New Castle woman and her horse ride in style
NEW CASTLE, Colorado – During the work week, Jeanne Jolley of New Castle is a part-time emergency room nurse at Grand River Hospital in Rifle, a rancher’s wife and the mother of two young children.But on the weekends, she puts on another kind of hat – a cowgirl one.Jolley, 37, has been riding horses since she was a child, but this year took up barrel racing – a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt in the fastest time to complete a pattern around three 50-pound barrels set in a cloverleaf pattern.”I got into it when my husband got me a barrel horse for Christmas (2007),” Jolley said with a big smile.”Jet” is a 15-year-old, black male Appendix Quarter Horse. His full name is “Jet’s Christmas Surprise.”Jolley is a member of the Mile Hi Barrel Horse Association, which is also affiliated with Racing in the Rockies – although the two are separate organizations.
Jolley travels throughout the state competing in barrel racing series competitions and has done pretty well for herself. In the last few weeks, she’s won first, second and fourth place in various competitions and in her division. In the larger competitions, prizes can include up to $50,000 in cash winnings.”In the series, you work for points,” Jolley said. “At the end of the year, you win buckles, saddles and sometimes even trucks. Local rodeos don’t really pay out that much, but in this series, you’re playing with the big girls.”And while the competition is tough, Jolley is feeling confident.”I’m still in the lower end of things, but I’m coming on strong,” she said. “I’m doing really well.”And then she added, “I want a buckle and a saddle.”The barrel racing competitions are mainly women, although there are a few men who compete as well. And the age range of competitors varies from little kids to senior citizens.Little kids, some as young as 3, are led around the barrels on a rope by their parents. And then there are the 50-plus women. “Some of those girls can flat out rock,” Jolley said, shaking her head. “They’re amazing.”The horses often get to speeds of more than 25 miles per hour while going through the barrels. Both the horses and the riders have to be in tiptop shape to compete.”These horses are treated better than some people’s dogs,” Jolley admitted. “They’re very well taken care of because they’re athletes.”
Jolley herself is also in good shape since training as a rodeo rider.”I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, in my life,” she said with a broad grin. “You use your core muscles for balance and your leg muscles for hanging on.”Jolley competes in the “open” division, where there is no age restriction.”The classes are pretty big – some have more than 200 (competitors,)” she said.And speaking of big, the horse trailer/camper in which she travels is no small thing. In fact, it comes with all the amenities one might find in a regular home.The model is called the “Elite Living Quarters,” and elite it is.The back of the trailer is equipped for the horse, complete with shavings that make it comfortable on the horse’s feet while it travels, along with a storage area for tack and saddles. The front of the trailer includes a couch, refrigerator/freezer, sink, microwave, television, DVD player, stereo, bathroom with shower, closet, double bed on a loft, heating and air conditioning.And if you open the bathroom cabinet, there’s an array of glitzy cowgirl jewelry.”I don’t know too many cowgirls who don’t like their bling,” Jolley said with a laugh.
Jolley’s 1-year-old West Highland Terrier, Gracey, travels with her in the trailer everywhere she goes.”She’s my little rodeo companion,” she said.The series circuit runs year-round, and on this particular morning, Jolley is getting ready to go, taking her two children, Garrett, 11, and Rebecca, 8, along with her. Her husband, Brett, typically stays at home to tend the family’s ranch.The couple are both born and raised in New Castle. Jeanne Jolley grew up right behind Harvey Gap and is a 1990 graduate of Rifle High School.”My family has been here forever,” she said. “My mom and brother live in New Castle, and sometimes my mom and stepdad come with to the rodeos.”At 30, Jolley went to Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs and Mesa State College in Grand Junction full time to get her nursing degree.”I’m a late bloomer,” Jolley shrugged. “Between the emergency room and rodeo, I guess I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie. But I love to help people. And my nursing helps at the rodeo, too. If someone gets hurt, I can be there until an ambulance arrives.”And when she’s not nursing or on the rodeo circuit, Jolley helps her husband out on the ranch, feeding horses, putting up hay, irrigating and fixing fences.”My philosophy is that I burn my candles on both ends and I just keep asking for more wax,” she said with a hearty laugh.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.