MEET HOPE SICKLER
Charlie Nicks of Real American Cowboy Magazine
2013 was a big year for Hope as a writer – she was named Real American Cowboy Magazine’s Writer of the Year and in October she launched Mile Hi Barrel Horse Magazine (www.MileHiBarrelHorseMagazine.com) which has already skyrocketed from relative obscurity to having established itself as one of the most popular barrel racing magazines in the industry expanding its readership base each and every month. Her article in Real American Cowboy Magazine last September covering the deadly snow storm in South Dakota that killed more than 100,000 head of cattle was read by more than 1,000,000 people – big league numbers in the publishing business.
Hope, who is a petite girl will tackle anything – head-on, right now and full tilt. She is an accomplished barrel racer and rapidly building a name as a reputation barrel horse trainer developing a barn full of young barrel horses. What I have loved about knowing and working with Hope is her solid personal constitution and credit for that probably has to go to her parents, Shane and Jana Sickler and her agricultural upbringing on their mega-farm in North Dakota.
Today, Hope now lives in Pueblo, Colorado where she spends her time training barrel horses, writing, enjoying time with her boyfriend Brice and their 4-legged mascot, companion and side-kick, Iggy. She is truly a remarkable young lady – a role model for young cowgirls – she’s someone we respect and hope you enjoy getting to know too.
Here’s what Hope had to say:
RACM: When did horses come into the picture for you?
HOPE: I have been a diehard horse fanatic since the day I was born. Both my grandpas loved horses and I think I got the interest and passion from them. Neither of my parents were ever involved with horses much. My mom grew up a city girl and my dad grew up on a farm. When I started riding, I actually wanted to do hunter/jumper and my parents flew me out to Ohio where my aunt and uncle lived at the time and they took me to Kentucky, to the horse parks and I got my very first jumping helmet! I can’t say I really ever used it because somewhere right after that is when I fell in love with barrel racing. Horses are part of my life every single day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Although some days are trying, I am blessed to be able to do what I love every day.
RACM: Brothers and sisters. Birth order?
HOPE: I am the oldest. I have a brother Lenci, who is 25 and a sister, Stormie, who is 20. My brother is a farmer and he and my dad work together farming my family’s farm of close to 10,000 acres of small grains, mainly wheat. We also raise buffalo, horses, run some cattle and also own/run a hunting lodge. My sister runs college track and cross country and is also a very accomplished photographer! If I ever get married, she will have dual jobs being a bridesmaid and a photographer! My family is extremely important to me. I have the world’s greatest parents who have been there through some of the lowest parts of my life and never gave up on me. My parents have worked hard to get to where they are today and have instilled that same work ethic into myself and my brother and sister.
RACM: Did you enjoy school – any particular memories?
HOPE: School was fun. I always tried to have a good time, sometimes too much fun! I was the kind of person that talked to everyone and tried to be friends with everyone. School was always hard for me though, and I struggled, especially with math. I think I took college algebra 3 or 4 times before I passed it. In fact I took it my last semester before I graduated college and I think my teacher only passed me because she felt bad for me and knew that I was graduating. I remember my senior year of high school when I was named biggest flit… which if you knew me in high school, you would’ve agreed!
RACM: College – anything you want to say about college?
HOPE: I LOVED college! I spent a few years at Dickinson State University and then in 2008 I transferred to North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. I then spent 2 ½ years in Fargo where I finally graduated, along with my YOUNGER brother, in December of 2010 with a degree in Animal/Equine Science and a minor in Agribusiness. My brother is extremely smart and it always irritated me because while in Fargo, we owned and lived in a house together and he would never have homework or if he did, he would have it in done in 5 minutes; myself on the other hand would be banging my head against the wall in the basement trying to figure out the first question of the assignment. Like I said above, school was never my strong suit. I always joke and say I may not be book smart but I am dang sure street smart!
I absolutely loved going to school in Fargo. The campus was phenomenal, the instructors were great and I made some of my best friends while studying at NDSU. I actually haven’t been back to Fargo since I graduated in December 2010 and I will be going back there beginning of May for one of my best friends weddings. I am super excited to go back to my college stomping grounds and see old friends.
