Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Barrel racer saddles up for rodeo, Southern STARRS

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Lauran Douglass rides Santana, a 12-year-old Registered Red Roan Appaloosa at the Spring Ride-A-Thon held recently for Southern STARRS.



Here is Southern STARRS Riding Instructor Lauran Douglass on the mounting ramp with student Kurstin Day and volunteers Shari Prestanski, left, and Kaley Gillis, right. Submitted 


Among the many reasons to attend the first ever Whip Crackin’ Rodeo set for Friday and Saturday are the charitable organizations who are to benefit from the funds raised as a result of the event.

A total of 16 organizations have been selected to benefit, and one of them, Southern STARRS, will actually have one of its part-time workers taking part in the rodeo.

Lauran Douglass, 20, is the riding instructor at Southern STARRS, or Special Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Students, is a program that provides therapeutic horseback rides to special needs children and adults. Southern STARRS does not charge a fee to its participants, and remains one of the few such programs nationwide that does not do so.

“That is my passion,” Lauran said of Southern STARRS. She likely still spends more time volunteering at the organization then she does working her paying job.

In fact, her experiences working with the children and others at the organization, located on Cairo Bend Road in Lebanon, led her to change her major from Elementary Education to Special Education. She is presently attending Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin but will transfer to Middle Tennessee State University to complete her education. She is a graduate of Friendship Christian School.

When not at Southern STARRS or at school, Lauran is also an award-winning barrel racer, that is, she rides a large animal, a horse, er, of course, really fast around some barrels in an arena, something she has done since she was in the second grade, around the age of 7.

When she was a child, Lauran said her family moved to Texas for a time and while there a family friend introduced her to rodeos and let her ride her horse, and well, she’s been riding ever since.

Lauran is a member of the Wilson County Saddle Club and has placed in the Top 5 of that organization since she was in the seventh grade. She has placed in local open shows in barrel racing and competed in high school rodeos.

She will be participating in the Cowgirl’s Barrel Racing event this Saturday at the Whip Crackin’ Rodeo with her horse, Santana.

“This is my second time to participate with the rodeo company,” she said. “I’m really excited about it.”

She first competed with the company at a rodeo held at Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro. The Whip Crackin’ Rodeo is presented by Lone Star Rodeo Company of Marfa, Texas.

Lauran became interested in Southern STARRS after her mom saw an ad regarding the organization and contacted Kaysie Young, the assistant director, for information. That led to Lauran volunteering when she was in the 9th grade and she has been there ever since.

As riding instructor, Lauran helps the children and teaches them how to ride the horses and makes sure the volunteers are there and in place among other duties.

She is the daughter of Steve and Karen Douglass and her brother is Alan, a junior at Wilson Central High School. They reside in the LaGuardo community and ride horses, but Lauran said they leave the barrel racing to her.

Lauran said Santana is a 12-year-old Registered Red Roan Appaloosa and she has had him since he was 4.

“He was real high strung” at first, she said, but through working together he has calmed and learned what he is supposed to do.

“We help each other along,” Lauran said, noting he is an especially good listener as she talked to him about what she wanted to do in life. “I talk to him. He doesn’t share my secrets.”

Oh, and as if Lauran did not have enough to do, she also competed this past summer in the Fairest of the Fair Pageant at the 2009 Wilson County Fair and was named second runner up.

The Whip Crackin’ Rodeo is part of a busy weekend of all kinds of things to do in Wilson County. The event, held at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon, is Friday and Saturday, April 16-17. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the rodeo starts at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for adults are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets for children 12 and under are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. The tickets are available at all Wilson Bank & Trust offices and at all major sponsors. 

In addition to Southern STARRS, other charitable organizations that will benefit from the rodeo include Prospect, Inc.; Sherry’s Run, CASA, Brooks House, Habitat for Humanity of Wilson County, the Education Coalition of the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, Wilson County Books from Birth, Fiddler’s Grove, Rotary for Habitat, Walter J. Baird Middle School sports teams, Wilson County Civic League, New Leash on Life, Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry, Wilson County 4-H and Wilson County Help Center.

Platinum sponsors of the event include Rose Tire/Bridgestone, Burchett Ford and Wilson Bank & Trust. Gold sponsors include Wilson County Motors, Craighead Home Sales and Mayor Philip Craighead, Citadel Security and Rob Cesternino, Permobil, Capitol Theatre Project and Bob Black, Smile Gallery and Dr. Chad Williams, State Farm and John Greer and Visionary Design Group.

Prior to the rodeo, the Ag Center will host the annual Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Dumplin’ Day and Storytelling event from noon until 5 p.m. Admission is free. The event features a Dumpling Cook-off, storytelling, corn hole tournament, checker tournament, whittling contest, gospel, country and bluegrass music, clowns, inflatables and more.

Prior to Dumplin’ Day, the Annual Fiddlers 5k Run/Walk begins at 8 a.m.

For more information on all of the events, visit or call the Chamber office at 444-5503. You may also visit For more information on Southern STARRS, visit

Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at

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