DEADWOOD — Working toward next year serves as the focus these days for Gonzales, La., barrel racer Sarah Rose Waguespack.

She began Thursday’s barrel racing slack by turning in a time of 18.74 seconds. That time was not what she wanted, but she used the Days of ’76 Rodeo as an opportunity to break in a younger, 5-year-old horse.

 “We didn’t have the turns I wanted, but it’s just part of seasoning them and getting them used to the rodeos,” Waguespack said.

She will continue doing that hard seasoning work. “Eventually, it might be able to just all come together,” she said.  

Waguespack started competing professionally in 2014 and earned the WPRA Rookie of the Year honor. She has also experienced quite a bit of change.

“I had an awesome horse that I started out rodeoing on,” she recalled. “I lost her (to death in January 2017), so I’ve kind of had different horses.”

The horse named Fame Fling N Bling helped Waguespack reach the National Finals Rodeo in 2015 and 2016.

Waguespack regards the current process with her 5-year-old horse as essentially “starting over.” She said this horse has been performing well.

“I like horses that have a lot of grit and have some spunk,” she said. “She always tries hard.”

Waguespack entered many barrel racing events before turning pro. She did not compete in high school or college because the sport was not as big in her native Georgia (Brunswick) as it was elsewhere.

“My horse did really well at all of the barrel races,” she said. “That’s why I started and ventured out to the rodeos in 2013.”

The high level of competition at the professional level particularly appeals to Waguespack.

“It’s the best of the best and makes you want to do better,” she said. “That’s why we ride every day at home, try to stick with it, and keep learning.”

Her biggest challenge centers on there being no room for error. She cited the importance of having a terrific horse and having a bond with it.

Other Days of ’76 Rodeo fans recognize the name Tyler Waguespack. He competes in steer wrestling and is Sarah Rose’s husband.

Tyler invited Sarah Rose to join him at some rodeos. That presented an opportunity to watch him, get with her horse, and test the horse.

She credited his calming influence with aiding her mental state regarding rodeo.

“You just do your best,” she said. “If it doesn’t work out, you practice some more and try to go into your next run with a positive attitude.”

Waguespack won the Days of ’76 barrel racing event in 2016 and usually competes here.

“This arena is cool, like the arena is wooden,” Waguespack said when asked what sets Deadwood apart from other stops. “The scenery is awesome; the vibe is back to the historic rodeo feel.”

Waguespack said everyone is trying to do their best during the COVID-19 pandemic. She added the contenders want to keep going.

Many rodeos were cancelled over an eight- to 10-week time frame. She spent a lot of that time working at home, riding many young horses, and giving lessons.

“Rodeos started back after we knew more about it,” Waguespack said in describing the virus. She added everyone was naturally cautious at first, and everyone tries to be smart about the situation.

Waguespack planned to compete in Fredonia, Kan., on Saturday.

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