RACM: How did you get to Pueblo, Colorado?
HOPE: This is going to sound SO crazy but before I ever found my way to Pueblo, I actually did an assignment for college and chose Pueblo as where I moved after college. It was for one of my final equine business classes and we had to put together a business plan. I put together my business plan and I picked Pueblo, Colorado to “live”. Who would’ve thought I’d end up in Pueblo 4 years later! But the reason I am in Pueblo now is because of my boyfriend, Brice Ingo, who I have been dating for 3 years. My very best friend in the world introduced us and we have been glued to each other’s hip ever since. I am sure he is sick of me but I refuse to leave. I love Colorado too much!
RACM: What is it you like about Colorado?
HOPE: Colorado, like home in North Dakota, has every season, which is certainly NOT why I like it (I seriously loathe winter!) but it does remind me of home. I also like Colorado because although I can ride and train horses, I can be close to a city and go shopping or go out for sushi with my friends. I grew up on a farm/ranch 30 miles from ANYTHING for 20-some years of my life and even though I am a country girl at heart, I am also a city girl at heart. I love everything about big cities from the skyscrapers to the interstates and even the traffic! I love it all, so being in Colorado gives me the opportunity to have a little bit of country and a little bit of city! I also LOVE the people! I have met some very amazing people since living in Colorado and I can never imagine my life without any of them.
RACM: When and why you got in the barrel horse training business?
HOPE: If you would have told me 3 years ago I would be training young barrel horses, I would have laughed in your face. I never had the patience for young horses. I grew up riding seasoned and finished horses and loved everything about winning. I still like to win but not near as much as I like to train and start a young barrel horse. My boyfriend, Brice, is a huge reason why I transitioned into a trainer. He himself is a trainer (not a barrel horse trainer though!) and taught me how to be patient and how to “feel” and listen to a horse. Ever since then I have been hooked. I love not knowing what you have until you start and season the horse. It is a gamble and certainly a rollercoaster ride but I love it, every single minute of it. I get tickled when my young horses walk into the arena quietly, or stand outside the gate quietly. It is little things like that that make me love my job so much. I was also given the opportunity to ride and learn from some of the greats in the barrel industry such as Gale Beebe, Kelly Yates, Shelly Mueller, Darla Kennepohl and many, many more! Another person that has been very instrumental in my career in horses is Alan Woodbury. He is an old family friend and has helped me with a lot of horse involved decisions. Lastly I would have to thank my parents. Without them I would never be where I am today. They have given me every opportunity to follow my dreams and I am so extremely fortunate and thankful for them. They will never truly know how much I appreciate all they have done for me.
RACM: What is your daily life like?
HOPE: My daily life starts with me hitting the snooze button about 5 times! I am so not a morning person! I eventually roll out of bed about 630, put sweats on and head outside to feed the horses and clean pens. I am extremely anal about pen cleanliness and you will see me outside cleaning pens in a blizzard, tornado, hail storm, whatever!! After chores I go inside and work on the computer until the horses are through with their breakfast. After that I saddle and tie everything up. I typically ride between 8-10 horses a day, sometimes 12, just depends on if Brice is out of town shoeing (he is a farrier). I typically don’t get in the house until 6-8 that night and in the summer we don’t come in until 9 or 10. I really hate being inside, so the little time I have to spend inside the better. If I am inside, I am cleaning every chance I get. Not only am I anal about my pens but I am anal about my house. I vacuum probably 9 times a week, if not more!!
We rope on everything we have. All my futurity horses, finished barrel horses and prospects get roped on. They actually get roped on more during the week than they see the barrel pattern. We also pull and rope a Heel O Matic on all of our horses. I am very fortunate for Brice and all that he does for our horses and our program. He is a great trainer and an exceptional roper and I love that he ropes on all my crazy barrel horses!
RACM: What is your very best memory with a horse?
