Oklahoma cowgirl Leslie Smalygo has been on the back of a horse for as long as she can remember. Leslie had a diverse beginning with horses, and she has taken those experiences and used them to better her horsemanship.
Leslie dreamed of competing at the professional level, and today she’s living out that dream. As she worked her way through the ranks of local jackpots and amateur rodeos, she knew she had the horses to make all her dreams come true. Her horses’ health is Leslie’s primary concern, and she trusts SUCCEED to keep them focused, healthy, and performing their best.
Leslie’s Diverse Background with Showing Horses
When Leslie was about 3 years old, her dad purchased her first pony, Image. Image sparked Leslie’s deep love for horses. Growing up in the rolling hills of North Dakota, there was never a lack of places to ride, and Leslie and her sister took full advantage of that.
Leslie spent nearly her entire childhood and well into her twenties competing in western pleasure events, reining, and English classes. Through hard work and dedication, Leslie earned many titles in her different events. But that success wasn’t handed to her.
“My dad told us very young that if we wanted to show, we had to make our own horses. He taught us that you had to earn success through hard work; if you wanted to win, you had to make your own winners.”
Leslie credits much of her success to the work ethic her dad instilled and the competitive family she was raised in. “My sister and I were very competitive. We always wanted to beat each other at anything we did. You can’t win without the foundation and the drive to succeed, and we had that from a young age.”
The hard work Leslie dedicated to her craft earned her many coveted titles, including winning a world championship in western pleasure and English on her futurity horses at just 21 years old.
While these events took most of Leslie’s focus, like most little girls, she also competed in barrels and poles. Unfortunately, it took a tragedy to motivate her to shift to barrel racing full-time. When Leslie was in her mid-twenties, a close family friend and her reining and showing mentor passed away from cancer. After his passing, it was simply too hard for Leslie to return to that part of her life.
A New Passion for Barrel Racing
After putting her showing days behind her, Leslie turned to barrel racing full-time. It didn’t take long for her desire to grow beyond competing at the local level.
Leslie took the natural progression as so many people do. She succeeded at the local jackpots, so she took the next step and competed in amateur rodeos close to home. After doing very well at those for a couple of years, including snagging a year-end title in the American Cowboys Rodeo Association (ACRA), she decided it was time to set her sights on something more significant.
“After you win at the amateurs, you have to go to the next level. You always want to better yourself amongst better competitors.”
When it came to professional rodeo, Leslie took it slow and steady, setting small goals each year that she could achieve and then build on. After each success, she would branch out a little more the following season. This process created a strong foundation and gave Leslie confidence when the time came to go after her gold buckle dreams.
A Dream Year
After accomplishing all of the small goals she had set for herself, Leslie decided it was time to make a run for her first National Finals Rodeo in 2022. As the season progressed, the wins kept getting sweeter for Leslie and her great horse Gus.
My horse’s health is my primary concern, so I might not go to as many rodeos as other girls on the road. If I feel like my horses need a break, that is more important to me than entering a rodeo no matter how much I could win.
Where Leslie does enter, she makes it count. Leslie has been able to capitalize on some of the biggest stages of professional rodeo, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, Reno Nevada, and Cody Stampede
Throughout the busiest and most profitable summer months, Leslie has found herself amongst the top 15 in the world on more than one occasion. It is quite a feat to fight your way into the top ranks during the summer months when there is so much money to be won, but Leslie seems to fit in just fine in that prestigious group.
As the season closes, Leslie and Gus are headed to the Northwest to see if they can secure their spot in their first NFR. Consistency has been the word to describe this team throughout the year, and Leslie is hoping to continue that consistent streak to finish strong.
SUCCEED To Keep Nerves At Ease
Leslie was first introduced to SUCCEED by fellow barrel racer and friend Jeannie McKee, and it has been a staple in her program ever since.
Barrel horses are nervous by nature. One of Leslie’s horses happened to be exceptionally nervous and was also coming off of an injury. This horse struggled with stomach issues, as did some others in her string. When she won a carton of SUCCEED at the Prairie Circuit Finals, she decided it was time to try it.
The results spoke for themselves. That horse went from being nervous to calmly walking into the arena and giving consistent runs. After seeing the change, Leslie quickly started her good horse Gus on SUCCEED as well. Shortly after starting SUCCEED, Leslie and Gus won 26 checks in a row. It was evident to her that the change SUCCEED had made internally benefited their performance in the arena.
“My horses are more eager to work when they’re on SUCCEED. It has taken the edge off to where they’re focused, feel good, and are not hot. It puts them in the zen mode to work.”
Leslie appreciates that SUCCEED is a daily supplement for long-term health benefits, not just a short-term “band-aid.” Leslie wants to know that her horses are healthy and able to give 100 percent every time she enters the arena. With SUCCEED, she knows her horses are happy, healthy, and able to do just that.
It’s overall wellness in your horse. If there was only one thing I could give my horse and I had to take everything else away, I would keep the SUCCEED. You’re going to take care of their gut, their mind, and their wellness program. They’re going to be a happier horse.
SUCCEED is Key to Leslie’s and Gus’s Consistency
Being on the road for several weeks or even months at a time can be hard on performance horses. Like many other competitors, Leslie used to struggle with keeping her horse’s weight on while traveling all across the country.
“Since starting my horses on SUCCEED, I have been amazed that they are just as comfortable on the road as they are at home.”
Leslie reports that there are so many aspects of SUCCEED that she loves. Some of her favorites are that her horses love it, which makes it simple to give to them, and it helps with their mental game in a run.
You can see a difference when you don’t give it before a run. SUCCEED gives my horses an attitude change for the better. They perform better because they are relaxed. You have all their focus, and they are happy to do it.
Like so many SUCCEED users Leslie gives her horses an additional serving of SUCCEED before loading on the trailer for longer hauls. Another one of Leslie’s favorite ways to use SUCCEED is right before she runs to coat her horses’ stomachs, so they are more focused and comfortable in a run.
“I am honored to be a part of Team SUCCEED because of the great things it has done for my horses. How can you go wrong with the perfect ingredients?”