‘Otis’ Earns Horse Of Year Honors
When Shasta Buss received notice a week ago Monday that her horse, Otis, had been named South Dakota’s United Barrel Racing Association (UBRA) Horse of the Year, she cried.
“Otis is so special to me, and for other people to see that in my horse and to know we’ve worked so hard to get where we’re at is really touching.
When I found out I started crying,” said Buss, who owns and operates Buss Seeds with husband, Aaron, in Hillhead.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the barrel racing team.
From the time she was a child Buss had always dreamed of being a barrel racer, and she began working with a horse during the summer of 2014. But tragically, the horse jumped a fence and broke its leg.
“It was pretty heartbreaking. But Julie Zuehlke heard about me losing the horse and told me she had a couple I could come look at. One of them was a gangly-looking five-year-old gray gelding that had some of its mane missing and didn’t look real great, but something about him stole my heart.”
That didn’t mean that Buss didn’t question her decision on a number of occasions.
“Horses are either flight or fight, and at first everything scared him. He would freak out around cows and was afraid of pocket gopher mounds. He would flip around and head for home, and I fell off so many times. He proved daily to be a challenge in and out of the arena, and because of my lack of experience I was beginning to believe I would never be able to train this horse.
“So many times I wanted to give up on him, but my family and friends encouraged me to keep working with him. I took him to Julie a couple of times a week and had her help me with a lot of things I didn’t know, and we kind of grew from there.”
A bond began to develop between Otis and Buss that became a special friendship.
“Now he’s like a big, gentle giant that you can kind of do anything with. He has come to trust me, and he is so comfortable in an arena setting. I think he kind of likes to be cheered for, and he pushes harder when he hears noises and music.”
By the spring of 2016 Buss decided that Otis was ready to move forward. She joined the UBRA and began to compete in barrel racing events.
That first year he won the South Dakota 2D Derby title and was in the national top 10 standings. Last summer, he was the state 2D Open Reserve Champion and again ranked in the top 10 national standings in the 2D Open category.
The Hillhead duo competes nearly every weekend from the end of May into October at venues in South and North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. And as they progress, Buss hopes to venture out a little bit more.
Buss stresses that barrel racing truly is a team effort, not only between horse and rider, but also family.
“Aaron has been very supportive and our boys are so supportive and so proud of me. And Otis tries so hard and just wants to do what makes me happy and pleases me. He’s not the fastest horse in the world, but for me he’s perfect because he’s teaching me. He’s patient with me and such a loveable horse. He’s just like a dog and when you call him from the pasture he comes running.”
Buss looks at the challenges that the team has overcome as all part of God’s plan.
“Sometimes I feel things happen for a reason. Maybe it was God’s plan that I lost my nice little horse. It makes me work harder with Otis. And he’s come such a long way. I think that’s part of the reason he’s special.”
Otis has also led to the formation of life-long friendships.
“I have made so many amazing friends from afar through the UBRA,” concluded Buss. “We’re like a family, and I love it. I am so thankful that my horse has brought me closer to people that will be friends the rest of my life. He’s my heart horse, my challenge horse that challenges you to be better. I think he’s done that for me. I am so thankful God sent him my way.”