By Jolee Jordan
Montgomery, Alabama — The last couple of years have been rough on Tiany Schuster. Despite a lot of talent in her barn, she was bit with the injury blues.
“I’ve just been sitting home, going to Wal-Mart,” jokes Schuster, who has made a career of raising and training top barrel horses. She got out of the breeding business a few years back with an eye on taking a shot at the rodeo road.
Though she had wins here and there, she has been unable to make a serious run.
“I’ve always had capable horses,” notes Schuster, whose first name is pronounced Tee-ah-nee, “but this is the first time I’m actually going to go.”
Her change in luck began in January with the acquisition of a horse called JR.
“We tried to buy him a couple of times,” says Schuster of the eight year old gelding who is registered JSYK Im Famous—which Schuster says stands for ‘just sayin’, ya know?’
Ironically, Schuster had never seen the horse run but her boyfriend and fellow barrel racer Edwin Cameron watched JR and Courtney Roberts set an arena record at the AQHA Congress in 2014.
Schuster’s career changed on a January day when Roberts texted her that she was ready to sell.
“I had just dropped Edwin off at the airport and I just about wrecked the car trying to call her back,” laughs Schuster. With a quick call to Cameron, the deal was made and the horse was delivered to Schuster who now makes her home in Krum, Texas.
“I didn’t even know what the horse looked like; I was like, ‘which one is my horse?” Schuster jokes.
With just a few days to get in sync with her new mount, Schuster breezed the gelding through at home and was incredibly impressed with what she felt. When Cameron returned, she had him take the horse through as well.
“I told him, ‘you need to ride him.’ And then I said, ‘don’t fall off,’” she laughs. “He’s got a move at the third barrel where he sucks it back and comes around. I told Edwin, ‘I’m not kidding!”
Cameron didn’t hit the dirt but he sure got a taste of that move which Schuster called a “Firewater Flit move.”
“He runs just like a Firewater Flit,” says Schuster. JR is by Famous JR out of the Firewater Flit mare Firewater Fueled. He literally came with a stack of accomplishments.
“Courtney sent me a stack of everything the horse had won; there was a slew of things, I can’t even name them all,” says Schuster.
With an entry at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo looming, Schuster decided to prepare harder than year’s past for her appearance.
“I was tired of being a loser and getting embarrassed there. I went every night I could get in the pen and rode. I needed to do my homework.”
Though Cameron was suggesting she ride another horse, Born ta Fame, and Schuster herself was leaning toward Hoosier Fame, the late night practice sessions had the jockey leaning toward her new mount.
It turned out to be a great choice as JR and Schuster placed in both rounds and finished fifth in the average, getting her winter off to a solid start.
With solid runs throughout the winter, Schuster was already knocking at the door of the top 15 when the St. Patrick’s Day weekend began.
Schuster started on Wednesday morning during slack at the Southeastern Livestock Show in Montgomery, Ala. Schuster had run in the arena in the past when she lived in Louisiana and liked the setup.
“We had a solid run, nothing fantastic,” says Schuster of her time of 14.33 seconds. “Our first was awesome but the third was not our best. I thought it could be beat.”
Next began the adventure of getting to Mercedes, Texas for slack the following morning. Heavy rains and flooding had closed down the interstate and drivers were being routed through Shreveport, several hours out of the way.
Knowing her way around, Schuster opted to head through Lake Charles and detour south to the Gulf of Mexico before making her way back onto the needed route. Her trip began at noon and ended at 5 A.M. the next day.
“I was one exhausted puppy,” says Schuster. JR on the other hand, was fired up. “He was wired for sound and he’s not usually on his toes that much. I wasn’t sure if he was that fired up or I was just that tired.”
Along the road to Mercedes, Schuster put a call into her friend and veterinarian, Double X Equine’s Dr. Don Lee, asking for help.
“I was struggling to get a good third barrel, so I asked Don if it was the horse or if I was just riding that bad,” she laughs. “He said he would look at him when we got home.”
Laughing that she told the doctor he could tell her if she was just riding poorly, Schuster decided she needed to be less aggressive to her third barrel.
“I need to try to ride quiet . . . channel my inner Mary Walker,” she joked. “At least what I think Mary does instead of Tiany’s electric rear end!”
“It worked! In Mercedes, we had the best run we’ve made, period. He had a phenomenal third barrel; he ate it up,” says Schuster of her 14.78 second effort at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“I’ve left winning first at a lot of rodeos and not actually won first much, but at Mercedes I felt we might actually win,” says Schuster who is sponsored by Cowgirl Couture and Brazilian Saddles. “I thought, if they are going to beat me, they’re going to have to come and get it.”
Next up was a Friday morning slack run at Goliad. Another solid effort left Schuster winning first there as well with a run of 15.39 seconds.
As Schuster headed home for a well earned rest, some of the best of the WPRA took their shots at her. As it turned out, none could beat her, anywhere. At Mercedes, no one came within two tenths while the margins in Montgomery and Goliad were much slimmer.
Schuster banked a total of $5,325 to jump to 14th in the current WPRA World standings. Schuster is riding a high—her horse Sweet Choco Taco recently won $100,000 at the Diamonds & Dirt Futurity Slot Race with jockey Ryann Pedone, a win she watched on her cell phone from a rodeo.
“It’s like, the best 10 days of my life,” joked Schuster. “I really don’t know what to do.”
Schuster gives credit to Roberts, who owned JR and did most of the work in preparing the gelding to be a superstar.
“Courtney did an amazing job . . . I can’t give her enough props.”
Schuster also credits JR who she says is a perfect fit for her style and is the nicest horse she’s ridden.
“He’s so easy; he loves his job and he knows he’s a winner. He’s like, ‘I am here, be in my presence,’” she laughs. “No one wants to hear about me, it’s all about him.”
Schuster has runs this week in Texas including a stop at RodeoAustin and plans to head west for the spring run in California with a hopeful eye on the future.
“Things have always happened in the past but this horse is legit. He’s smart, he handles all type of ground . . . he’s the whole package.”
For more information on the Mercedes event, visit them on-line at www.rgvls.com and for info on the Southeastern Livestock Expo, visit www.slerodeo.com. For information on the Goliad County Fair and Rodeo, please visit www.stxmaps.com.
Courtesy of WPRA