Behind The Trick Riding Journey

Hey Guys! Shelby Pierson here and welcome to my blog! Thank you so much to each and every one of you AMAZING people for following me along my journey as a professional trick rider, without you guys my dream wouldn’t be possible. I am so excited to be sharing my stories with you as I make my way down the rodeo trail!

Some of you follow my Instagram, where you get to see pictures and videos of me trick riding daily, but many of you have been asking how I started and my experiences within the sport. I decided to dedicate my first blog to my upbringing in the trick riding world and hopefully answer some of the questions you guys have been asking me!

I was fortunate enough to grow up on a ranch in southern Alberta where I had the opportunity to learn horsemanship at an early age. I will always value the countless hours spent out in the field checking, treating, or sorting cows with my dad. I have such an amazing family and home that provided me with the tools to pursue my dreams as a trick rider. I came from a family of a rodeo background, as my dad, uncles, and cousins were involved in the sport in bareback riding and bull riding. This helped me immensely and allowed myself as well as my parents to understand the risks associated with the sport.

I first saw trick riding when I was 7 years old, as my grade one teacher was a professional trick rider at the time. She always had framed pictures of herself on her desk doing outrageous maneuvers on a horse: standing, dragging and flying fearlessly as her horse was running. We then went on a school field trip where we got to experience trick riding in action. I remember watching her as she did the maneuver called the “Suicide Drag”, where her one foot was strapped in the saddle and she drug upside down. I loved every moment of it, from the speed to the risk involved, as well as the amazing partnership between horse and rider. I knew after that moment on, this is what I wanted to do.

It came as no surprise to my parents that I was so intrigued by this sport, as I was riding a horse before I could walk, and every day they’d find me standing on my head or doing handsprings around the house. I also had such a strong love for horses, you would always find me riding, petting, or even conversing with my four-legged friends.

It wasn’t until after my 8th birthday that I began trick riding lessons. My parents saw I was attempting to mimic my teacher by hanging out in the stirrup and standing up on my horse at a standstill. I recall days where we would be out in the field and I would be hanging out in one stirrup as my horse walked along, they couldn’t get trick riding out of my system! There were safety concerns involved in my attempts, so my parents took me to lessons where I could learn the sport in a safe environment.  

The beginning of my trick riding career would not have been achieved without my paint horse Splatter. Any trick rider knows that what we do is not possible without a solid and trustworthy horse. My family purchased Splatter when I was 5 and I owe everything to this horse for allowing my trick riding dreams to come true. Splatter has been one of our go-to horses on the ranch for a number of years and I always knew in the back of my head, that my parents felt more at ease knowing I had Splatter underneath me. He is the most intelligent and sensible horse that we have ever purchased. In the beginning, when I would step out the side, he stopped as any good horse should. Once he realized that I wanted him to keep going as I hung out the side, we never looked back!

Photo by: Skyline Imagery

Splatter was my main horse for a number of years, we grew and learned the ups and downs of the sport as one. We rode at our first professional rodeo together, attempted some of the hardest tricks in the sport, and even appeared at our first Canadian Finals Rodeo this year. If there was something wrong Splatter would anticipate it before it happened. I truly believe this horse is the sole reason to why I became a professional trick rider. Without a trustworthy horse in this sport, you have nothing.

I performed at my first rodeo that summer when I was 8 years old. It was a small rodeo close to home and it was the perfect environment for my first show. I recall getting to put on my trick riding costume for the first time and being so excited to finally be like the trick riders in the pictures and videos. Splatter handled our first show like he had been doing it for years. I loved the sound of the crowd's applause, and each time I put my hand up to sell the trick they responded. The feeling of adrenaline that pumped through my veins was one that I had never experienced before, I felt on top of the world.

Photo by: Skyline Imagery

From then on nobody could get my mind off trick riding. If I wasn’t hanging off my horse, I was either talking or thinking about it. My friends would find me designing costumes for my next show, and talking about the tricks I was going to perform. It is this obsession that has driven me to where I am today. The countless hours spent in the arena from the age of 8 until now have been some of my highest peaks, but along the way have presented some of my greatest obstacles. Trick riding is both a mental and physical game that has tested me numerous times. I believe that is what makes this sport so rewarding. Overcoming fears, obstacles, and doubts to create artistry in motion.

Photo by: Dreams Alive Imagery

After performing at smaller rodeos for a few years, I began attempting harder tricks and performing them at faster speeds. I then earned my Canadian Professional Rodeo Association card at 11 years of age and my Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card at age 13. I started at the smaller pro rodeos and worked my way up. There was a lot to be learned in these beginning years. Just like any type of show business, there are different pieces that complete a puzzle. I learned the responsibilities at a young age of how to produce an act, and to engage the audience in it.  Adding a variety of tricks to my show allowed me to work some of the best rodeos in North America, such as the Canadian Finals Rodeo, the Ponoka Stampede, the Snake River Stampede, Armstrong IPE & Stampede, and the St.Paul Rodeo.

My passion for the sport, my amazing horses, and the support of my family is what has allowed me to pursue my goal of becoming a professional trick rider. I have worked with many amazing professionals in my career so far, seen many miles, and experienced incredible things. I never thought in my wildest dreams that at 19 years old I would be named the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Contract Act of the Year, a 3X Canadian Trick Riding Champion, or an Australian Champion. It all started with a little girl with big aspirations and a gritty never-give-up attitude.

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