rope horse and filled my permit in the WPRA and was addicted to this sport.
Ok, now tell us how you ended up barrel racing in Brazil?
This is a long story….I always had an urge to learn new languages and see the world. I never thought horses would get me there. Let me back up a little and tell you how I ended up in Italy and then the path that took me to Brazil.
I was working for the USDA when I met a man that asked me to move to Italy with him. I thought why not? I was educated, had no family (my grandparents had already passed away), and I figured that learning a new language and culture would only enhance my resume if I decided to return to the USA. I eventually married this man; it was easier to be legal to stay in Italy if I was married so that’s what we did. Anyway, I was the first person to import the popular bloodlines into Europe, the Dash Ta Fames, Fire Water´s, Frenchmans Guys, Cash Not Credits, etc. And I established the first breeding program there.
Well, I had imported a stallion by Fire Water Flit, his name is Firewater Fast. He was winning everything in Europe and winning big so I thought this was my chance to try and rodeo in USA. I had always heard that you only get one great horse in your life and I knew he was it. So in February of 2010 I shipped him back to USA and my plan was to rodeo on him and hopefully get close to qualifying for the NFR. Shortly after I had returned to the USA my husband started going with another women, so I divorced him and planned on staying in Texas. I was happy there, a friend of mine from Italy was letting me use his facility in Valley View. I had use of a beautiful house, barn, arena and my business was doing great. My barn was full of horses for my European customers and I was actually very happy being away from Italy and back in my home country. As for my stallion, he fell at a WPRA rodeo in Weatherford, Texas and tore his sacroiliac ligament in his back. I was really sad at first, but I believe that God does everything for a reason, so I headed back to my friends ranch in Texas and focused on futurity horses instead of rodeo. It was there that I met my current fiancé Jake. He was originally from Brazil and had been a horseshoer in Texas for the past 18 years. In 2011 he was ready to go back home and leave horseshoeing behind to be a rancher in Brazil. So, here we go again, another man asking me to move to another country. I was a bit skeptical, but the difference this time was that I was truly in love with this man and I was scared to lose him. My stallion had qualified for Brazil, so I sent him there to wait for me to arrive. So now, I have Firewater Fast, and my soul mate in an amazing country. I thank God everyday for injuring my horse because I am truly in love and happy; and now both me and Firewater Fast are living a dream life.
How many barrel horses do you have now? Tell us a little bit about your main mounts…
When I arrived in Brazil I only had my injured stallion. I was blessed to be able to sell half of him to the number one breeder in Brazil, Paulo Farha and his ranch Fazenda Caruana. So Fast stayed with him and is used just for breeding. He did run at the 2012 Congress here in Brazil and tied for second place, so he proved himself here also, but now he is officially retired.
As for my other horses, I spent last year training some Brazilian bred horses and importing some young American horses. Now, I pretty much just have the American horses to ride. Currently I am training a daughter of Frenchmans Guy and a son of VF The Rock Crusher for the 2013 futurities. As for Open horses I have my daughter of Fire Water Flit that I also ran in Europe, and recently purchased a Dash Ta Fame mare from Jeanette Nelson.
You have such an interesting story, barrel racing in three different countries, the U.S. Italy and now Brazil. What are the biggest differences in the sport in each country?
All in all, it is about the same. There are great horses in each country and each country has some different rules. If I had to give you an order of difficulty, meaning which place is the toughest to compete, it would be 1. Brazil 2. USA 3. Italy.
Italy has a lot of hard ground and small arenas. A 2 or 3D horse from USA or Brazil can be competitive there if they are good in those conditions. Italian horses tend to get more nervous and have more gate issues. I think that is because of the pressure and the stress of the culture there. Everyone is in a hurry and they put that stress onto their horse.
Brazil has a lot of big arenas with deep ground. The bigger shows take better care of the ground, but the local smaller shows usually only drag after 10 and the ground is deep. You rarely see any horses with gate issues. Most go right in. I think this is because you can go inside of the arena and wait for your turn. So if they drag every 5, those 5 can enter the arena and wait for their turn. Many people think that this is dangerous, but really the arenas here are enormous and there is plenty of room for everyone. And the culture here is more laid back and I think that passes on to the horses also.
The biggest difference I see between the USA and Italy compared to Brazil, is that in Brazil there are more professionals competition. USA and Italy usually if you own a horse you compete on it, but Brazil is opposite. The majority of people in Brazil have a trainer and the trainer takes care of the horse, competes on the horse and the owner usually only rides it in the Amateur, Youth, or Female category. The Open classes are tough here because 90% of the riders are professional trainers.
This is just the beginning with Shannon….stay tuned for much more!
Click here to learn more about Shannon’s operation in Brazil!
*pictures posted with permission from Shannon