Remembering Ruth Haislip and Her Legacy of Horses

Champion barrel racer, leading horse breeder, veterinarian and devoted wife and mother Ruth (Smith) Haislip of Acampo, California, did her part keeping her horses in the limelight. Now, it’s assured her breeding program will not be forgotten. Royal Star Commander, who now belongs to the Murray family of Fort Worth, Texas, qualified Deb Guelly to the 2015 National Finals Rodeo and has helped lead Tillar Murray to her first NFR qualification in 2017 and an NFR go-round win December 13, 2017. 

By Tanya Randall

Haislip was a fierce competitor, having qualified for three National Finals Rodeos. She was compassionate about caring for all of her four-legged patients in her small animal veterinary practice, even though all who knew her can attest to her immense love of cats. Haislip was passionate about the horses she raised and her boys—her husband Jim, and their two sons Garrett and Tanner.

RuthHaislip GoRoyalScarlettRuth Haislip and Go Royal Scarlett at their third NFR. Photo by Kenneth Springer.

She possessed an undeniable fortitude to manage all aspects of her life—horses, veterinary medicine and her family. Haislip was a doer, who didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She was an inspiration to many. Raised in Benson, Arizona, Haislip caught the horse bug early and she hooked up with a local woman who took her under her wing and hauled her to jackpots. In 1969, she won the queen’s contest at the Arizona High School Finals Rodeo. She competed in college rodeo for one year while working on her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona. At U of A, she was part of their 1973 National Championship Rodeo Team and won the Miss College Rodeo title. Haislip used her remaining years of eligibility while attending veterinary school at Colorado State University and was the Rocky Mountain Region Champion Barrel Racer in 1977.

A Gold Card Member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, Haislip first bought her card while living in Colorado and hauled with Becky Carson. After moving to California, she competed until her veterinary practice required more of her time. In the late 1990s, Haislip once again found the barrel racing spotlight with a homegrown superstar.

A negative experience after purchasing a horse with borrowed money during her undergraduate career at the University of Arizona inspired Haislip to raise her own horses. She made the bloodlines of her great college rodeo horse the foundation of her program. Wild N Groovy, a mare purchased from the same breeder as her college horse, would start her on the path to become a leading breeder. Her greatest offspring was Go Royal Scarlett, who would carry Haislip to three straight NFRs, from 1998 to 2000.

Started by Haislip’s husband Jim and patterned by the couple’s good friend and NFR qualifier Marilyn Camarillo, “Scarlett” was a natural born barrel horse. One of the first images of Haislip and Scarlett to appear in national barrel racing media was of her in the winner’s circle at a futurity in Morgan Hill, California—her son Tanner on her hip, her oldest son Garrett on Scarlett’s back.

With two young sons a priority along with her veterinary practice, Haislip set out in 1998 with the goal of seasoning Scarlett to rodeo competition. They qualified for their first NFR that year having only rodeoed since June. Scarlett was just 6.

Haislip and Scarlett returned to the NFR two more times in 1999 and 2000, having never gone to more than 45 rodeos a season.

Tags: National Finals Rodeo , NFR, WNFR, BHN, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo , ruth haislip, Royal Star Commander