Horsing Around: Barbara Twist’s Life of Rodeos and Rides
Life has an interesting way of showing us where we should be. Barbara Twist, a resident at Holiday Retirement’s Emerald Pond, was already a working nurse with a busy career when she discovered her passion — and talent — for horse riding. As Barbara tells it, she tagged along with some fellow nurses who loved to ride at a nearby farm in the evenings. She was a novice, but her friends showed her the ropes. It was, however, a trip to the rodeo to cheer on a friend competing in the barrel races that really inspired Barbara.
The professional riders and rodeo-goers fresh in her mind, Barbara set out to become a better rider. Things began humbly enough with the purchase of an “old, ugly and beat-up” horse — he wasn’t the fastest fella in the barn, but he was a start. A few cowboys took notice of Barbara’s dogged training efforts and decided to give her a leg up. Their first pro tip was a trip to a horse auction to buy a competition-ready ride.
His name was Reno. He was beautiful and proved to be a real learning experience for Barbara as she broke into the world of professional races. Which is to say, when it came time for Barbara and Reno’s first competition, she got all dressed up in her new boots and hat, ready for her big debut. Reno had other ideas. When the flag dropped, Reno took several steps back, instead of lunging ahead, and ultimately took on only part of the course before making an exit with an embarrassed Barbara on his back.
Barbara and Reno eventually parted ways, and she next rode Sony — a big, fast, gorgeous and fully trained horse. Unwilling to risk another embarrassing competition spectacle, Barbara took lessons from a trainer and set out to make riding her full-time profession. With Sony on her side, she found that she simply had to trust her horse to show her the way, and the pair went on to great success. She remembers their first race together as a flash where she couldn’t do much but hold on for dear life. But something must have gone right, because Barbara and Sony took third place and soon became frequent winners. Or, as Barbara puts it, they were “in the money.”
That newfound success carried Barbara — and eventually a palomino named My Roar — all around the northeast. She rodeoed throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts and even competed in Madison Square Garden in New York City. On a trip to Texas, she made a cameo in a commercial carrying an American flag on horseback through a packed arena.
Those were fast and fabulous days for Barbara and her four-legged teammates, and they make for wonderful stories — particularly during the days of anticipation leading up to the Kentucky Derby. After Barbara hung up her spurs, she went back to her roots as a nurse. But she can still be founding wearing beautiful boots around the halls of Emerald Pond.