Rodeo a family affair for Basalt barrel racer |

Rodeo a family affair for Basalt barrel racer

The horse-riding culture has flourished in the valley for years, and with the yearly progression of rodeos in both Snowmass and Carbondale evolving as a staple for evening fun throughout the summer months, it doesn’t take long before one develops a yearning to hop on a saddle themselves and discover the excitement behind the equestrian philosophy.

But try as you might, the act of competing in town rodeos commands a lot more than just a simple interest in horse riding; in fact, it takes a certain kind of individual to connect with an animal of such innate power and move it to greatness.

For two summers now, Basalt native Lauren Burtard has joined forces with her husband, Ty, and his parents to compete each week in both the Snowmass and Carbondale rodeos in an affair that not only brings the family closer with a shared love for the sport but drives her to fulfill a passion that’s sometimes beyond her understanding.

Snowmass Sun: How long have you been riding horses, and what sparked your interest to compete in the town rodeos?

Lauren Burtard: I have been riding since I took my first steps. Growing up in Basalt, my family had cattle, and living and interacting in an environment that was partial to horses and ranching made it easy for me to learn. When I was 11 years old, I started jumping and competing in horse shows, and since then my interest has only grown. After meeting my husband, Ty, and his family, who grew up in Carbondale and have been competing in the rodeos for a long time, I decided last summer to test my own skills in the arena and see what I could do.

SS: How many horses do you and your husband currently own? Which horse do you ride for rodeo competitions?

LB: We currently own four horses together, and the horse I ride for rodeos is a 9-year-old boy named Primo who I acquired from Ty’s family about 21/2 years ago. Primo was already trained for riding when I got him, so it didn’t take long for me to prepare him for barreling and roping in a competitive setting.

SS: Can you describe your initial feelings when you entered the rodeo for the first time? Is every experience the same? How have you or your horse Primo improved since you started last summer?

LB: I think what was most intimidating about the rodeos at first were the crowds of people combined with the judgments of the peers around me who had been doing it for a long time. I had the jitters going into it at first, and I know it wasn’t easy for Primo, who most likely sensed my nervousness. No, every experience is not the same — horses can be very unpredictable, and just when you think the horse has gotten to the level where he needs to be, things can take a turn and you can be right back at square one. I have to say Primo has improved a lot since we began, and I too have learned a lot by working with him. When we started, we had a barrel-racing score of 22 seconds, and now we are at 19 seconds, so I think we’ve come a long way.

SS: What is your daily routine as far as getting Primo prepared for the competitions? What would you say is the most important aspect for maintaining a good horse?

LB: I make sure I ride Primo at least once a day, whether on a trail or on our property, and we always train together before rodeo nights to work on trouble areas to get him ready to compete. I would say most important for maintaining a good horse is consistency, such as feeding them at the same time every day, and also keeping up with training and exercise, especially if they are competing.

SS: Would you say participating in the town rodeos has given you a perspective beyond what you knew going into it? What’s it like riding with the entire family, and what do you see for your future in horse riding?

LB: Yes, unlike horseback riding, which tends to be easygoing, the rodeo inspires a lot of adrenaline and skill beyond the simple act of sitting on a saddle. You really have to be in tune with the horse and understand the nature of the animal, and I think if anything the rodeo has humbled me just by being out there. Riding with the family has been a great bonding experience, and I love that we all share a passion for the sport. If Primo and I start winning checks at the rodeo (cash prize for barrel-race times of 16 seconds or less), then I will possibly start thinking about competing in something larger. For now, though, I am happy just to be a part of it.

If you have a local color or Snowmass business you’d like to share, email Amanda Charles at

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