Fit for Duty: Marla Stevens

Marla StevensHighlighted Member
Marla Stevens
Height: 5’10”
Weight: None of your business!
Years on the Department: 15

How did you get started in barrel racing with horses?

My entire family has always been involved in rodeo. My dad rode bulls and bareback horses and also roped. My mom ran barrels her entire life and still runs now at 62 years old. My husband also competes and has a background in roping, ranch sorting and riding bareback horses. (Bareback horses are the ones that buck at the rodeo.)

I have had a love for horses since I was old enough to know what one was. I started out with a pony and competed in local play day events. I moved on to my mom’s horse when I was 7 and started with some bigger competitions, but mostly at the local level. I have had horses my entire life, but it wasn’t until I came to work for the Department that I bought what could be considered an actual barrel-racing horse.

I run in several races a year, and my husband and I are very involved in ranch sorting. We travel constantly for competition. Our off-time revolves around our family and horses.

From what I understand, barrel racing is a physically and mentally demanding sport for you and your horse. How do you prepare for a competition?

Barrel racing and riding in general require a lot of core strength. Nine years ago I got bucked off and fractured a vertebra in my back. Thankfully my core muscles were pretty strong from all of the riding, which helped me to get back on my feet a lot sooner.

I mostly do cardio these days. I had a horse fall on me in April and injured my left knee and ankle, which has slowed me down a little. I try to spend at least three days a week on the elliptical, but for fitness, I really prefer to run. We are always on the move at our house. We have two acres, four horses, two dogs and a 4-year-old daughter that keep us in constant motion. Owning horses requires a lot of physical activity. Besides keeping them conditioned, there is always hay to move and stack, stalls and water tanks to be cleaned, and preparation for the next competition.

For our horses, we try to do a variety of things to keep their minds fresh as well as keeping them fit. We will take them out in the desert and long-trot them to build up their endurance, we go to ranch sorting practice, where they spend some time working cattle and sharpening their gate skills, and we do sprint work and conditioning in the arena. Sometimes I will take them through a practice barrel run just to let them run a little. We ride about five days a week, depending on our competition schedule. After a competition we will give the horses a day or two off.

Do you, as a rider, have to maintain a specific diet? What about the horse?

I would love to tell you that I follow a really strict diet and eat “clean” all of the time, but I really don’t. I eat pretty good during the workweek, and on the weekends, we try to grill a lot and I am mindful of portion control. Mostly, I just try not to do anything in excess.

The horses eat really well. We keep an eye on their protein intake and make sure that they are getting enough feed to compensate for what they put out. A ranch sorting event can be a pretty intense workout for them, so we always make sure that we put enough calories back in them after a tough weekend of competition.

Marla StevensYour passion for horses and barrel racing has led to an event called Buckles and Barrels for Bailey. Can you please elaborate for our readers as to what this is?

Buckles and Barrels for Bailey was actually inspired by our daughter and the staff at the Spring Valley Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that helped save her life.

Four days after Bailey was born, she contracted a bacterial infection that began rapidly destroying her intestinal tract. Her bowel perforated and she was taken in to emergency surgery. The surgeon came out and told us to go kiss her goodbye because she would probably not survive.

Bailey did survive, but lost 70% of her small intestine in the fight. She spent the next four months of her life in the NICU recovering and getting strong enough to come home. While we sat in the hospital over those four months, we realized that we were in the presence of some really special people. The doctors and nurses in that unit were amazing, and we felt compelled to give back to the people who gave us the light of our lives. We started planning a barrel race and sent a letter to the Gaughan family asking for their help.

The Gaughan family agreed to help us and have allowed us to use their amazing facility at the South Point. We had our first race in November 2011 and it has become an annual event. We have barrel racers come to town from seven different states to compete over three days. We give 100% of the profit back to the hospital and have raised $40,000.

Any races scheduled for the end of 2014 and the year 2015?

We will be producing eight barrel races in 2015. All of them will take place in Pahrump and will lead up to the fifth annual Buckles and Barrels for Bailey.

My husband and I are competing in the Nevada State Ranch Sorting Finals in Bonnie Springs on December 6 and 7.

Marla StevensHow has being fit helped you to be a better police officer?

This job is both physically and mentally demanding. We carry around a lot of heavy equipment and spend a lot of time on our feet. Sometimes we are required to chase people or engage in a physical confrontation. Our fitness level can play a key role in the outcome of those situations.

We can also experience a great deal of stress, and exercise is a great stress reliever. Going for a run and clearing your head a little can do wonders for your outlook on things. I use the horses for the same reason. I can be having a bad day, but when I go home and saddle them up and head out in the desert for a long ride, it seems to turn everything back to the positive and clears my head.

If you were the Sheriff, how would you incorporate fitness into the Department?

We had the gyms at the area commands when I first came on the Department, and it was nice to be able to get on the treadmill or go lift before or after work. For someone like me who commutes from Pahrump every day, I really don’t have time to fit the gym in every day, so having one at work made life a little easier.