Stevi Hillman! If you have watched Pro Rodeo in the last few years this lady does not need any
introduction, but I feel she deserves one anyways!
Hey everyone welcome to first blog post of the NFR series! If you want to get sneak peeks on
who is coming next and want to win $250 click here to find out more info!!
Ok on to Ms. Stevi Hillman . . . first of all I was so excited when she first agreed to do
this interview just because of her National Finals Rodeo experience alone! Then when I started to
do some research about her for my questions, the more excited I was to talk to her!
I have tried to write this introduction a few times but it always ends up too long . . .
so if you want more information on her after the interview you can click here!
Anyways let’s get to it . . .
Stevi lives in Texas but was not a part of rodeo growing up. She learned a lot of valuable
lessons from her step father Dave Salzbrenner. He taught her about the importance
of a good foundation in a horse no matter what the sport (probably one of the reasons why she is
such an amazing trainer).
One of her other loves is being a radiologic technician taking x-rays, working in surgery and doing CT scans.
Training barrel horses is how she got started with a dream of the NFR one day. But before that she
worked in many other disciplines like polo, cutting and reining. Stevi has trained
3 amazing NFR horses Perfectos Dually, Ima Royal Design and Morning Traffic!! Stevi
is now a 4 time National Finals Rodeo qualifier.
She is married to Ty Hillman which we will find out more about later! This is just a little bit
about her so I hope you love this interview like I do! I wish her all the luck
in the 10 days of NFR action!.
Interview Question Stevi Hillman
1. When did you start your pro rodeo career and what inspired you to do so?
I always wanted to rodeo… and in 2011, I trained a horse off the track (I’m A Royal Design aka: Hammer) for the people I was working for. He was doing so well, I attempted to get my feet wet with pro rodeos, and we ended up reserve Rookie Of The Year in 2012. He was then sold. I had to regroup and wait for the right horse. I went back to training and knew I couldn’t go again until the right horse came along…. which then happened when Truck was brought into my life in 2014.
2. What horses are you taking to the NFR and tell me about your main mount?
I am taking MCMImASharpGuy aka ‘Sharpie’ (owned by Matt and Bendi Dunn) as my main horse as of now, you just never know until you get settled in and go to practice but that’s the plan.And then One Perfect Ruby aka ‘Perfecto’ (owned by Janee Ornelas) will be next in line. I’ve also got Guys R A Mystery aka ‘Sherlock’ (owned by Howie and Toni Dixon) and DTF Mellowdoc aka ‘Millie’ (owned by me and Ty).
I am so blessed to have 4 with me that I would be fully confident on jumping on, if needed. All have been working so good
3. Life on the road can be a lot on a horse, how do you keep your horses healthy and feeling great?
Life on the road is hard on all of us lol. We really focus on keeping the horses feeling as good as possible because I feel that’s the most important thing with rodeoing. I get them out of the trailer every 6 hours, and keep extra water buckets hung for them, put shavings down so they rest, wrap legs, keep PHTs on them….I massage them often, so they stay loosened up.
I spend time with them. I make sure to pay attention to how they might be feeling that day, do they need rest? Or do they need a few hours of riding? I feel it’s important to really know your horse and what they need. They get MVP Gastro Plex to keep their stomachs happy. I am also a firm believer in proper nutrition, for me and my horses and I believe that feeding Nutrena feed, Hay-Rite alfalfa cubes and MVP supplements have made a huge difference on how my horses feel. I know I feel better when I eat right so that shouldn’t be different for them. Also I try to remember to let them be horses!
4. You have trained many great horses not only for yourself but others like Hammer who Carlee Pierce rode in the 2012 NFR and Jana Bean rode in 2014 and 2015 NFR, so what do you focus on when starting your equine athletes?
Hammer was the start of it all and will always hold a special place in my heart, we have his half sister I am super excited about. I have been blessed to have trained a few great ones. I may take too long with one but I want them to progress on their own timing.
I really love the slot races, that excites me to maybe do a little more of that later. But that takes pushing one on a certain time frame and that’s different in my opinion than really focusing on making one specifically a rodeo horse. Don’t get me wrong there has been a ton of great futurity horses make rodeos horses, I’ve ridden several but for me to train one for rodeos and focus on that is different. I want them to go run outside more on all the different kinds of ground etc to see if they are going to handle that and all the hauling.
So I would say I focus more on what the horse can handle and put just enough pressure on them to help them to grow. We have finally got some young ones together that we own to train, I am excited to see what they can do.
