Between the Reins with Redemptive Fire
Elle Eagles' 2017 National High School Finals Rodeo champion barrel horse "Jack" made a remarkable comeback from a fractured leg and now hauls everywhere with his best friend, a donkey named Margarita.
By Blanche Schaefer
At nearly 17 hands high, Redemptive Fire towers over most other horses at every rodeo and barrel race. Though “Jack” is a powerful force to be reckoned with inside the arena, the 2017 National High School Finals Rodeo champion barrel horse can be a little insecure on his own. His owner and rider Elle Eagles knew just how to ease his nerves—a companion donkey. Margarita has become the perfect buddy for Jack and hauls with him everywhere he goes.
“He gets pretty nervous being by himself,” Eagles said. “We got him a donkey so he doesn’t freak out when he’s alone.”
Margarita isn’t just a friend; she’s actually played a large part in keeping Jack safe as well. The 2003 gelding by Bullys On Fire and out of Really Beautiful by Really Streakin fractured his leg last year running around his pasture from the anxiety of being by himself.
“He kicked a fence … and was running around the pen,” Eagles said. “I came out that night to feed and water and ride him and noticed his leg was swollen, so I took him to the vet. He fractured it in five different places, so he had to go in and get surgery to remove [three] chips.”
Jack has since recovered and made Eagles’ lifelong dream of a high school rodeo national championship come true, outrunning some of the toughest horses in the country. When it’s not time to compete, however, Jack would rather take it easy and keep the workload to a minimum.
“He’s really laid back,” Eagles said. “It’s pretty hard to keep him in a trot; he just drags his legs. He doesn’t act like a typical barrel horse. He’s kind of painful to ride, because he’s so big and never wants to trot so you always have to kick him.”
Once he begrudgingly moves past the warm-up routine, Jack needs no convincing that it’s go-time. Eagles says despite Jack’s quirks, he is not a complicated horse.
“He’s easy to ride and easy to run. I don’t have to practice him; he knows what he needs to do,” said the high school senior from Penrose, Colorado. “[When you’re loping], you try to keep him calm because you can’t get him too worked up or he’s a mess the rest of the day. He’s laid back, but he knows when he needs to run.”
Eagles has owned the gelding the past two years and had lots of time to get to know his personality, between his year of stall rest after the broken leg and Eagles’ own recovery time from a broken arm. She says Jack is always keeping things fun with his sweet demeanor and reminding her why he’s one of the most unique horses she’s ever been around.
“He’s a fireball, always messing around—he’ll stand there and lick on you, lick and lick and lick,” Eagles said with a laugh. “He dang sure doesn’t act like any other barrel horse I’ve owned.”
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