Haskins Keeps Her Focus
By JOE KUSEK
August 25, 2022
Even Darby Haskins could appreciate the irony.
Competing at her hometown rodeo in Superior, the teenager had the opportunity to show why she was rapidly climbing the Northern Women’s Rodeo Association barrel racing standings.
The stands were full of family and friends as Haskins and her horse raced into the arena.
“I tipped every barrel,” she recalled. “Going into it, I had a lot of nerves get to me with all the people I knew there.
“I can laugh about it now.”
On a rainy night in Townsend 24 hours later, Haskins rebounded with a victory.
“That was fun,” said Haskins. “Just to be able to come back, that was pretty cool. I didn’t let my emotions get to me. I wasn’t really nervous for Superior. I was just not as focused as I should have been.
“I let myself be mad for 15 minutes after I am done. Then I watch the video 100 times and pick apart what I could have done better then go on to the next one.”
Haskins kept her focus the next weekend, sweeping barrel racing at Twin Bridges and Darby to vault into first place for the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour standings. She earned more than $1,800 for the two victories.
Entering this weekend, Darby holds a lead of $602 on Rachel Ward of Philipsburg.
“Rachel and I are good friends,” said Haskins. Like her friend, Haskins is entering her senior year at Superior High School. Haskins also plays basketball.
“It’s super exciting,” she said of her summer. “My goal was to make it to the Finals. Now it would be nice to win it. The goals are always changing as we go. The goal now is to go in at the No. 1 spot.”
After a slow start, Haskins has won at Three Forks, Eureka, Townsend, Darby and Twin Bridges. Her five victories are the most among a crowded barrel racing field.
“I’m running a new horse,” she said. “That’s been the challenge. With a new horse, there are hard things to roll with. It’s expected. You are at the top one day and the next day you’re not. One of the new goals is to be more consistent.”
Haskins is riding Sidechick, a 10-year-old buckskin mare she has had less than a year. The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour is the horse’s first rodeo competition.
“Earlier in the summer, we struggled,” said the rider. “I didn’t trust her and she didn’t trust me. She has her own style of running. She goes into the turns really stiff and keeps the same speed going into the turns.
“It has made the difference trusting her. It’s all starting to come together.”
And be careful when walking past the horse.
“She does a funny thing with her lip. She will rub it on anybody who walks by,” Haskins added with a laugh. “She is a very sweet horse and loves her treats.”
Haskins didn’t start barrel racing until eighth grade. This is her first summer competing against the adults.
“The competition is a whole other level,” she said. “It’s fun to level up to the other women competing.”
That includes mentor Cierra Erickson of Helena. Haskins has spent much of the summer with Erickson, learning the art of breakaway roping. Erickson won the all-around cowgirl and barrel racing titles in 2010 and added a year-end breakaway roping championship in 2018. Her husband Ty Erickson won the PRCA world steer wrestling title in 2019.
This year, Erickson is second in the all-around cowgirl standings, third in barrel racing and 13th in breakaway roping. Haskins edged Erickson by two-hundredths of a second for the barrel racing win at Townsend.
“I’ve learned a lot from Cierra,” said Haskins. “That’s another NRA goal, to catch more calves. The big thing she tells me is you have to be as good as your competition. You have to step up to your competition.”
Haskins is learning. Along with placing second in the barrel racing at Polson, she also tied for sixth in the breakaway roping.
Her long-range plans include going to vet school in the south, preferably Texas, Oklahoma or New Mexico where she also plans to rodeo.
“I want to specialize in equine medicine,” said Haskins. “I have a dream of bringing a facility to Montana, somewhere closer to home.”
Her father Darin owns and excavating company while mother Laurel is a physician’s assistant and runs the hospital in town.
“My parents are super supportive. They get me where I need to be,” said the daughter. Laurel Haskins does most of the driving to rodeos.
The music? “That’s me,” Haskins said.
The scores were sizzling at Deer Lodge. Trevor Kay of Chester won the bareback title with 88 points while reigning champion Andrew Evjene of Two Dot matched him with an 88 in saddle bronc riding. Both are the high scores of the summer. Teenager Cash Trexler of Corvallis tied for fourth in tie-down roping to take over the standings lead.
With only five rodeos remaining in the regular season, the stakes rachet up a bit higher for those trying to qualify for the Northern Rodeo Association/NWRA Finals in October.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour continues with two performances at Boulder, with 5 p.m. performances on August 26 and 27.
Wibaux will have a 7 p.m. performance on August 27, while Chinook goes at 1 p.m. on August 28.