5. In your training career have you found any specific characteristics that separate a good horse and a great one?
Well you can’t train heart, but to me they have to have the heart to give you everything they’ve got. So much changes in Rodeo, the set up, the patterns, the ground so they’ve got to be confident in themselves and have trust and be willing to go out there and be on the team.
The great ones for me have had so much ‘try’ and heart.
6. Through your barrel racing career is there one horse that stands out in your mind?
Truck is my guy and his heart and willingness to give me all he’s got every time. He just amazes me, I owe so much to him. But I have been incredibly blessed to train and/or ride some amazing athletes. They all hold a special place in my heart, I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to let them go, they truly become my partners.
7. You won Pendleton Round UP. What was it like to run on such a big pattern and how did you prepare for that?
That is the buckle I wear, simply because it reminds me that I have no fear…. if I can win that I shouldn’t be scared about any other run lol. I faced a fear that day and conquered it.
It was one of the most thrilling runs of my life. The most scared and excited at the same time, I’ve ever been. It also made a difference to me that it was on a 5 yr old that I trained, I was in tears, I was just so proud of her.
I didn’t have time to train for it, it was on my bucket list and I knew that little mare loved to run so I said let’s go for it. I showed her the field/arena that morning, trotted her to the walls and showed her where it was going to be and I told myself to ride like it’s just another run, keep it simple. But I did ride as hard as I could until I hit the dirt on each barrel and I do feel that’s important there.
8. How did it feel to qualify for your First NFR?
It was an explainable feeling. I remember we were at Pueblo, CO and my family from CO was there so it made it extra special. Martini won the Champion Challenge and it made us reach our goal number and we knew we were safe to make it. I cried and cried, it was like all that hard work and pushing so hard… we did it, we just did it.
9. What is your game plan for the 2019 NFR and how are you preparing for it?
As I answer this question we are about 5.5 hours from Vegas lol.
My game plan this year is to have fun, keep it simple and enjoy this amazing opportunity. It’s so easy to take things for granted by focusing on the wrong things. So this year my focus is on what I have control over, smile, and enjoy this process. I am blessed to have 4 really neat horses in the trailer going with me.
10. How do you stay focused and keep your horse calm in the alley way at the NFR?
This is THE question haha…. that’s what everyone doesn’t realize, it’s the craziest and most loud alley you will ever experience, with horses running right by you and the wagon. So, this is the main reason Truck stayed home…. he’s just not a great alley horse.
I do my best by going to every practice, walking them in and out, calming them and reminding them it’s a safe place. I do what each horse needs individually, one may need ear plugs, or one I may have to stay off for a little until I get closer to running. I try to do what makes them the happiest. But no matter what you do, it’s a high stress, loud situation and they get amped up so I am prepared for that and don’t let it distract me.
I focus on my one thing on each horse, breathe, and remind myself to have fun and give it all we got. It’s important for me to not get too intense so I try to stay chill and remember it’s just another run.
11. Who is your biggest supporter and what does that mean to you?
Ty Hillman no doubt… lol he drives, saddles, rides, keeps me going in the right direction and keeps me on track. I truly could not do this without him. But all in all, my entire team is my support system.
My friends and family who encourage me all year, my horse owners who believe in me and to my sponsors who believe in and support us through the ups and downs. I couldn’t do it without each and every member of the team. And last but not least my fans who send me messages that make me cry and encourage me to keep doing what I am doing They remind me WHY I do what I do. Thank you all.
12. Thank you so much for doing this interview and I wish you good luck at the NFR! If someone would like to meet you at the NFR where can they find your appearance schedule?
Thank you!! You can see on my FB my signing schedule! Please come see me.
We should have that posted Monday or Tuesday.
Thank you very much Stevi Hillman for the great interview and being so honest with her answers!
That was just amazing. I have to say after talking to her to organize this, that she is
one of the nicest people!!
I am taking a few tips from this interview into my own barrel racing with my two up and
coming young ones!
The quote “Success leaves clues” is one of my favorites and there were definitely clues left in this interview!!!
To check out Stevi Hillman’s Facebook Page click here.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Whit’s Therapy NFR Christmas Party. Its’ going to be fun and you could win $250 at the end just for playing along!!
Stevi is the first one in this NFR series . . . I wonder who’s to come!!
Sign up for the email list or Christmas Party to find out!
Wow Whit! Good for you for having the courage to ask her for an interview! Love it! Thanks for sharing with all of us!! Great read 🙂