Gymkhana Start Marks Beginning of Winter Rodeo Season

Gymkhana Start Marks Beginning of Winter Rodeo Season

Gymkhana Princess Attendant Izabelle Pedri helps Wynn and Bennett Pedri by holding some reins at Saturday's competition. SweetwaterNOW photo by Paul Murray

ROCK SPRINGS — Local Saturday barrel racing and pole bending will take no hiatus during the winter months as the 2021-2022 Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana competition got underway on October 23 at the Sweetwater Events Complex Indoor Arena.

Gymkhana Queen Emma Curtis, 17, a Rock Springs High School senior, presided over the event, which saw around 60 participants competing against each other while their friends and families in the stands cheered them on. The Gymkhanas will take place monthly at the Indoor Arena through next March, with the next competition scheduled for Saturday, November 13. 

The event kicked off with a costume contest, featuring a duck, various princesses, superheroes, clowns, witches, Native Americans, a Lone Ranger, a jockey, and even an astro-cowboy. The event concluded with “Black Cat’s Cradle,” a type of expanded barrel race featuring four barrels to be negotiated rather than the usual three.

Some familiar names took home winning honors. Lyman’s DeEtte Powell finished first in the age 14-17 barrel race event, posting a time of 16.487 seconds. Rock Springs High School senior Makenzi Scott, 18, took top honors in the 18-39 age barrel racing, posting a 16.622 time on her horse Fames Last Moon. For good measure, Scott also finished second in the 18-39 barrels category, riding a different horse, BB Moonshine Chic, to a 16.752 clocking. Scott likewise won the 18-39 pole bending event with a blistering 20.398 time.

Quarter horses were the mounts of choice for the barrel contestants. “Quarter horses are a little smaller and they can get around turns faster and tighter,” declared Rawlins’ Savannah Helmetag, 23.

Others concurred. “Quarter horses are simply faster over a quarter of a mile distance,” Scott said, “and since the barrel race circuit (at the Indoor Arena) is a quarter of a mile, they’re just better.”

Advertisement - Story continues below...

“They’re bred for it,” Curtis added. 

It also helps barrels and poles success if a competitor can skip the usual two years of horse training required prior to entering competition and just go straight-in with a ready-made animal.

Eight-year-old Iva Lamb of Mountain View took that approach. Her 20-year-old horse, Virgil, came to her set to go.

“I’ve had him about a year,” Lamb said. “He came to us a good boy.”

Win or lose, however, the Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana was primarily an opportunity for some of the regional ranching community to gather and fellowship. Perhaps 11-year-old Tracie Westerberg from McKinnon summed it up best. “At these events, what I like most is the ability to compete with my friends,” Westerberg said.

Other youngsters added that rodeo emphasizes certain life lessons. “One thing about being with horses, it teaches you responsibility,” declared Izabelle Pedri, 10. Pedri is a student at Pilot Butte Elementary School in Rock Springs. Pedri should know, after having won a pair of buckles at the 2021 county fair in open class horse junior showmanship and open class overall walk-trot.

Queen Competition

This year, Gymkhana event organizer Susan Nichols arranged for a queen contest in August, won by Curtis.

One of the rodeo participants, Megan Matsuura, assisted with the queen competition event. “It gets the girls ready,” Matsuura explained. “The judges see how the girls handle themselves in horsemanship and presenting, and the older girls give a speech. It’s just an opportunity for the girls to see how they like it.

It’s an opportunity for them to prepare to go on if they want to, to events like the Red Desert Rodeo queen competition. The girls can see if they like it or hate it.”

A Gymkhana by any Other Name

The Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana has nothing to do with gymnastics. Nichols said that the monthly barrel racing and pole bending competitions have been called “Gymkhanas” for as long as she can remember. She was uncertain about the origin of the name.

“I didn’t come up with it,” she said. “It’s just a term given to horse events with riding obstacles and patterns.”

Further information regarding upcoming Gymkhanas is available by accessing the Sweetwater Events Complex website and clicking on the “Events” tab

The Winners:

6 & under:
Barrels: (order of 1-2-3)
Wes Wegener, 36.168 seconds
Kip Owlsley, 37.282
Kyle Carpenter, 39.353

Kyle Carpenter, 46.795
Kip Owsley, 50.564
Wes Wegener, 59.487

“3rd Event” (Black Cat’s Cradle)
Wes Wegener, 28.161
Kyle Carpenter, 33.576
Corbin Soto, 52.452

Ages 7-9
Kashlee Hill, 16.895
Chase Westerberg, 17.532
Kennedy Kleinlein, 18.341

Chase Westerberg, 23.512
Kennedy Kleinlein, 26.176
Sadie Nichols, 28.674

“Black Cat’s Cradle”:
Kennedy Kleinlein, 22.126
Buckly Baker, 23.83
Ashten Folks, 26.632

Ages 10-13
Sage Cooley, 16.37
Oakley Hoffman, 17.204
Tess Jaure, 17.264

Oaklee Hoffman, 22.247
Sage Cooley, 22.874
Saige Baker, 25.731

“Black Cat’s Cradle”
Oaklee Hoffman, 16.536
Andrew DeGrassi, 16.615
Vivi Soto, 17.587

Ages 14-17
DeEtte Powell, 16.487
Jadyn Mortensen, 17.003
Makinsky Huntington, 17.147

Makinsky Huntington, 23.334
Jadyn Mortensen, 26.953
Nakoda Bird, 27.649

“Black Cat’s Cradle”:
Jadyn Mortensen, 14.74
Zoey Robison, 15.185
DeEtte Powell, 15.286

Ages 18-39
Makenzi Scott, 16.622
Makenzi Scott, 16.752
Andi Carpenter, 16.845

Makenzi Scott, 20.398
Taylor Allen, 21.295
Andi Carpenter, 22.888

“Black Cat’s Cradle”:
Savannah Wegener, 15.704
Andi Carpenter, 15.723
Emily Anderson, 16.295

Ages 40+
Margaret Jones, 16.587
Louise Kennedy, 16.637
Mishell Howard, 16.973

Margaret Jones, 23.228
Louise Kennedy, 27.376
Mishell Howard, 27.572

“Black Cat’s Cradle”:
Louise Kennedy, 15.964
Kelly Westerberg, 16.324
Mishell Howard, 17.823

Remaining Gymkhana Schedule (all Saturdays):
November 13
December 4
January 8
February 5
March 5