Barrel Racing and the Right Strategy Equals Success

Barrel Racing and the Right Strategy Equals Success

This is just one of the many contestants who competed at the Sweetwater Summer Barrel Racing Series. SweetwaterNOW photo by Paul Murray

ROCK SPRINGS — The second edition of the Sweetwater Summer Barrel Racing Series at the Sweetwater Events Complex on May 19 featured jackpot payouts for the fastest times.

Margie Allen of Rock Springs cleared the three barrels on her horse “Lulu” with the best timing of the evening, at 16.101 seconds, for a $215 initial payout.

Debbie Gardea of Green River, riding “JJ”, had the next best time, with a 16.226 clocking worth $143. The event also featured pole bending, with Rawlins’ Tess Jaure on “Miss Now or Never” clocking the best time at 21.347 seconds around the six poles twice, worth $219.

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The events were divided up into different categories—1D, 2D, 3D and 4D, depending on the number of participants who signed up.


Strategies Vary

Finishing at the top of the standings in barrel racing means choosing a horse carefully that is properly trained, and choosing the right riding strategy among the different options available. It also helps if a barrels racer can find a horse that is self-motivated.

“Choosing a barrels horse depends on how fast they learn the pattern,” 21-year-old Taylor Allen of Bridger Valley said. “Some horses learn it really fast and they seem to enjoy it.”

Allen estimated that, in her experience, a horse typically takes a year to a year-and-a-half to train for barrel racing, with a 15.5 clocking being considered a really good, fast time, if seldom reached.

“You look for a horse that has its own drive,” explained Alexa Lauze, 18, and a 2021 Green River High School graduate.

Lauze said that her horse was a paint, and about 10 years old.

But then again, horses can have minds of their own.

“It’s never the same with training. You’re dealing with a living, breathing animal,” declared Laura Halbert of Rock Springs on her 14-year-old mount.

Halbert added that usually it’s a quarter horse that is best suited for barrel racing.

Racing strategy also has to be considered, such as what equipment to use.

“I don’t think my horse did real well tonight because I had spurs on and he’s not used to that,” 10-year-old Raygon Peterson of Rock Springs said, with her parents smiling nearby.

Still, Peterson’s horse finished third out of nine horses in the 4D placings in the 18 & Under Youth 4 D barrel race, clocking in at 26.007.

In a sport where winning and losing can come down to whose horse is a few hundredths of a second faster than somebody else’s, even where a rider’s place is on the schedule list can become important.

Usually after every fifth barrel racer, there is a tractor drag of the arena to keep the dirt from becoming too chewed up.

“Some girls like to be the first or second rider right after the drag,” said Makenzi Scott, 17, from Rock Springs.

Scott added that sometimes girls do not like real deep sod on the arena, which can interfere with a horse’s stride. A horse that takes several strides to get around a barrel is a horse that is not going to finish in the standings, and possibly with a no time.

“You want to get around each barrel in two or three strides,” McKinnon’s Charly Potter said with dad nearby. Potter gave her age as “10 and a half”.

She estimated that her horse, “Studley”, took between two to three years to train for the barrel races. And practice makes perfect. Potter said she participates in between 20 and 30 barrel races a year.

Many of the horses in barrel racing are well past Kentucky Derby age, many of the horses being into double digits.

Oakley Hoffman, 10, from Lonetree rode a couple of different horses, one age 12 and the other age 13 and she described both horses’ performances as “Great!”

It can require time for a horse and rider to get used to each other. Rock Springs’ Jordan Nix, on “Luke” finished fourth out of four racers in the Open 4 D Barrel Race 3D Placings, with a time of 18.083 seconds.

Evanston’s Melissa Lofthouse on Papas Streaking Bug finished first in that event with a time of 17.271, worth $123. “My horse did okay. I should have ridden him more. I could have cleaned up a couple of barrels,” Nix said.

The object of the summer series barrel racing and pole bending series is to have fun. But even the very youngest competitors can win some extra money.

“She did a fantastic job!” 7-year-old Kashlee Hill of McKinnon said while giving one of her horses a well- deserved rubdown. Hill finished in first place in the 1D Placings/Pee Wee 10 & Under Barrel Race with an age-remarkable time of 17.970 seconds, worth $51.

She also finished in first place in the 4 D Placings for the Open 4 D Pole Bending, for a jackpot of
$114 after a time of 23.488 seconds.

The Top Finishers:
Open 4 D Barrel Race
1 D Placings
1st: 16.101 $215 Margie Allen on Lulu, Rock Springs
2nd: 16.226 $143 Debbie Gardea on JJ, Green River
3rd: 16.261 Kristie Grieve on Moon French Special, Baggs

2 D Placings
1st: 16.743 $184 Addie Bowers on Smokey, Pinedale
2nd: 16.744 $123 Morgan Watts on Casper, Farson
3rd: 17.003 Makenzi Scott on Streak N Jolla

3 D Placings
1st: 17.271 $123 Melissa Lofthouse on Papas Streaking Bug, Evanston
2nd: 17.288 $82 Stephanie McCann on Sassy, Rock Springs

4 D Placings
1st: 18.304 $92 Chris Thomas on Pickle, Green River
2nd: 19.194 $61 Kimberly Foran on Baby, Green River
3rd: 19.270 Charly Potter on Studley

Senior 4 D Barrel Race (50 and over)

1 D Placings
1st: 16.101 $150 Margie Allen on Lulu, Rock Springs
2nd: 16.322 Margie Allen on Roanie, Rock Springs
3rd: 16.392 Elaine Rose on Bid of Commotion, Farson

Youth 4 D Barrel Race (18 and under)
1 D Placings
1st: 16.178, $109 De Ette Powell on Twilight, Lyman

2 D Placings
1st: 16.743, $96 Addie Bowers on Smokey, Pinedale
2nd: 16.786, Oaklee Hoffman on Cruella, Lonetree
3rd: 17.003 Makenzi Scott on Streak N Jolla, Rock Springs

4 D Placings
1st: 18.399 $57 Bailey Denison on Buffalo, Rock Springs
2nd: 18.531 Tenlee Maycock on Bunny, Rock Springs
3rd: 26.007 Raygon Peterson on Horse 1, Rock Springs

Pee Wee 10 & Under Barrel Race
1 D Placings
1st: 17.970 $51 Kashlee Hill on Hollywood, Lyman

3 D Placings
1st: 19.270 $34 Charly Potter on Studley, McKinnon
2nd: 19.890 Kashlee Hill on Sage, Lyman

4 D Placings
1st: 20.817 $28 Kennedy Kleinlein on Fancy, Rock Springs

Open 4 D Pole Bending

1 D Placings
1st: 21.347 $219 Tess Jaure on Miss Now or Never, Rawlins
2nd: 21.791 Tess Jaure on Snoops Pearl

2 D Placings
1st: 22.315 $193 Oaklee Hoffman on Cruella, Lonetree

4 D Placings
1st: 23.488 $114 Kashlee Hill on Sage, Lyman
2nd: 25.108 Chris Thomas on Pickle, Green River