October 6, 2022

Two-time barrel racing world champion looks back on career | Local News

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The corner of County Road 1039 and U.S. 69 N, just three miles south of Celeste, was the scene of a small but meaningful ceremony on Sunday, June 5, when longtime Kingston resident and two-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) World Champion Loretta Manuel-Shuler was recognized with a sign erected in her honor.

Now in her 80s, Shuler (then-Manuel) won her first world championship in barrel racing in 1963, and her second in 1967. She partially credits her success in rodeo to her days as a teen performer in Wild West shows, in which she did trick riding and Roman riding (standing on the backs of two horses as they move side by side).

“I had already rode so much when I took to barrel racing, so I wasn’t nervous at all when riding in front of crowds,” Shuler said. “When I was trick riding and Roman riding, I had more to think about and really had to keep my wits about me, so it transferred well to me being able to get a horse used to the pattern for barrel racing.”

Shuler’s transition from trick riding to barrel racing began shortly after getting a new steed—a peppy black horse she named Spade.

“After I married (to first husband Howard Manuel), I was starting to get out of trick riding and we bought this black horse that was just really fast and agile, so I started training him for barrel racing,” Shuler said. “He was the one I rode when I won both world championships.”

“He could just zip around those barrels. I think we only hit a barrel twice during his whole career, and I’m pretty sure it was my fault,” she added with a snicker.

Of her rodeo days, Shuler also likes to note that she met two U.S. presidents.

“Harry Truman, who was a former president at the time, presented me with my first championship belt buckle, and I later met president-yet-to-be John F. Kennedy,” she said.

When Shuler eventually retired from rodeo in the 1970s, she remained active in the equestrian scene when she began working at Cloudline Hounds Hunt, which is a British-style fox hunting group in Celeste.

“I ended up getting a job with Colonel Rex and Marjorie Denny, who started up Cloudline,” Shuler said. “I was a whipper-in, so it was my job during hunts to keep track of the hounds and where they were, and make sure they didn’t start going off the trail after other animals.”

Also after retiring from rodeo, Shuler began training Appaloosas and working as an instructor to riders of all ages and experience levels.

“When teaching, no matter the age or goals of the rider, I focus on correct technique,” Shuler said. “I start from the ground up and teach safety first. I also prefer to teach private lessons instead of groups, because it’s my experience that most people learn better when they get individual instruction.”

In her lessons, Shuler also tries to pass along some of her champion mindset.

“One of the other things I teach them is to ‘learn how to lose,’ and by that I mean they have to learn how to persist after failing at something,” she explained. “They’re not allowed to say, ‘I can’t.’ They have to learn to persist at improving.”

Nowadays, while Shuler doesn’t ride as much as she would like; she still serves on the board of directors for the Rodeo Cowboy Alumni Association based out of Grandview, Texas. She was also inducted in 2021 into the sixth class of the All Cowboy & Arena Champions Hall of Fame, a group created to help preserve and promote rodeo history.

“I recently received a big compliment at a national championship,” Shuler said. “Some of the women competitors had tables set up where they were signing autographs. I didn’t tell them who I was, but a friend of mine did, and one of them told me that it was because of what I and a few others did all those years ago that they’re able to do what they do now.”

“Of course, they make about 20 times more now than we did back then, but I still appreciated the complement,” Shuler said with a chuckle.





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