Horses are the cornerstones of Brad and Mindy Barkemeyer’s lives. In fact, horses are their way of life. Brad grew up on a ranch in Montana, and later relocated to Arizona to begin his career as a professional horse trainer. Mindy came up the youth rodeo ranks and competed in rodeo pageants, and today competes as a non pro. Together for more than 20 years now, the pair owns and operates Barkemeyer Performance Horses in Scottsdale, Arizona. And they’re both tough competitors in National Reined Cow Horse (NRCHA) events.
A Family Event
But it’s not just Brad and Mindy who spend more time horseback than anywhere else. Their sons, Bryce, 17, and Zane, 14, both are fierce competitors and growing horsemen. This makes the Barkemeyers’ horse life a full-family endeavor.
Both Brad and Mindy see the values that come from having horses in their kids’ lives, having experienced it themselves. The work ethic, responsibility, pride in accomplishments large and small, and learning to put something else ahead of your own needs are just a few of the key lessons that horses teach kids, and the Barkemeyer brothers demonstrate these traits in their everyday lives.
Leave Room to Choose
But just because Brad and Mindy make horses their way of life, doesn’t mean they always expected their children to do the same. They allowed both boys to find their way to horses in their own time.
“Bryce had a rope in his hand from the time he could walk,” Brad recalls. “He’d rope everything! He had a natural desire to be around horses. But at 5 or 6, Spider-Man took over and moved his attention from cowboy stuff to superhero stuff. But he eventually came back to horses, and it was fun to see that transition.”
Bryce started in smaller local shows that offered low-pressure youth classes. Now he’s a competitive cow horse showman in the NRCHA events, including the World’s Greatest Youth Horseman. The event requires youth riders to show in four events involving pattern work and cattle, which is a big undertaking, even for teenage riders.
From an early age, Mindy remembers that Zane was really into all things nature—from animals to plants.
“He wanted to be around any animal, but to be their friend,” Mindy shares. “He rode bareback and was really natural at it, he enjoyed it as long as he was free to do whatever he wanted on his own time. Zane didn’t want structured lessons or to compete—he just wanted to ride.”
Zane became interested in hip-hop dance lessons, and found himself in a bright spotlight with many opportunities. But as he got older, his interests turned back to having horses in his life. In May, he competed in his first NRCHA event and hasn’t looked back since.
With horses being Brad and Mindy’s business, both boys have responsibilities around the ranch to contribute to their livelihood and to further instill strong values and build family bonds. Brad and Mindy note that they’re learning key skills. These include how to prioritize and manage tasks and their time while balancing academics, football, church, friends, and youth organizations, along with chores at home.
“The bottom line is, we want to provide our boys with opportunities to try anything they’d like to,” Brad shares. “But we don’t want to add any unnecessary pressure. We never wanted them to feel like they had to be into horses just because it’s what their parents do. But we do want them to see how the values horses teach us can pay off in the present while also being resources they can tap for the rest of their lives.”
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