First in the north
A few years ago Gaylene Fasselin Buff was at a rodeo watching professional barrel racing. She had done it as a kid and on the Carbon High Rodeo team back in the 1990's, but had never done it professionally.
"I told my husband I wanted to do it again, but professionally the next year," she said. "And so I did."
More importantly, within a few years of starting into competing with professionals, she won the Canadian Ladies Barrel Racing Championship this past November. It was one crowning achievement for someone so new to the sport professionally. But she thinks she could have done even better than that if the circumstances had been different, and her horse Vador had not been injured.
"I would have liked to win the American championship too," she said with a light in her eyes. "And I like to think I would have if I could have competed."
In the world of barrel racing there are superstars, just like in every sport. In the case of barrel racing two of the best are Brittany Pozzi and Lindsey Sears. They both competed in the Canadian Championship and Buff out did them, taking the crown.
Pozzi went on to take the American nationals a few weeks later. The record, based on the Canadian competition, says that had Buff competed she could have won.
Buff was raised in Carbon County, growing up riding a horse on the family ranch on Soldier Creek Road and in Nine Mile Canyon where the family runs cattle. It was there she began to learn and master the world of horses and what they could do.
In 1998 she and her husband moved to British Columbia and started a logging and sawmill operation. Living just north of Vancouver in a town called Westwold, her interest in horses never went away.
"The business is my day job," she stated. "I do the books. It is also what helps support the barrel racing. There are competitions all over and I go to a lot of them in the west. The season in Canada starts in March and goes until October. Then the finals are in November."
She says that the winnings she takes home helps but it is an expensive endeavor. She has looked at some sponsorships, but worries about what tying up with a sponsor might mean.
"You know if I couldn't do as well as they expected I would feel very bad about taking their money," she explained. "I don't know if I would want that kind of situation."
This year, she and 11 others qualified for the Canadian finals, including a number of Americans.
"I think that I had an advantage going into the finals that wouldn't seem like one to most people," she said. "My horse, Vador was hurt a couple of months before the season ended and I had to use my other horse (a cold named Duke) to finish the season. Vador was better by the finals, but he hadn't really done much since he was injured. But that rest time he had, I think, ended up being an advantage. While many of the competitors had horses that were tired from the season, Vador was fresh from his two months off."
But it wasn't always so with Vador, who is now 11. When she first got him she had a hard time getting him to run the barrels right.
"My uncle, who is a professional horse trainer in Canada told me Vador was a pickle and I should get rid of him," she said. "Others told me the same thing."
But she saw something in him no one else saw and while home for a couple of weeks she was in Nine Mile Canyon one day and looked up at the cliffs and the beautiful scenery.
"It inspired me and I said to myself that Vador could be a winner," she said. "I wasn't going to give up on him."
So she ignored all the advice she had been getting and took Vador right into the finals.
Buff's training regimen is important. She rides each of her three horses an hour a day each, six days a week. Then of course there is the competitions she goes to.
"They are getting some time off in the next couple of weeks because I am here for the holidays," she said as she sat in her parents living room in Carbon County. "But as soon as I get back we will get right after it."
The American season is coming up quickly; it starts in January and runs late into the fall. She wants to compete in a lot of races this year, and hopes she can make it to the nationals as well as the Canadian Championships this year. She plans to mix races from both countries together.
"Last year we started early in New Mexico and I want to get started early again this year," she stated. "And I plan to maintain my Canadian title and make it to the nationals here this year."