Gymkhana Riders Listen to Horses’ Sense

Gymkhana Riders Listen to Horses’ Sense

Rick Helson was just one of the many competitors at the Gymkhana event. SweetwaterNOW photo by Paul Murray

ROCK SPRINGS — Kaisley Kennedy was the biggest winner at the January 21 Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana rodeo at the Sweetwater Events Complex Indoor Arena.

Kennedy, from Rock Springs, finished first in all three age 6 and under competition categories, clocking in at 36.247 seconds in barrel racing, 46.110 seconds in pole bending, and posting a 34.406 seconds clocking in the third event challenge.

Event organizer Sue Nichols always has an added-on third event which varies from one gymkhana to another. On January 21 the third event was a backwards barrel timed competition, in which horse and rider had to put their natural instincts on hold, and navigate backwards between a pair of barrels.

Advertisement - Story continues below...

Kimberly Foran of Rock Springs posted the fastest time in the third event, at 13.554 seconds, competing in the age 40+ group. The fastest barrel racing time was a 16.141 clocking turned in by Taylor Allen of Lyman in the 18-39 age competition. Lonetree’s Oaklee Hoffman wasn’t far behind, with a 16.199 timing in the 10-13 age group. In pole bending, Rock Springs’ Sadie Nichols beat all comers, clocking in at 21.890 competing in the age 7-9 category.

The Horses Sense

The winter 2022-2023 Gymkhana season at the Indoor Arena started in September and has been going on monthly since then. By now, some of the horses have decided what their favorite event is. For some horses, it doesn’t matter. But for other horses and their riders, a favorite event has emerged.

For Oaklee Hoffman, 11, of Lonetree, barrel racing rates first choice. “I like barrel racing because it’s easier,” Hoffman added that barrel racing requires horse and rider to do less maneuvering around.

Then again, some horses enjoy the extra maneuvering required in pole competition. “My horse can ride around poles easier than he can get around barrels,” explained 11-year-old Andrew Degrassi of Denver. Degrassi’s grandparents live in Rock Springs and he flew into Rock Springs to be part of the competition.

Pole bending requires a horse and rider to navigate around and among six different poles, each 21 feet apart. Knocking over just one pole means a five-second penalty added on to the rider’s time. Barrel racing has three barrels spread wide apart depending on the dimensions of whatever arena the event is being held in, and horses and riders navigate around the barrels in a cloverleaf pattern, with as few strides as possible or as many as needed.

Some horses let their riders know what their definitive preference is. “I like barrel racing because that’s what the horse likes best,” declared Michelle Howard, competing in the 40+ age category.

“I like barrels, but (my horse) likes poles,” declared Kandi Folks, Rock Springs. “You get horses like that.” Folks explained that her horse seems to respond better to the challenge of pole bending and seems more eager in that event.

Rick Helson of Rock Springs also rode a horse who weighed in on preference. “(My horse) gets amped up for barrels,” Helson said, “but even more so for poles. Poles are slower but he just likes weaving around.”

Then again, some horses and riders simply like a racing challenge of whatever description. “I like ’em both (barrels and poles),” declared Kendra Huntington, 15, of Rock Springs. “The adrenaline just gets going.”

Speed is fun, though. “I like barrel racing. I like faster events rather than slower ones,” said Kennedy Kleinlein, 9, of Rock Springs.

For some riders and horses, reasons get boiled down to the essential. “I enjoy barrel racing more. It’s just more fun,” concluded 11-year-old Raygon Peterson of Rock Springs.

The penultimate Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana of the season will be on Sunday, February 12, at the Indoor Arena. The Grand Finale will take place on Sunday, March 19.

Barrel Racing (order of 1-2-3)
Ages 6 & under
Kaisley Kennedy 36.247 (seconds)
Karter Parker 44.280
Wyatt Carpenter 45.302

Ages 7-9
Kennedy Kleinlein 16.725
Sadie Nichols 17.367
Eberlee Okarma 18.258

Ages 10-13
Oaklee Hoffman 16.199
Oaklee Hoffman 16.545
Raygon Peterson 17.915

Ages 14-17
Sydney Jones 16.639
Kendra Huntington 16.952
Kendra Huntington 17.772

Ages 18-39
Taylor Allen 16.141
Stephanie Root 16.295|
Megan Matsuura 16.897

Ages 40+
Stephanie McCann 16.760
Margaret Jones 16.764
Patty Bindl 16.921

Pole Bending
Ages 6 & under
Kaisley Kennedy 46.110
Karter Parker 52.986
Wyatt Carpenter 55.974

Ages 7-9
Sadie Nichols 21.890
Eberlee Okarma 26.828
Kyle Carpenter 37.172

Ages 10-13
Raygon Peterson 22.972
Charly Potter 24.222
Tenlee Maycock 24.652

Ages 14-17
Kendra Huntington 22.886
Kendra Huntington 30.177
Makinsy Huntington 30.718

Ages 18-39
Stephanie Root 25.262
Kaitlyn Duran 27.078
Kandi Folks 32.575

Ages 40+
Margaret Jones 24.493
Margaret Jones 25.187
Rick Helson 25.925

Third Event—Backup through barrels
Ages 6 & under
Kaisley Kennedy 34.406
Wyatt Carpenter 37.146
Karter Parker 37.275

Ages 7-9
Sadie Nichols 16.176
Kyle Carpenter 17.430
Kennedy Kleinlein 18.753

Ages 10-13
Ashton Folks 13.989
Bentley Maxfield 17.805
Izabelle Pedri 17.976

Ages 14-17
Makinsy Huntington 16.054
Bailee Nelson19.419
Kendra Huntington 29.554

Ages 18-39
Sandra Johnson 15.243
Tess Dipiero 17.635
Jaime Kennedy 20.978

Ages 40+
Kimberly Foran 13.554
Michelle Howard 13.669
Rick Helson 13.750