Christina Richman and Stitch

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Christina Richman’s 8-year-old mare, Stitch, shares the same nickname as Brittany Pozzi’s 2007 world champion barrel horse. And if Richman’s season continues as it started, she could have her own chance at a gold buckle.

Richman, 24, is in her fourth and best year of professional rodeo after banking $29,375 for a second-place finish at RodeoHouston in March that pushed her into fourth in the WPRA world standings. She also had a repeat solid performance at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in April, earning $10,667 on top of the more than $16,000 she won there last year.

The cowgirl from southern California wasn’t raised in the rodeo industry, but her father trained Thoroughbred racehorses, and Christina began competitively barrel racing as a teen. She eventually graduated from divisional races to rodeos.

“I remember driving by Hayward (Calif.) and seeing that rodeo arena and thinking, ‘I want to go there; I want to do that,’” Richman said. “And people pointed me in the right direction.”

The Richmans picked up Stitch for $2,700 as a 2-year-old at a sale held by Hall-of-Fame racehorse trainer Blane Schvaneveldt when Christina was in high school. The little bay mare’s registered name is Xtrared, after her sire, Red, a Thoroughbred racehorse that goes back to Raise A Native and Spy Song. Stitch’s dam, Attract, is one-quarter Thoroughbred and is a granddaughter of Dash For Cash on the top side and Easy Jet on the bottom, with a little Rebel Cause thrown in.

Stitch, who got her nickname when she ran through a fence as a filly, began competing as a 4-year-old and went to one futurity. She looks more like a Quarter Horse than a Thoroughbred, and people often assume she’s an ex-cutting horse. As far as style, she runs around the barrels without really slowing down. Since she doesn’t dig into the dirt too much, she handles hard or slippery ground very well.

In 2008, Richman fell into the agonizing 16th-place position at the close of the season by a scant $214.78—and she knows the exact amount to this day. People suggested that she should have entered more than 50-some rodeos, so in 2009, she traveled harder, but it didn’t seem to work out and she finished 19th.

This year, she’s sticking to the travel schedule that works best for her only horse.

“It’s hard to haul and do a lot when you don’t have another horse to get on if something happens or if I get somewhere and she’s tired,” said Richman, whose traveling partner is her blue heeler, Flo.

Richman admits that “any little barrel racer’s dream is going down the alley at the Thomas and Mack Center,” and she’s hoping to punch a ticket to her first Wrangler NFR this fall. In the meantime, she’s training a few young siblings to Stitch, and said she loves working with colts and watching them progress.

“But I wouldn’t call myself a trainer, because I’ve only got one so far that has made it,” she said. “We’ll see if I can get another one going as good as her. That will be the test.”

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In this photograph, you can see that Stitch doesn’t get her hind end in the ground very much. She’s keeping forward momentum and using her front end to pull herself out of the turn.

I’ve got my butt down in the saddle, but my upper body is up over the saddle to encourage forward motion. My arm is out trying to guide her around the barrels, but it’s not pulling on her.

This mare is very sensitive and light in the face, so I’ve always run her in the “Little S” hackamore. I think because I am the one who started her, she’s very aware of my body movements and cues, so I can get her to move based on that rather than my hands.

Stitch has her body straighter and more upright in this picture, which is usually how she runs on firmer ground. She seems to really excel in those situations, because she knows how to use her body and not rely on the ground to hold her up.
This was our fourth run in this arena, and with every run her times were getting faster. She was working so well that I was just trying to stay out of her way!

I had actually qualified for Houston in 2009 and missed the books. I still have nightmares about it. So it was great to get in this year and come out with some success.

My horse has a much rounder body shape here, and you can see that I needed very little rein pressure. My outside rein is loose on her neck as I guide her nose through the turn.

I did have my whip in this run. I always keep an over-and-under on my saddle when running, but Stitch tends to be scotchy in smaller or indoor arenas, so then I’ll carry?what I?call my?“big girl whip.”

I am very fortunate to have a horse that is so easy and fun to ride. She’s so consistent and tries her hardest for me every time!