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Martha Josey - The Making of a Barrel Race Champion

Some people have success handed to them and some have to work for it; Martha Josey has had to work harder than most.

Martha grew up in a small town in East Texas. Her father was one of the first presidents of the American Quarter Horse Association. He had a great passion for horses and taught her how to ride at a young age. Together, they would ride through the cornfields and pastures. These experiences nurtured Martha’s early love for horses. Then tragically, when Martha was 10, her father died suddenly of a heart attack.

In the aftermath of his death, Martha’s mother sold all but one of the family’s horses. Years later, a teenaged Martha attended a rodeo and felt inspired to compete in barrel racing.

A Rough Start

Martha had no cowboy boots, no racing saddle, and no barrels, but that didn’t stop her. She rounded up some old trash cans and put them out in a hay field to create her own practice arena. She dug up her father’s old roping saddle and let the horse loose for the first time in a long time. Then, in honor of her father’s memory, Martha started training to become a cowgirl.

Things seemed to be on the rise until tragedy struck once again. During her senior year of high school, the house Martha and her mother were living in burned to the ground. They lost everything.

Although times were hard, Martha didn’t let anything keep her down. She saved enough money to buy a new horse, CeBe Reed, and began her barrel racing career. Martha trained CeBe Reed carefully and they worked extremely well together, going on to earn 52 consecutive wins and compete in the NFR twice! After a long and successful career, CeBe passed away at 25 years of age.

On the hunt for a new horse, Martha came across Sonny Bit O’ Both. The pair naturally hit it off and went on to win three consecutive years of competition at the NFR. In 1980 Sonny became the only horse to ever win the AQHA and WPRA championships in the same year -- a record that remains unbroken to this day.

Martha Josey, Barrel Racing Champion Martha Josey, Barrel Racing Champion

Bouncing Back Into Action

It seemed like nothing could hold Martha back. Then in 1981 she had a horrible practice accident. She woke up in the hospital with fractures in her skull, a broken pelvis, six broken ribs, and a punctured lung. The doctors told her that not only would she never ride again, but it was unlikely she’d even be able to walk.

Still, Martha was determined to press forward. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, she created a swim area for herself and Sonny. They swam together every single day, working to rebuild her abilities. Four months later, she ditched the wheelchair and got back in the saddle, winning first place in the very next competition she attended! After a series of big victories, Martha and Sonny were able to catch up to other riders and qualify for the NFR yet again despite the lost time.

Martha Josey
Martha Josey

No matter what came Martha’s way, she didn’t let it stop her. She persevered even when others told her it was impossible. Now at 88 years old, Martha continues to ride and teach the next generation of competitors.

Many of Martha’s students have advanced to championship competitions such as the NFR and the NBHA, and this year is sure to be no different. Only the fastest and most determined can compete at the 2018 NBHA World Championships, which will be happening Oct 29th - Nov 3rd in Perry, GA. RIDE TV GO is excited to host EXCLUSIVE coverage of this exciting event. Visit RIDETVGO.COM to discover the next generation of racers like Martha Josey and don’t miss the rise of the next barrel racing legend!

You can see Martha tell some of her own story in this exclusive RIDE TV GO VIDEO!

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Martha Josey, Barrel Racing

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