La. couple trains quarter horses
ST. MARTINVILLE, La. -- Trudy Bulliard doesn't have any fond childhood memories of playing with dolls or fantasy tea parties -- only horse play. She took her first pony ride at the age of 2 and couldn't leave its side. At an early age, she starte...
ST. MARTINVILLE, La. -- Trudy Bulliard doesn't have any fond childhood memories of playing with dolls or fantasy tea parties -- only horse play. She took her first pony ride at the age of 2 and couldn't leave its side. At an early age, she started competing and showing horses.
Little has changed for the 50-year-old horse trainer. There is still a lot of boisterous play in Bulliard's life. Much of her time is spent with her husband, Mike, at their backyard horse arena breaking and training quarter horses or traveling to performance shows.
The Bulliards have trained and sold more than 80 quarter horses for the performance industry, some earning titles in top futurity and derby national competitions. Some of the quarter horse reiners trained by the Bulliards went to Italy, Germany and France, while others remained in the U.S. and went on to make names for themselves and their owners.
Reining is designed to show off ranch-style skills in a show arena. Horses are trained to perform precise patterns of spins, circles and stops -- including the dramatic sliding stop, in which the hindquarters slide while the forelegs "walk" forward.
"When you buy a young horse, you don't know if it will work out. We've had six quarter horses that have worked out really well and have ended up being sold overseas. They stay here with their trainers for show competitions and as they get older they return to their overseas owners," she says.
"Many that we've trained didn't make it as reiners so we put the horses in a discipline that suits them and they usually excel and make great horses for years. Some are sold as roping horses, ranch horses and barrel horses."
One of the couple's first horses "Sugar Jodie Doll" qualified as a 2-year-old for the American Quarter Horse Association World Show with Trudy Bulliard training and showing the horse.
After being sold to a buyer in Italy and performing with renowned trainer Clint Haverty, Sugar Jodie Doll captured the Texas Breeder Cup, Ardmore Futurity and made the National Reining Horse Association Futurity 3-year-old finals.
"This mare helped to put Clint's name out as one of the top trainers in the National RRHA industry," Bulliard says.
A colt, "Sugar Two Step Annie," bred from the Bulliards' quarter horse "Cutter Sandy Dee," went on to the AQHA Reining Youth World Championships with owner Quincey Kayhill to win the world title for three consecutive years.
Mike Bulliard, 54, says he was exposed to horses during his childhood and did some riding, but never really got involved in show performances until he met his wife. Now they share a passion that sometimes takes them to different parts of the country at different times.
"He may be on one side of the country participating in a reining competition and I may be on the other end competing in barrel racing, but we both support each other and try to make as many of each other shows as much as possible," Trudy Bulliard says.
"This is one time that criticism from a spouse can be a good thing. We watch and criticize each other so we can keep improving," she says.
For the Bulliards, competition in the arena is not as much about beating the scores of other competitors, but achieving their own personal goals.
"We're not worried about the competitors. We work to improve our own score on the next run to try to better ourselves. Usually everything else comes together," he says.
The St. Martinville couple has high expectations for "Shiners Classy Chic," "CC," who will make her first appearance at a NARA futurity show in July. The Bulliards are hoping CC will qualify for the reining event in the national competition in Oklahoma City in November.
Although the hobby can be time consuming and expensive, the Bulliards say there is a chance to earn some prize money awarded at the competitions and with the sale of a quality quarter horse.
"Punk," one of the quarter horses that has excelled in futurity and derby performances, has earned Mike Bulliard more than $39,000. "Ramsey," a 4-year-old shown by Trudy Bulliard has brought in more than $30,000 in winnings.
"A good quality quarter horse that has excelled in competition can be sold for $40,000 to as much as $100,000," he says.
The Bulliards hope their grandchildren will one day share their passion and love for horses.
In the pasture
As a young child, Bulliard says she and her sisters regularly chose horses for playtime.
"Instead of playing with dolls, we were out in the pasture playing with horses. We just weren't doll people. When we'd play games like hide and seek and tag, it was on horses," she says.
Her desire to compete in performances and show horses started early.
"I remember when I was 10 or so, and my sisters and I wanted to compete in the small horse show in St. Martinville, but we had no way to haul the horses to the competition so we'd ride them through town to the show. On a good day, we'd ride back home with trophies in hand," she says.
"My grandfather would always make us ride with a saddle, but when we'd get to the show we would take it off so we could be faster."
Trudy Bulliard says she still enjoys the thrill of competing in reining and barrel racing events, even if it means losing to a 10 or 12-year old horseman.
"It can be frustrating to lose to a 10- or 12-year-old when you're competing in an open division. They may weigh 80 or 90 pounds, so it makes for a tough competition," she says.
Bulliard has no intention of letting age stop her from competing at her present level.
"Barrel racing takes a lot of strength and there is a risk of getting hurt. It crosses my mind every year if this will be the last year that I will be able to compete, but my body will tell me when to stop and right now it is saying to keep enjoying what I love to do," she says.
"There are many other women like me in this industry at this age that pretty much feel the same way."