HOPE: Oh goodness, this is a tough one. How can you choose?! Every day makes for new memories with my horses, but my best memory would probably, honestly have to be when Alfie was born a month ago. She is a daughter of my mare Famous French Flair, and by Lana Merrick’s great Heart Of The Cartel. She was born via embryo transfer and she is the start to a very large dream that my family and I are making a reality! I am looking forward to the future with her and the rest of the babies and cannot wait to see what they have in store for us!
Other than that I have a lot of memories that are near and dear to my heart. Every horse that I have had the opportunity to ride has taught me something. I take every horse as a learning experience and an experience that will only better me as a rider and a trainer.
RACM: You’re young for a popular writer, and yet you are already among the most popular writers in the rodeo and barrel racing world… how did that happen
HOPE: I honestly think it happened because I know so many rodeo and ranch related people across the country. I have met and talked to some of the most influential people in our world of rodeo and barrel racing and I just think that has made me a better writer and person. I write from the heart and I never ever try to make my writing confusing or something you have to read very slowly to understand what exactly the writer is talking about! I like my writing to be something that a 7 or 8 year old child can read and understand. I don’t need to use big words to show that I am dignified writer. I also think my writing is very relatable.
RACM: You’ve interviewed and written about a lot of famous people in the rodeo world – who sticks out in your mind, and why? Inspiration?
HOPE: Probably Kelly Yates. She has been extremely instrumental in my barrel racing career and putting her on the cover of our magazine was first-rate. She is one of the best barrel racers and barrel horse trainers to ever enter the arena and I think it will be hard to match her in the years to come. Writing that story was important to me because I wanted to share with the world what she has shared with me.
RACM: Last October you and a couple of partners stared Mile Hi Barrel Horse Magazine – how is that going, what do you enjoy about it, what is the hardest part of it, where do see it going?
HOPE: I love the magazine! It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride and something that I had no idea what I was up against when I first started, but I am so thankful that I did. I love being the editor and working with the people that I get to work with. I also love writing stories that barrel racers can relate to. The hardest thing about that is juggling everything at once but I am like my dad in that sense. My dad is a farmer, a rancher, a man of all sorts and he always has too many irons in the fire but he never skimps on anything. He always does a great job and does what he says he’s going to do and that is the kind of person I am trying to be (so far, so good!).
RACM: Where is Hope Sickler in 5 years?
HOPE: Hope Sickler is hopefully still training barrel horses and going down the road more! I have a couple young horses that I am very excited for and am hoping that they make all my dreams come true! In 5 years I will also have several more baby horses roaming the plains of North Dakota and cannot wait to see where they take me and my family. I have a couple new clients that I am riding and training for and I am excited to make their horses some of the best in the industry! In addition, I hope that my magazine has grown into the largest barrel racing magazine in the nation. I also joke that I will not have kids until I make a couple NFR’s so in 5 years there will probably not be any human babies in my life yet!
RACM: Anything you want to say?
HOPE: I just want to say that the sky is the limit. I never ever thought I would be where I am today but I am so happy that stuck my nose to the grindstone and never stopped trying. My family and friends have been very helpful in keeping my spirits high when things wouldn’t go the way that I wanted them to go and would always remind me that perseverance pays off. No matter where my life takes me, I will always be the same small town, farm girl from North Dakota. I will never let anything change who I am or where I came from! I also want to thank everyone who has ever believed in me. That means the world to me!
You can contact Hope at http://email@example.com, you can LIKE her Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/pages/SIHorses.
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Cover photo courtesy Sean Halverson Photography. http://www.SeanHalverson.com.
ABOUT CHARLIE NICKS
Charlie Nicks is the Best Selling Western Writer whose 14 books and historical novels can be purchased at BarnesandNoble.com or on Amazon.com or found at more than 800 fine bookstores throughout the West.
Born and raised in Western Montana, Charlie spent 10 years as a working cowboy on large cow-calf operation where he learned to write in front of a wood stove on cold winter nights in a bunk house.
Today, he lives on Colorado’s Front Range and works as the Editor/Publisher of Real American Cowboy Magazine.