Sitting in third position in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association standings, with $25,996.67 won, is Stacey Ruzicka. With her mare Known to be Wild CS, aka Bay Kaye, who is by Known For Dash out of Running Wild Annie, a Page oh Bobby mare. Together they won La Crete Field of Dreams Stampede, Bruce Stampede, Teepee Creek Stampede, Innisfail Pro Rodeo, Hand Hills Lake Stampede, & the Leduc Black Gold Pro Rodeo. Wow.
Stacey grew up in Viking, Alberta being around Percherons and Quarter Horses that her Grandpa and Uncle’s raised. It was her Uncle John who got her hooked on the need for speed by taking her to roping jackpots and putting her on his many rope horses to run barrels.
At 15 years old, Stacey made her first LRA Finals. Fast forward over twenty years later and she is competing against Canadas best, showing not only that we should never give up on our dreams, and that when the timing is right, and with hard work and dedication you can achieve them.
“Making the CFR has always been a dream since I was little and I thought unattainable for me. Finances, getting time off work, and to afford to go, (which I’m so grateful to my dental office in Ponoka for giving me this opportunity to follow my dream) I finally gave it a shot after years of people telling me to go. I just didn’t think we’d “have it”. I mean, all these years of watching and in awe of all the gals who’ve been there and never did I think I’d be “one of them”! At the beginning of the year I started going to the amateur ones and was doing good, then went to the first pro rodeo in Med Hat was was a couple tenths out and thought to myself, “yep, this is how it will be, just out of it” but I kept going. I had my Semi Pro gifted to me for Christmas from Kyle from winning the Lakeland Rodeo Association. When I start something, I was darn sure gonna finish it and if I’m going to go Pro, I’m going to GO! Two weeks in with a win in Leduc and Hand Hills I was like, holy s@$t, is this really happening to ME?! Six wins later, here I am and can’t wait for the ride! A very close friend and travelling partner Diane Skocdopole, (who used Kaye at the CFR last year in a few rounds) told me at the beginning of the year to “trust the process” and I’m so grateful for her that I did! She is a very special person whom I can’t thank enough for all she did for me this rookie year.
Stacey has had someone else riding beside her throughout this adventure.
“My Mom, Cathy who passed away suddenly in 2002, would have been the most proud of me. She hauled me to all the rodeos as a young teenager and I know she’s been with me on this journey. Without her I wouldn’t have even been down this path. Enjoy the ride mom.”
Where did you purchase/find Kaye?
I bought her from Melissa Anderson as a green broke 3 yr old that she had purchased from Colin Balan, her breeder. She is 15 now.
What kind of quirks does she have?
I’ve had her so long that all her quirks aren’t even quirks anymore, they are just her! She can get impatient at times (like her owner!haha) she gets along with all horses and hauls well with anyone too. She can get high headed while warming up sometimes and prance around but will always go to do her job. Her and I are so much alike, it’s scary!!
How would you describe your horses barrel racing style?
She is free running horse. She’s not one to get underneath herself and can shoot off a barrel like a rocket!
How have you and Kaye grown from last season?
Well we just know each other so well and I still learn from her. I try to stay out of her way and let her work….easier said than done sometimes. We will never stop growing, there’s always things we learn from each other. I think we both just trusted each other more this season and “went with it”.
What would you say is your horses weakness?
Mud! I hate mud and so does she, I don’t blame her one bit! She tries but would rather have ground she can get into.
Did you ever almost give up with Kaye?
Oh my that’s a huge subject! I had her for sale 3 years ago, because she just wasn’t herself…fat, depressed, irritable and no matter what I did she wouldn’t get in shape. Vets couldn’t find anything concrete and I couldn’t afford to keep trying things like injections that I just knew she didn’t need. I knew It was “something else”. I was just about to send her back to Colin Balan, her breeder to be a broodmare the following week when my friend and vet Bailey Stanton said, “no Stacey, you can’t give up on her!” Of course I didn’t want to but money was an issue. Bailey set us up to see her and Dr Renou and he agreed she was sound (as I already knew) and wanted to do one more test, more bloodwork for $400 I think. I said nope, I’m done! Then he said let’s try one medication, for her thyroid. I said how much?! It was $45/month and in 3 weeks my horse did a 360! That fall of 2017 I went to one of the last FCA rodeos and won 2nd with her still overweight, then tipped to win the next one. She was back and not even in good shape! I went on to win our second LRA championship in 2018 and had my horse back! She was Diane Skocdopole’s back up at CFR last year and helped her win second in the aggregate. I’m so thankful to have my horse back!!!
