Bossier’s Douglas earns high marks
Calley Douglas is proof that hard work pays off. The 23-year-old Bossier City resident finished first in the graduated beginner ranch hand class at the Ranch Sorting National Championships (RSNC) World Finals in Fort Worth last month, which also earned her the high point champion title in the beginner category.
Her journey to the finals, however, began two decades ago when she was just three years old with her very first horse, Big Red. Being around the horse was her “happy place,” as she described it.
Calley took a short break from riding during high school, but found Seventh Heaven Ranch in Benton three years ago, where she rekindled her love of horses and riding again. She quickly jumped in to learning ranch sorting, where riders move a herd of cattle in numerical order from one round pen into a separate adjoining pen in 60 seconds or less.
Calley began training with a new horse, a five year old quarter horse named Strawberry Shortcake, in December. Not only does she have to prepare mentally and physically to ride, but she needed to build a relationship with the animal. Calley said she would go to the ranch four or five days a week, basically every chance she got, to work with the horse.
“You have to have a relationship with your horse,” she explained. “You can’t just expect to go out and win every time if you only ride once or twice a week.”
In order to qualify for nationals, Calley had to participate in five RSNC shows. Teams finishing in the top 10 receive points; amount of points depend on the final placement.
Calley already had points going into the world finals.
There were more than 400 competing in her category. Calley said her nerves almost got the best of her, but she reminded herself of a saying the ranch has – let your faith be bigger than your fear.
“I get so nervous and I have bad anxiety,” she explained. “I decided that I had to forget about my nerves and just go for it.”
After the first round, Calley made it into the top 100, followed by the top 50 and top 20. By the time she reached the final 10 riders, Calley said she simply went for it and gave it her best try. She was completely stunned when her name was called during the awards ceremony.
“All I could think was, is this real? Did this just happen? Then, they said my full name and it sank in,” she said.
Her coworkers, however, knew she had the skills and ability to win.
“She is the most motivated, hardworking, driven individual I’ve ever met,” Angie Bellamy, coworker and fellow instructor, said.
Calley received two championship belt buckles and a high point saddle for her win. Moving forward, she has developed more confidence in her abilities as a rider and instructor at Seventh Heaven Ranch.
“Every year I set a goal for myself. My goal last year was to make it to nationals this year. Just to get there was a blessing, but a win takes it to a whole other level.”
She still spends time with Strawberry Shortcake, spending hours a day riding and continuing to build their relationship. This summer, she’ll be working two jobs, one of which is teaching kids the ropes of horse riding. Calley will also be taking riding lessons of her own, which she hopes will strengthen her riding abilities before the next competitive season.
“I love kids and I love teaching them,” she said. “It makes me happy to see them happy because I started out the exact same way.”
Calley thanked her parents, Jim and Kayce Douglas; her boyfriend, Ryan Johnson; and the Seventh Heaven Ranch team for their support and encouragement.
“I really couldn’t do it without the ranch team,” she said. “They set goals for themselves and we all help each other achieve them. We are just a big family around here.”
She invited the public to check out Seventh Heaven Ranch and see the benefits of learning to ride firsthand.
“It’s a great way for kids to learn responsibility, how to care for a living animal and to respect animals,” Calley said. “It’s also a great way to meet new people and make new friends.”
Although she doesn’t like to talk about her wins, there are clues in her everyday attire that show how much hard work really does pay off.
“I like to wear my belt buckles,” she said. “I just pick one to match whatever I feel like wearing that day.”
Seventh Heaven Ranch is located at 1196 Cattleman’s Trail in Benton.