GUEST POST BY MELISSA SWORD • PHOTOS COURTESY BERNIE HUDYMA & ONSITE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
The crowd loves them. They ride fast horses, know no fear and they ride to win. Often referred to as “the darlings of the rodeo”, these Peewee and Junior riders clock competitive times that frequently would place them at the pay window alongside “the big girls”.
Twelve-year-old Mariah Mannering has won a Trophy saddle and several silver buckles during her short barrel racing career.
Mariah expresses her feelings about this exciting sport: “One thing I love about barrel racing is the adrenalin rush. Before I enter the gates I always get a nervous, yet exciting feeling. I really like how you can connect with your horse and the strong bond that it builds between you, because I think that you need a strong bond with your horse to go far, it’s all about teamwork and having fun. My most memorable run would have to be at the 2009 BCRA Finals in Quesnel. I think that this was my most memorable run because it was my last time competing as a peewee and I got to do it in my hometown close to my friends and family. It was also one of my favourites because I won riding Shrimp and I knew it was going to be one of my last times to ride her. I loved that feeling when I was running home on Shrimp and I could hear the crowd going crazy.”
While it takes the support of friends and family to haul these young competitors down the road, it also takes commitment and dedication from these blossoming riders to keep their horses conditioned and ready to compete.
Being smaller and lighter is an advantage in this sport where speed and agility count and occasionally, first and second place is separated by a mere one-thousandth of a second.
Amazingly, 2010 was Ricki’s first year of barrel racing. Ricki has done well for a first timer; she was the 2010 Canadian Barrel Racing Finals Peewee Average Winner along with winning all three days of the BC Barrel Racing Association Finals Peewee Division and placing fourth in the B.C. Rodeo Association year end standings for Peewee Barrels.
When asked what she liked about barrel racing, Ricki said, “I have many favourites but the scariest was in Pritchard. The first barrel we slipped, the ground didn’t hold us. My best run was my very first run with my brand new horse. My favourite run was probably in Ashcroft – I got second with a 16.1. What I like about barrel racing is how you and your horse work as a team and my horse gives me 100%, and the adrenalin and speed. I love to go fast.”
2010 was also a good year for Peewee Barrel Racer Sofeya Smith. Sofeya was the B.C. Rodeo Association Peewee Barrels Season Leader, earning her first trophy saddle.
Sofeya relates her feelings about barrel racing: “I love riding because it gives me a chance to break out of the real world and go to the rodeo life. I find it relaxing to push my horse around the barrels and wait for the best part, to see my family’s smiling faces, and all of the pride that they have in me. I don\’t think of barrel racing as a competitive sport. When I am riding my horse, everything goes away.
“My most memorable ride would have to be this whole year of 2010. I won my very first saddle. Every ride that I made last year was very memorable, and I was one more step closer to my summer goal. I would not have been able to succeed in barrel racing without my papa, Bill Yon. He and everyone around me is what makes all of my runs memorable to this day.”
Brooke Wills ended the 2010 season with perfect timing at the BC Rodeo Association Championship Finals held at Alex Fraser Park in Quesnel, scoring 200 points out of a possible 200 points on her 22-year-old Quarter Horse, Cactus, and earning her the Championship Buckle. Cactus is one of those rare and special horses that come along once in a lifetime. At the end of the fourth Championship round, when the Announcer related that this was Cactus’ last Rodeo as Brooke was retiring him, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd.
2011 will be Brooke’s final year competing as a Junior Barrel Racer.
Brooke shares her feelings about this fast paced sport: “What I love about barrel racing is that I get to be with my horses and ride them every day. Also, how it’s a very fast speed event.
“My most memorable run would have to be the 2010 BCRA finals on Cactus. It was his last rodeo because I am retiring him and he won all four performances and the average. Another one would be catching my first pro rodeo cheque on him and he was 22 years old.”
Put your sunglasses on – the future is bright for these young B.C. Barrel Racers and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see their names lit up on the leader board at the CFR someday.
~ Melissa Sword