The lyrics to Hadley Murphy’s song might not fit Chris LeDoux’s lamentation of the loved one left behind while he chases the buckle every cowboy – or cowgirl – covets. The rodeo, in this instance, had to wait on Hadley.
There is college, of course. Murphy is a senior at Winona State studying mathematics and statistics. More significant to the delay, however, was Murphy’s horse, SecretsforAshley. Ashley, as she’s more commonly called, was not ready for competitive barrel racing when Murphy acquired her in September of 2009.
“She wasn’t as seasoned as I would have liked,” Murphy said.”She had been working on barrels and knew where to put her feet. She did everything correctly, but I still had to put speed in her.”
Even that had to wait. Ashley developed an abscess in her hind left ankle shortly after joining Hadley and underwent surgery to clean out the tendon sheath, sidelining her for three months. Hadley now considers the delay a blessing in disguise. “She was laid up for three months and it gave me time to get to know her personality,” she said.
What there was no doubt about whatsoever from day one was that Ashley, now 13, would thrive in a second profession after originally leaving the race track at age five.
Ashley has demonstrated a clear preference for being first in just about anything you care to name. She demands to be first out of the barn in the morning and the first in at night. She insists on being the first to be fed or there is nothing short of a brouhaha in the barn.
Hadley, a native of Rochester, describes this characteristic of her beloved Ashley in no uncertain terms. “She’s definitely a high maintenance horse,” she said. It is apparent that Ashley is willing to give as well.
After a career at Canterbury Park and a 12-0-0-2 record, this daughter of the thoroughbred Champagneforashley from the quarter horse dam Secret Sounds has taken to her new occupation with a relish.
The summer of 2010, Hadley and Ashley competed at the 4 Star Challenge in Cannon Falls. They finished third overall in their first run, second overall with their second run. Ashley was demonstrating on the job improvement.
Then, in 2011, Hadley purchased her Pro Rodeo card. She and Ashley began learning about life on the rodeo circuit.
There were, and still are, plenty of Jack Pot competitions, limited exclusively to barrel racing, of course, without the hoopla of the rodeo itself.
Ashley began showing her stuff in September of 2011 when she and Hadley took first place against 150 riders at the Barrel Blitz in Deerfield, Wis. They qualified for the WPRA Finals in Lincoln, Nebraska, and made it to the final round there.
This year, Hadley has been giving Ashley a larger taste of rodeo life. “I’ve taken her to a couple more rodeos,” she said.”She’s still scared to death of the bulls and she can’t handle it when the cowboys pass by swinging their ropes. She gets a little flighty. It’s like I’m on a different horse at the rodeo than at an event with just barrel racing.”
There is another difference, too.
“At the rodeos, we’re running with the big dogs,” Hadley said.
Despite Ashley’s restive reaction to the rodeo, she’s all business when it’s show time. “When we’re coming down the alleyway, she’s all focused. She blocks everything out,” Hadley said.
She is willing to learn, too.
“My first rodeo this year in Madison, we were two out of placing,” Hadley said.”A couple of weeks ago in Nebraska, we were one out of placing. We’re running against some of the toughest out there and she’s really matured. I’m proud of her.”
Ashley is most content when in the company of her friend, Little Beauty, a miniature horse Hadley purchased as a companion. “They are really buddies. They took to each other almost from the start,” she explained. “She’s small enough that she can fit underneath Ashley in the trailer when we travel. I thought about getting her a goat, except that I don’t like goats.”
Horses have been part of Hadley’s life since early childhood. “I’ve been riding since I was probably three or four,” she said.
So how did a girl from Southern Minnesota, who played soccer at Rochester Mayo, wind up on the rodeo circuit.
“Well, I don’t think I ever had a choice,” she said.”My mom (Jamie) did college and pro rodeos so I grew up traveling with her.”
So, maybe the lyrics to Hadley’s two-step aren’t all that different after all.
Although her goals are realistic – say, reaching the circuit finals in Louisville some year, does she ever let her mind wander to Las Vegas in December for the Super Bowl of rodeo, the NFR finals?
“Hey, yeah,” she said.”That’s every girl’s dream.”
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.