The LG Legacy Project
‘Three competitive and experienced youth, three young race horses, three successful race horse ranches, three mentors who are renowned trainers in their field and seven months to retrain a young race horse in its future career as a barrel racing futurity competitor.’
By Misti Quiring
Some may be content with their legacy defining them as a wealthy, great champion, while others understand there is more to life and more to their legacy than the championships and status quo they’ve earned. With 26 world championships under his belt, career earnings surpassing the $2 million mark and a name known synonymously with barrel racing worldwide, one might ask what’s next for Lance Graves. Through the LG Legacy Project, Lance has decided that his Legacy will lie somewhere amidst his determination to rekindle a dying partnership between two equine disciplines, educating and mentoring the next generation of champions and giving off-the-track racehorses a chance at a better life through a new career.
When asked about his vision for the project, Lance replied: “My goal is to take young people who ride well and teach those children how to start from the ground up, not from an unbroken weanling but from an unstarted competition horse. Additionally, I have ridden off the track horses my entire career, and the industry has started to stray from that a little bit, riding cow-horses and such. So I thought what better way for me to try to bring race horses and the fight for second career animals into the limelight than to make them part of the program.”
The concept of the project is rich but simple: three competitive and experienced youth, three young race horses, three successful race horse ranches, three mentors who are renowned trainers in their field and seven months to retrain a young race horse in its future career as a barrel racing futurity competitor.
Creating a “Barrel Horse Training College” is no easy task, and much like any traditional schooling, there is often more than one instructor. So Lance enlisted the help of two successful industry veterans—cowgirl Liana Deweese of Claremore, Oklahoma, and Okemah, Oklahoma’s Mark Bugni— to be influential in creating a well-rounded program for the young trainers-to-be.
“I’ve known Liana Deweese since I was little; she has had a lifetime of experience with horses, from cow horses to barrel horses, and has probably covered as many disciplines as any ranch-raised girl that you’ll meet. Liana comes from a big ranching family that was passed down maternally from the mothers to the daughters, which is unique.
“She’s worked a lifetime alongside men as if there were no difference, and I have extreme respect for that and for what she’s accomplished. I appreciate the way she speaks to my girls and that she believes a building cannot be built on soft ground but must be built on a solid foundation. Those are the buildings that stand for a lifetime, and horses need to be trained in a similar manner if you expect them to compete for a lifetime,” said Graves about the multiple NIRA regional champion, Futurity Champion, WPRA money earner and Circuit Finalist.
As with any process, there are oftentimes strategic steps to success. The other mentor, multiple barrel racing futurity champion, LG Pro Classic slot race champion and BFA Super Stakes Champion Mark Bugni, exemplifies how working hard and following those steps can take a competitor all the way to the top. “Mark worked diligently to become a horse trainer for a living and to reach his goals; he did it methodically, and it took him awhile to become the level of competitor that he now is. He did it step-by-step, which I respect, and I think that for young people, he is the perfect example of the ideation: if you focus and work hard, you can get where you want to go,” Graves said.
Three Oklahoma-based race horse ranches stepped up to the plate willingly and eagerly when Lance asked them to be a part of the program. “I didn’t have a list of ranches and people that I went through hoping somebody would pitch in. The first three people that I asked agreed immediately, which were three farms that I completely respect. I found that to be the most satisfying part of the whole process” said Graves. Pauls Valley, Oklahoma-based Diamond R Ranch supplied a 4-year-old bay gelding named Vixen’s Ivory Hero (Ivory James x Valiant Red Vixen (Valiant Hero)). Darling Farms of Lamont, Oklahoma, supplied a 3-year-old bay gelding: DF Coronas Got Cash (Corona Cartel x Chicks Got Cash (Feature Mr. Jess)). Reliance Ranches of Guthrie, Oklahoma, supplied a 4-year-old bay gelding named Closing Odds (Carters Cartel x A Regal Choice (First Down Dash)). All three prospects fit the criteria Lance had envisioned, and the program was off and running!
With the mentors and horses selected and ready to go, the next step in the program was to select the youth trainers. “Being the first year, I chose three young people that I knew had the ethical background and the personal fortitude and desire to do what it takes for this particular process” said Graves. Twelve-year-old Sydney Hollingsworth competes in multiple events within rodeo and was the OKJHSRA Border Bash Champion, Barrel Bash open 1D Champion and was in the top three of the 1D at the BBR World Finals youth race. “Sydney comes from a very strong and ethical cowboy family but also from a family that understands business and hard work,” said Graves. Jaycie Johnson, also 12 years old, competes in multiple events within rodeo and has won money at the Sherry Cervi barrel race in California and at several junior rodeos. “Jaycie comes from a different kind of background; they’re ropers and cowboys. She breaks ponies, and that’s how she makes her extra money during the summer,” Graves said. Thirteen-year-old Macie Graves, daughter of Lance Graves, is an AQHA Red Bud Classic barrel racing champion, OJRA finals champion and reserve champion and is currently qualified for the senior barrels at the AQHA World Show. All of the girls are exemplary students at their schools and are highly involved in extracurricular activities as well.
The girls were paired with their horses on July 3, 2018; Macie Graves with DF Coronas Got Cash, Sydney Hollingsworth with Vixens Ivory Hero, and Jaycie Johnson with Closing Odds. The girls have been working diligently with their revolving mentors to train and season their prospects. At the start of October, they all have built a foundation on their mounts and have started them on the pattern. The youth trainers will compete at the LG International Championship Barrel Race at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Feb. 13-17; after the competition, the horses will be entered into the auction. Proceeds from the horses at the auction will be split between the owner ranches and the youth trainers. The vision is for the youth trainers to utilize their portion of the proceeds toward a college education The future of the LG Legacy Project is looking bright. Next year’s application process will be modified and press releases will go out on the Facebook page and website in December, explaining the changes and the new application process. “My vision is that Liana, Mark and myself will remain as the three main mentors in future years, but we will bring in guest mentors,” said Graves. When asked about broadcasting the LG Legacy Project on additional media outlets, Graves replied, “I’ve had a lot of interest from different media groups, and I am currently working on different television aspects of this project.” For updates, follow along on Facebook @LGLegacyProject