With all the miles made, varying ground conditions, and expenses, what kept the CFR dream alive for you this year?
Well I never imagined I’d be here my first year going Pro. I think a lot of other people believed in us and I really had no expectations. I just went and seen what would happen. Winning two in one weekend (Leduc and Hand Hills) were definitely highs and filling my card in the spring. I had been juggling amateur rodeos and was making it very stressful and hard to enter. Once I filled it I was committed and was letting what was meant to be, be. Going to places we’d never been before and winning were pretty cool, The lows were the mud, so much mud this season and we both don’t like mud.
What do you do to keep a sharp mental edge in the game of rodeo? How do you stay motivated throughout the season?
Just keep going, sometimes getting into a slump brings you down but always remember there’s bumps in the road that level out. Never give up, keep going and working hard for what you want.
What does your feed program look like, keeping your horses in peak condition going down the road and even in the off season?
I feed Calibre working horse ration from Co-op in Rimbey, CEP Impact lll, Crystal Crystal Creek Equine Products By Integrity Ranching Loose Mineral and hay.
What do you do to condition your horses leading up to the season, and what does your pre CFR routine consist of?
I mainly just exercise and where we live now has a gradual hill and that helps build muscle to help keep my horses strong. Pre CFR will be the same. I do very minimal barrel work and when I do it’s short and sweet. I want my horses to love their job and not drill daily.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been told regarding life, horses, rodeo or barrel racing?
My good friend whom I travelled with, Diane Skodocpole, told me in the spring sitting in my truck at an amateur rodeo I was in, to “Trust the process”
It worked and I have her to thank for all her advice and help this rookie year of mine! “Forward Forward Forward” Connie Combs “Give yourself permission to win” (Melissa Hollingsworth recently told me this) and lastly, “Do good, be safe, and don’t fall off” (boyfriend, Kyle Rock) was told or texted to me before each run!(haha)
What has been your most memorable run over the years?
Most memorable was my first win at Leduc and then Hand Hills the same weekend! Tears of “holy sh@$!” We just did that?! Most exciting was our Innisfail win by one one hundredth of a second. Another “holy sh@$!” moment! Each win brings tears to my eyes, even though I’m not a crier, I guess I did 6 times this summer! Haha. This horse is my everything and without her I wouldn’t be here.
What is the one thing you cannot live without on the road?
Ask any travelling partner of mine: pretzels, a shrimp ring, and some sort of fruity coolers!
If you could make a run on any one of the other CFR qualifiers horses which one would you choose and why?
I think it’d be cool to run any of them. They are so talented and so many different styles, it’d be a rush to jump on.
Who is your barrel racing idol?
Connie Combs, I have taken her clinics and can always hear her southern drawl while practicing. I wish she lived here, Kaye loves her voice just as much as I do!! Brook Robertson, one of my best friends who will tell you what you need to hear, good or bad, and she has always been in my corner for advice and confidence!
What would you be doing if you were not barrel racing/rodeoing?
Probably the same as I do now, dental assisting like I have for the past 22 years! I’m so fortunate with my new job this year to do both. I guess we that do this sport all know if we sold everything and didn’t spend money up and down the road all summer, we’d have a lot in our pockets to do anything, like travel the world I guess. For me, it’s what I love and am able to do now. My tattoo says, “live love ride” so that’s what I’m doing and am grateful I can live my dream of going the the CFR!
Favourite podcast to listen to on the road?
I haven’t even downloaded any, but have good intentions to next year after hearing Fallon Taylor’s travelling with Diane Skodpapole this summer. I really enjoyed her real life story from her accident to now and the obstacles she had to overcome.
Stacey would like to thank her sponsors, Brook Robertson With Arbonne and Seven Saddles, Bailey Stanton with Stanton Equine Veterinary, Hansbo Canada, Jenny Massing with CEP Canada, Evergreen Co-op Rimbey, Bronco Farm and Feed Supply in Rimbey, & Crystal Creek Equine Products By Integrity Ranching
*photo submitted by Stacey