Making It Work
Everyone has 24 hours in a day. It’s what we do with those hours that makes all the difference.
By Abigail Boatwright
For some that have a full plate of family, business and obligations, barrel racing has to take a back seat. For years of Alana Snook’s life, this was the case. But finally, she sat down with her family and made a plan to pursue her dreams of barrel racing again. Little sleep, excellent time management and the help of a family all pulling their weight have allowed this hardworking mother of eight children to get back in the saddle and into the barrel pen. Here’s how she does it.
Snook and her husband John own two farms in McClure, Pennsylvania. One is a 200-cow dairy farm, and the other is a commercial poultry farm with a kennel. On top of household duties, landscape maintenance for both properties and helping in the fields and with milking and the chickens, Snook is responsible for the family’s kennel – Shade Mountain Kennel. Although they have one employee that helps with cleaning the kennel, she built and manages the website, as well as manages customer interactions and sales.
“I screen our potential customers and approve them for our puppies,” Snook said. “The amount of emails, texts and phone calls I receive can get overwhelm- ing sometimes. Taking care of the adult and puppy vaccinations, de-wormings, vet care and socializing the puppies is my job too.”
The Snooks have eight children ages 5 months to 16 years old. The three youngest are siblings—the 2-year-old twins have already been adopted by the family and they are currently fostering the baby. The youngest has bi-weekly visits with his biological mother for two hours each time, with a two-hour round-trip commute.
Snook’s daughter, 15-year-old Allison, got a horse in the spring of 2016. Snook grew up riding but put her passion aside when she and her husband started raising their children 16 years ago. After hauling Allison to several competitions, Snook was itching to get back to riding, so after a lot of thought, she sat down and discussed her desires with the family.
“I still feel guilty about taking this time—like I should be doing some- thing else, that there is more work to be done,” Snook said. “We talked about this for over a year. When we decided that I could get back into it, it was not just my husband and kids agreeing to it, but also my in-laws and my sister-in- law: the whole family.”
For her return to barrels, in November, Snook purchased Smooth Kiss N Sugar, a 9-year-old bay mare already well-trained—she hadn’t been run much, but “Stella” was a consistent 3D/4D horse.
“Coming back to barrel racing after that long off felt like being a beginner in a lot of ways,” Snook said. “I feel like Stella is more experienced than me!”
Snook also has a project horse, a 5-year-old that has just been started under saddle last fall. Allison has a horse of her own, and the herd is rounded out with her 27-year-old retired barrel mare and a pony. All the horses live on pasture at the farm where the Snooks live.
Challenges and Adversity
Snook was just hitting her stride
with Stella at the end of 2016. But in January, her 7-year-old son was involved in a farming accident and completely broke his femur. Two weeks later, their then-22-month-old twins had a baby brother born, and the family was asked to take him.
In February, John re-injured his knee that he had undergone surgery on in 2006—knocking him out of commission for three weeks. He had just started walking again, and on March 25, their 16-year-old son, who helps a lot on the farm, had a dirt bike accident and tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
“I almost gave up and sold my horse in January, then in March of this year,” Snook said. “I was so close to selling her or breeding her, and waiting a year or two to try again, but then one day when I was riding, I realized that this is the only thing that is keeping me sane. If I lost this one to two hours a day, five to six days a week with my horse, I realized it would do more harm than good.”
Although Snook wondered if this wasn’t the right time for her to ride again, she realized there will always be a lot going on in their lives, so now was as good a time as any.
“If you don’t just decide that you’re going to do this, it’s never going to hap- pen,” Snook said. “If you keep saying you’re too busy, you’re always going to be too busy. So I’m glad I stuck it out, because even though it was rough there for a couple of months, it’s really getting better and going a little bit smoother. I’m having the time of my life, and I’m never bored. I would love it if someone could read my story and be inspired to stick with it, and make it work, because if I can make it work, anyone can!”
Snook credits her faith for guiding her to be able to barrel race, and Mary Burger as her biggest inspiration.
“I’m thankful to God for His leading in my life that has brought me to the place that I am to be able to do what I love,” Snook said.
Making it Work
Snook’s mother- and father-in-law live next door, and they help with the children quite a bit. Her sister-in-law
also lives nearby. Sharing responsibilities is their way of life, and Snook says without the help of extended family, she wouldn’t be able to ride at all. She often rides during the younger children’s naps, and her mother-in-law will sit with them while she’s out of the house.
“It’s really a matter of managing your time,” Snook said. “I won’t lie. I don’t sleep much. My mornings usually start around 4 a.m. and my day starts around 5:30. you can get a lot done before most people are even up, which I’m sure many horse people understand.”
Snook plans out what she needs to accomplish every morning. Sometimes, by the time she gets to her riding time slot, she’s dragging her feet, but she pushes through.
“If there’s something you really want to do, you will find the time,” Snook said. “yesterday, I just did not feel like it, but I made myself go ride, and I just felt so much better. We make time for the things that we really like, and I am just really excited about getting to do this. I like that I can spend time with my kids while doing it, too. It’s a priority for me.”
The children help on the farm, at levels suitable for their age and maturity.
They are involved in many decisions made for the family, and the teens have even started their own dairy herd with 20 cows of their own.
Snook says that her family is her no. 1 priority, and if her barrel racing had a negative effect on her family, she would bow out of it.
“I feel that riding has given me a different perspective,” Snook said. “It really does help with my stress, and I feel it’s definitely had a positive impact on the family.”
Snook takes a riding lesson every other week, and works hard on what she’s learned in the interim. Sometimes, life happens and the kennel business interferes with lessons or competitions. But she does her best to stay consistent.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time with Stella, and I’m really starting to click with her,” Snook said. “We’re really getting things together. Every time we go to the local jackpots and open shows, we improve greatly. I’m just figuring her out, and I feel like we’ve come pretty far already. We are getting there, and I’m excited about it.”
If you want to barrel race, but your life is full, that doesn’t mean you can’t do
it. Snook says if you want to do it, you can—but you might need to adjust your schedule.
“If it’s something you want to do, and the desire doesn’t go away, that says to me I’m not going to be happy until I do it,” Snook said. “There may be sacrifices you have to make, but in the long run, you won’t regret it, because it’ll be worth it, and you’ll forget about the lost sleep when you achieve your goals.”
Written by Abigail Boatwright and first published in the August 2017 issue of Barrel Horse News. Boatwright is an award-winning journalist based out of Texas. email comments on this article to bhneditorial@cowboypublishing. com.