Cowgirl on a Fast Horse

Hometown Heroes, People, Sports
on June 3, 2001

Martha Josey gallops her horse through the cloverleaf barrel-racing pattern on the dirt floor of a rodeo arena. The ride is over in a few seconds, but the cowgirl from Karnack, Texas, (pop. 700) has been on a fast horse to success in competitive barrel racing for 39 years.

Even broken bones in a 1982 fall from a horse and a warning from doctors that she might not walk again barely slowed her gallop into the record books. She was competing again the next year and was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal at the Calgary, Alberta, games in 1988.

The gold medalist has surely lived up to the Champions Training Champions motto of her ranchboth as a barrel racer and riding instructor. Josey hopes to break her own record of four decades qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo by finishing in the top 15 money winners when this season is over in November. That would make her the only cowgirl to qualify for a fifth consecutive decade at the finalsthe Super Bowl for rodeo riders and barrel racers. She first qualified in 1964.

I love the competition, Josey says of her bid to make the finals again in Las Vegas this December. I think it will be fun. And, if I dont make it this year, I still have nine more times to make the record before the decades over.

Competing with teenagers and 20-year-old riders doesnt worry Josey, who replies, Youre as young as you feel when asked her age. Competing keeps me young, she says.

Josey and her husband, champion calf roper R.E. Josey, operate the Josey Ranch, located between Karnack and Marshall (pop. 24,147) in the piney woods of east Texas. Clinics at their ranch are a mix of hands-on technique, motivation, and inspiration.

While teaching focuses on horsemanship and competition, Josey says the students can apply to life the lessons learned about winning and competition.

Success in the rodeo and barrel-racing arena translates into success in life. Many of our students have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business people, she adds proudly.

More than 50,000 students have attended the Josey clinics and training sessions, so plenty of alumni have risen to the top of their ranks in barrel racing, calf roping, and other eventswinning everything from belt buckles and saddles to scholarships and prize money.

One of those students is Marsha Stilley, vice president of the Womens Professional Rodeo Association. Stilley has known the Joseys for 21 years, first as a student and later as a competitor and fellow trainer.

Anyone who attends one of their clinics goes away feeling like a champion. Theyre the best, Stilley says. Martha is so positive. She truly believes in following your dream. Her own dream is to be the best barrel racer ever, and shes far surpassed that.

Amid their hectic schedule of competition and clinics at their ranch, the Joseys also run clinics around the country. R.E. is a three-time American Quarter Horse Association World Champion Calf Roper.

Several training and competitive events are held annually at their ranch, including the Josey World Champion Junior Barrel Race in early May, an event billed as the largest youth barrel race event in the world. That event alone has awarded more than $100,000 in college scholarships and $1 million in cash and prizes, Josey says.

When our students win, we win, she says of teaching her sport to others.

Stilley says shes confident Josey will make the National Finals again. This woman has a mind of steel and is a competitor who knows how to win.