Since the 1960’s R.E. and Martha Josey have competed professionally in the sport of Rodeo claiming multiple World Championships between the two of them. Through this time Martha and R.E. have been endorsees for many barrel racing products as they have worked to make the sport safer for barrel racers and all rodeo contestants. One of the greatest contributions to the sport has been through the Josey line of barrel racing saddles made by Circle Y Saddles.
In Martha’s early years of barrel racing, she found it difficult to ride in the barrel saddles that were available. They often had stirrup fenders hung at an improper angle that would result in her being thrown forward in a turn positioning her out of balance. Riding at a professional level every second counts in a barrel run. This was something Martha knew and wanted to improve. Martha partnered with Circle Y Saddles 1987 to design a barrel saddle that would be desired across the globe, even in South Africa.
“I am a small-town girl who always loved the farm life, I have always been around horses, and it was always a dream to be a rancher and a barrel racer, but we don’t really get that kind of a lifestyle in South Africa,” explained Kristen Hacking, South African Barrel Racer. “I have ridden horses since I could walk but grew up doing the English riding showing and showjumping with a bit of eventing. I found mounted games; it was still English but they did the barrel racing pattern. Later on, I found South African Western mounts games (SAWMGA) which is kind of like gymkhana a bit and they do 13 different patterns that mostly involve pole bending and barrels put in different patterns, and we could wear the western gear so that became my sport. The NBHA has also just started here but they are still very small and trying to grow, I will be competing in that as well.”
Along with designing saddles Martha and R.E. have hosted barrel racing and calf roping clinics and schools since 1967 to be deemed the longest-running rodeo school in the world just starting the 55th year of operation. Through the decades of teaching the Ranch has welcomed thousands of students from across America and across the world. Students have flown in from Costa Rica, Brazil, and many different countries in Europe to learn from this legendary rodeo couple and their amazing staff.
Teaching these students, the Ranch often shipped saddles across the country to go home with these students. However, this was the first time a saddle was requested from Africa.
“I have followed Martha Josey on YouTube and Facebook for a long time, I watched many training videos and applied Martha’s ways in my own training to improve my horses not only for better times but also to build stronger friendships with them. It became a goal to save up and buy myself a Martha Josey saddle,” Kristen explained. “Once I had saved the money I now had to try and find someone who would bring the saddle in as I am from South Africa, this proved difficult so I contacted Circle Y and they put me in touch with a company that would ship it to my door. I dealt with Josh from the horse saddle shop and he was incredible, after much discussion, I went with the Martha Josey Ultimate cash saddle, 15” seat, regular tree”
The Josey Cash is the most popular Josey Circle Y Saddle as it has the deepest seat of the Josey line, built to give riders security in their turns and correct positioning. The Josey Saddles are designed with a variety of safety features to ensure a rider’s safety while also giving them a competitive advantage. The design of the Josey Tree has been untouched for several years as it fits such a variety of horses and riders. The saddle is built with a double rigging system to distribute pressure evenly across the bars of the saddle and eliminate the need for a rear cinch. Josey saddles are also built with forward-hung stirrup fenders to give riders the ability to keep their balance even on the toughest turning horses. They are equipped with the High-Tech Tack Rider Buckle, a locking stirrup leather buckle that prevents the sleeve from sliding off the stirrup leather during a run.
“My saddle landed in South Africa, in very bad timing as there was all the chaos with the looting that had just started, and I thought “oh dear there goes my saddle” and I lost a bit of hope of ever seeing it,” Kristen said. “By some miracle, it stayed safe and the courier company delivered a Circle Y box to my office. I stared at it in disbelief and looked at my co-worker and said it’s my saddle and I was a little in shock I must have stared at the box for at least a minute or two before opening it, the most beautiful saddle I had ever seen was in front of me.”
The Josey Ranch works to pair riders with saddles that will fit their horses and individuals as riders. The ultimate goal is to give horse and rider something that’s comfortable to compete in, effective in safety, and to have a show-stopping look.
“At first, I would sit after every ride and pick off every horsehair, I didn’t want to get my new saddle dirty but that was short-lived,” Kristen said humorously. “It is the most comfortable saddle I have ever ridden, and it has completely changed my horse’s performance for the better allowing her freedom of movement through her shoulders and back, taking seconds off her times! The deep seat keeps me nice and secure, the forward hung stirrups have made a huge difference in my riding I no longer get flung forward and out my seat, and I love the double rigging system on this saddle giving a wider pull keeping the saddle down and not needing to use a back girth.”
Kristen competed in her new Josey saddle at the SAWMGA Championships in October of 2021.
“I highly recommend the Martha Josey saddles, they are great quality, comfortable to ride, fit horses fantastically, and look absolutely stunning,” Kristen said. “A huge thank you to all who made it possible in getting my saddle to me and a huge thank you to Martha Josey, and the Josey Ranch, Martha you have been such an inspiration in my life and riding career.”