From the safety of the stands, Shada Brazile has watched her family reach the pinnacle of pro rodeo again and again.
Her husband, Trevor, has been crowned with 17 world titles. Her brother, Tuf Cooper, has claimed the last two world titles in tie-down roping and this year became the youngest cowboy to break the $1 million mark in pro rodeo earnings.
Tuff’s dad, Roy Cooper, is a rodeo legend and Hall of Famer. Brothers Clint and Clif are NFR qualifiers and her uncle, Stran Smith, claimed the tie-down roping world title in 2008.
But Shada, a 34-year-old barrel racer from Decatur, is attempting to make her own mark in the pro rodeo world.
Just over a year ago, she almost called it quits after her two best horses died on back-to-back days. But she soon acquired a 7-year-old male named Dial It Fast. On his back, Shada won her biggest rodeo yet in February at the 2013 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, with a blazing time of 13.93 seconds in the final round.
Despite being the mother of two young children, Treston and Style, modeling Western wear and designing her own line of clothes for Wrangler called All Around Baby, Shada has managed to propel herself into the top 10 world rankings for barrel racing.
If she finishes the season in that elite group, she’ll accompany her husband to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this December in Las Vegas – not only as a wife, but as a competitor.
When did you start competing in rodeo?
“I started later than most people. I didn’t start barrel racing until I was 16. I high school rodeoed for just one year before I college rodeoed. Everyone in my family rodeoed. It was just kind of natural for me to rodeo as well. I always rode horses, rode cutting horses, but I didn’t compete in rodeos until I was 16. Before then I just rode for fun.”
What was it like winning San Antonio this year?
“That was a lot of fun. It was a great feeling. It was also a humbling experience. There are a lot of people who’ve helped me do this besides myself. My mother had helped a lot to make that moment possible.”
How do you handle being a mother of two young children and competing in rodeos?
“Without faith in God I couldn’t do this. Something my husband is notorious for saying is, ‘Don’t take the highs too high and the lows too low.’ Having faith in God and knowing His plan is the best plan for me, it keeps everything in perspective. God first, then my family and then the rodeo. There are too many demands to not go back and stay in that place of knowing His plan and letting little things go.
“For me the most important thing is to keep things in perspective. If you’re winning and not keeping it in perspective, it can be a difficult. I’m a mom and wife first. Nothing gets in the way of that, not winning a rodeo or riding my horse. My horse is important and takes a lot of time, but he’s second to Trevor and my kids. If I can keep that focus, everything falls into place. If that gets out of order, everything falls out of place.
“God’s timing is best. His plan is better than our plan. Having trust and faith in Him is what keeps this family going.”
What’s it like being in a family with so many world championship cowboys?
“People ask me that a lot, and I don’t know how to answer that because it’s just my life – it’s just my family. We all love each other, and I’m glad when they win first and Trevor wins first. It’s my life.”
Do you think being around them and seeing what they’ve accomplished helps or gives you confidence?
“For sure. Trevor has taught me how you have to work hard for something if you want it. You have to work on the whole picture. You can’t let one piece of it slide. You have to work on every detail to put it together. And as for my brothers, I like to sit back and watch the competitiveness. I think we were all born with it. You become what you’re around. I’ve been comfortable in the stands and watching from afar, but I like watching from down below – watching on horseback – a little better.”
What is it like being married to arguably one of best and busiest cowboys in the world and trying rodeo yourself?
“His schedule is insane. There’s not a better word. I don’t even know how to describe what he does in words. It requires a lot of communication. If we make plans, I just have to know that anything can change, and I have to roll with it. It’s not easy. It’s a day-by-day process. You have to be flexible. The last thing I want to do is hinder his career. He’s worked so hard for what he’s accomplished, and I’d never want to stand in the way of any of his world championships.
“He’s been so gracious in helping me and putting a horse in the rig. He does three events. We have a four-horse trailer. A lot of times he’s giving up a horse in one of his events for me to have my horse out there. That means a lot to me that he does that.”
Do you think your children are going to follow in your footsteps and enter the rodeo themselves?
“I know they both love to ride and love the horses, but we’ll just nurture whatever their true talent is.”
Is it more pressure on you to have to perform well, coming from a family of world championship ropers?
