Kentucky native, Kati Myers, now Kati Ream, has horses in her blood. Growing up with a family immersed in all things equestrian, she took a passion from an early age and pursued competitive barrel racing—and the rest, as she says, is history.

Today, Kati and her husband Tyler travel from rodeo to rodeo, working and riding on the SEBRA circuit, with Kati and her experienced partner Odie picking up a few championship and year-end titles along the way.

Whether you’re a devoted barrel racer or new to the sport, Kati provides something to learn for everyone and lends insight into the many reasons why she loves all that barrel racing has to offer—and why you will, too:

NF Style: How did you get involved with horses?

Kati Ream: My roots are deep with horses. My father and grandfather are both horse traders so from a young age I was always on the back of a horse. My sister and I would ride whatever my father had around at the time, from ponies to draft horses. I loved them all. Being a horse trader’s daughter made me really appreciate a good horse but it also made me learn from the “not so good ones” as well!

I really commend my dad and grandfather for instilling the love of horses in me. I really could not imagine my life without horses in it.

What was it about barrel racing that interested you enough to want to pursue the sport yourself?

There is a local saddle club in Scottsville, Kentucky, where I grew up at, that held shows every Friday night during the summer. We would always take our ponies or horses we had at the time to compete in the classes.

Barrel racing was my favorite. I knew I wanted to do it competitively. It was an adrenaline rush. You and your equine athlete really had to be in tune with one another. I got the “barrel racing bug” and never looked back.

My husband came into my life and really made pursuing an amateur rodeo career a reality. He rode saddle bronc horses at the time, and we were constantly traveling. We finally found the right horse for me to compete.

We now go to most of the rodeos together. He works as the pick-up man for a couple stock contractors and I barrel race competitively within the SEBRA rodeo association. I have plans to buy my Midstates card this upcoming year, as well.

What do you think the biggest misconception is about barrel racing by people who don’t know the sport well?

I think the biggest misconception is that it is a really easy sport. Barrel racing is much more than turning three barrels. It takes time, effort, and hard work. Since I also work full time, there are times when I am at the barn until midnight working with my horses. As I stated earlier, you really have to be in tune with your equine athlete. So for those that think it’s “easy” or “simple,” ask an avid barrel racer that question.

Is there a common mistake you often see in barrel racing that you’d like to see corrected?

Mistakes are going to happen regardless of any discipline, but the biggest mistake in my eyes are the people that take it out on their animals after a bad run. Correction and discipline are necessary especially if you want to win, but when it is in done in anger and frustration, that is when I see a problem. These animals are phenomenal and we should treat them that way even after an unfulfilling performance.

What is your absolute favorite part about barrel racing?

There is so much to love about the sport of barrel racing. Obviously, my horses are very important to me, but I also love the people I have met while competing in barrel racing. I like to call them my “rodeo family.” We all compete against one another, but I know that any of those girls would give the shirt off their backs for their fellow competitors. The close friendships I have made will last a lifetime. For that I am very thankful.

Is there a specific facet of training that you believe really makes the difference in how far a horse can go in this sport?

There are so many different training techniques in today’s barrel horse world. Sometimes horses need different “training techniques” throughout their performance career to help them fix a problem.

The one thing that I believe is most important is a barrel horse’s mental health. I think more often than not, we get so caught up in the horses’ physical conditions and their performances on the pattern that we often times forget to let them be horses.

Trail rides or exercises that help clear their minds are very important to me. I believe keeping a barrel horse sound “mentally” can really help them have a long, successful career.

Is there a particular horse that you’ve ridden/competed with that has taught you the most or do they each teach you something different?

My main horse is Wonder if I Won, an 18-year-old sorrel gelding that is Wonder Otoe bred. Everyone knows him by his barn name “Odie Coyote.” This horse has taught me so much in the past three years of owning him.

He came into my life rather unexpectedly. Odie had a history of gate issues, trouble on the pattern, and came with a huge sarcoid on his neck. He wasn’t necessarily on the top of anyone’s list of favorite horses.

My husband and I just took a chance on him in hopes of helping him overcome his problems. I am so glad we did. He has taught me so much about trust, love, winning, losing, and so much more. I believe God knew what he was doing when he placed him in to my life. He needed me and I needed him.

After a wonderful season in 2014, he was voted SEBRA Horse of the Year. That meant so much to me. This January, we will go to our third SEBRA National Finals in the barrel racing where they take the top 20 girls. Every day is an absolute blessing with him. I recently bought another horse to help lighten his load next summer, but I hope to have him in my trailer for years to come.

Are there any forthcoming changes within the barrel racing community that you are excited about seeing put into action?

I mainly compete in the SEBRA circuit but I have plans to also buy my Midstates card this year. I can say that I rodeo with a great group of girls. Every year I hope that there are more rodeos added to the schedule to bring our great sport to communities everywhere.

What advice do you have for riders who are just beginning their journeys into barrel racing or who are interested in the sport?

Don’t give up. Set yourself an attainable goal and never be too proud to ask for help. Barrel racing is a humbling sport. You must have the passion, desire, and motivation to achieve your goals in this game.

The great thing about barrel racing is there are multiple events and associations out there for beginners to professionals. If you’re interested in the sport of barrel racing, go online and find associations close to you. There are many people within this industry that would be more than willing to help someone who is interested in this wonderful sport.

Photos courtesy of Kati Ream by Midwest Sports Photography and Diamond J Photography