Savannah Antoniuk and her horse, Shorty, made a comeback this rodeo season after dealing with an injury and finding herself on the brink of quitting.
They went on to accomplish their barrel racing goal of placing at the Wildrose Rodeo Association (WRA) finals in Barrhead.
“We had enough points and made finals at the end of the year. That was my first year ever making finals,” said Antoniuk.
For Shorty, her 11-year-old quarter horse, it was the first time competing at rodeos throughout the summer.
Antoniuk bought Shorty as an eight-year-old and he wasn’t yet barrel trained.
“He had never seen a barrel before. So between his eight-year-old year and now he’s 11, he’s come that far,” said Antoniuk proudly.
Antoniuk put a lot of work into getting him ready for the season, which made it extra special, she added.
“Shorty has a lot of heart and he’s very honest. He’ll run the same pattern every time, he doesn’t knock a barrel. We had an amazing year and I wouldn’t change a thing. Finals, we didn’t win it, but I’m so proud of him,” she said.
At the start of the season, Antoniuk took off with confidence in herself and Shorty.
“What I did differently this year was that I wasn’t nervous. I went in with confidence and I trusted my horse and it kind of worked out in our favour this year,” she said.
Antoniuk began riding when she was only seven years old and has participated in rodeos for nearly 12 years.
Due to her work she could only go to a rodeo every other weekend this summer, at which they placed well every time. All together, they made it out to 12 rodeos and placed at eight of them.
In the middle of the season, they hit a lull where they didn’t make the podium at two rodeos, which almost lead to Antoniuk quitting the season and trying again next year. Following those weekends, Shorty proved what he was made of at the Fairview and Manning rodeos.
“He placed really good at those two and that’s where it kind of turned around for us,” said Antoniuk.
Friends and family came to watch her compete at the Hinton rodeo, her hometown rodeo, when suddenly, she noticed something was off about Shorty. As she went to saddle up, she noticed the back of his front right leg was swollen, and she feared the worst.
Thinking he had a bowed tendon, which can mean torn tendon tissue, she scrambled for another horse to ride on during the Hinton rodeo.
“I thought my season was going to be over because I was in the 10th spot at that point and they only take the top ten to the final,” she said.
She found out his injury was only minor and caused by fraying his tendon sheath, so she gave him time off to rest and heal. After a month off, and missing numerous rodeos, he came back strong.
“I pulled him out to run at Westlock and Fort Assiniboine so I wouldn’t lose my spot for finals and he ended up winning Westlock Rodeo and he placed at Fort Assiniboine after that,” said Antoniuk.
“It was kind of a Cinderella story because he’d been placing, got hurt and we still made finals.”
After those rodeos he had another three weeks off until facing the competition at the WRA finals in Barrhead. At finals, they placed and won money in three of the five rounds, as well as placing second in the average, she said.
Her goals for next year are to make it to the WRA finals again and she’s thinking about aiming for the Lakeland Rodeo Association (LRA) finals as well.