“Pretty much every time they introduce me at a rodeo they say this is the wife of Trevor, the $4 million cowboy, so I think people expect you to do good. But I think pressure can be a good thing or a bad thing. Knowing that, I try to turn it into a positive pressure. This is what my family has done, but we’ve worked hard to get there. I’m going to work hard, too. I don’t have a free ticket. I’m gonna try and meet your expectations.”
What other projects do you have going on right now?
“I model for clothing in the Western industry, mostly for Wrangler. I design Wrangler’s infant line. It’s called All Around Baby. I do trend consulting for Wrangler. I started doing trend consulting with the merchandising side of Wrangler.”
How did you get involved in clothing design?
“When I knew I was having a little boy, I started shopping, and I couldn’t find any Western clothes out there for him that weren’t hokey Western clothes. So I thought about it and prayed about it and went to Wrangler and pitched them the idea. And I went back again and went back again and about the third or fourth time they partnered with me. That was about six years ago, and it’s been a big success.”
What do you think is different about this year that has given you your highest world ranking ever?
“It’s the horse. It’s the horsepower. I have more horsepower this year than I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a horse this good before. He’s matured, and we fit each other really good.”
How did you acquire Dial It Fast?
“I lost two horses in a two-day period. A week later, world champion Brittany Pozzi brought me Dial It. I was down on it. I didn’t want to try anything. So she brought this horse to my house, and I thought if he’s right here in my front yard, I better get on him. I loped him around the barrels, and I fell in love with him right away. I knew it was a fit from the get-go. A couple other riders didn’t get along with him too good, but we hit it off right away. He’s a little bit high-maintenance. When I first got him, he was a little scared of cattle and ropes.
“So I thought, ‘If your last name is Brazile, you’re gonna have to not be scared of steers and ropes.’ So I tied him up in the arena when we were roping and he tried to jump out of the arena and he scratched his leg.
“Then I took a different approach. I kind of worked around him and let him gain his confidence in me. I had to do it a different way. I couldn’t just push it on him. He had to know I wasn’t going to put him in a jam or put him in a bad place. I just worked with him slowly, and now he has confidence in me.”
How important is the horse in barrel racing competition?
“People give percentages about that all the time. I don’t know percent-wise, but it’s so competitive. The horses are a huge part, and you still have to be able to ride one. A lot of people can get by on a good horse for a little while, but then the horsemanship comes in. Even if you’ve been winning for a while, the horses tend to develop bad habits or shortcuts. The people who continue to win on a horse for a long period of time are the girls who understand horsemanship and know how to keep a horse working.
“I’m still learning as I go. I try to learn from people who have gone before me. I think the most important thing is keeping your horse healthy and working. A lot of people don’t keep working on their horses, keeping them tuned. You can’t overwork them. There’s a fine line between overworking them and not working one enough.”
How do you develop and maintain a strong horse?
“You have to make sure they don’t develop any bad habits. They are creatures of habit, and you have to show them what you want them to do. Even when Dial It is doing great, we can’t take it for granted. You have to take the time and show them over and over so they’ll stay working better.
“One thing I started doing this year that I didn’t do before is breezing him on a race track. Breezing is just letting him run. He likes it. I think it built his lungs, gave him more lung power and strengthened his twitch muscles. Training him in the arena just works his low-twitch muscles. But taking him out to the track works different muscles and gave him a different confidence that I hadn’t seen.”
How do you acquire an edge to make your horse perform faster than the next rider?
“The part that is so hard about our sport is that it comes down to the hundredths of a second. Last night at Mineral Wells I was a 14.80, and a 14.79 was fourth, right in front of me. And winning it was a 14.67. You have to do whatever you can to find an edge. An extra tenth of a second can mean thousands of dollars in our sport. I have to do whatever I can to find that extra tenth. Whether it’s me keeping my body in shape – there’s a reason jockeys are little. I have to do whatever I can to stay trim.
“And I train him like I’d train a human running track. I have it down to the minute. I slowly get our heart rate up and sustain it and then I slowly bring it down. I’m constantly looking for new ways to make my horse stronger.
“In traditional horse racing, you have to be able to run fast. In our event, they have to be able to run fast, stop, make a turn and accelerate again.”
What’s your ultimate goal in barrel racing this year?
“I would like to qualify for NFR. My kids are getting bigger, and as they get active, the more active they get the less I’ll be able to go. So I’d like to qualify this year while I’m going hard.”
“I’ve been with Trevor for a while and watched competitors in all the events. It’s not an easy road. But I’m going to try.”