Local Gymkhana Rider on the Road to World Competition

Local Gymkhana Rider on the Road to World Competition

Graycen Short, 5, from Evanston, sits on her horse prior to competition. SweetwaterNOW photo by Paul Murray.

ROCK SPRINGS — Cold and snow Nov. 25 did not deter Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana competitors from participating within the snug confines of the Sweetwater Events Complex Indoor Arena.

The number of Gymkhana participants is growing, with winning becoming more difficult. Oaklee Hoffman, 11, from Lone Tree had the fastest barrel racing time of the day, at a blistering 15.796 seconds, while competing in the age 10-13 category. In pole bending, Rock Springs’ Sadie Nichols, 10, clocked in at a scorching 21.057 seconds to lead all others, regardless of age.

Best of show probably belonged to Kaisley Kennedy competing in the age 6 & Under group, as she won all three events for her age category—barrel race (38.052 seconds), pole bending (47.483 seconds) and Big T (31.332 seconds). In addition to barrels and poles, each Gymkhana features a third event which varies from one month to the next, involving careful horse riding around and among obstacles.

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World Qualifier

At age 10, Kennedy Kleinlein from Rock Springs is already a veteran Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana riding competitor. She has had multiple high finishes in the Gymkhana events over a period of several years. Now, Kleinlein is on her way to the Yeti Junior World Finals in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 12-15.

Kleinlein will be competing in barrel racing at the Junior Worlds, and she will be in select company. Only 78 girls from across the country will be competing in the Las Vegas event.

A horse for one or both

Competition strategies vary among Gymkhana riding participants. Some riders use two or more different horses for barrel racing and pole bending, or even within the same event. However, other riders in the competition like to stick with just one horse for both events, although some horses clearly have an event preference.

“It depends on the mental mindset of the horse,” explained Nakel Upton from Rock Springs, competing in both barrels and poles. “I think (my horse) enjoys pole bending more. I think he just finds poles more interesting, and when your horse finds one event to be more interesting, they just do better.”

Margaret Jones from Farson uses the same horse for both events, but her horse has a strong preference. “I think my horse likes poles better, because maybe he feels there’s more happening in poles.”

Pole bending requires a horse and rider to navigate around and among six different poles set 21 feet apart from each other. Knocking over a pole incurs a 5-second time penalty. Jones finished first in the 40 & Up category in both barrel racing at 16.458 seconds and pole bending with a 22.958 seconds timing.

The next Wild West Outlaws Gymkhana is scheduled for Dec. 16, at the Sweetwater Events Complex Indoor Arena.

Shellie Andersen, 12, of Rock Springs, gets comfortable on her horse before competing. SweetwaterNOW photo by Paul Murray.

November 25 Gymkhana results (by age category, in 1-2-3 order of finish, time in seconds

Barrel Racing

Age 6 & under:

Kaisley Kennedy, 38.052

Qunicee Hoffman, 46.452

Kaisley Kennedy, 51.864*

* Some riders rode more than one horse

Age 7-9

Lorraine France, 17.424

Eberlee Okarma, 17.88

Lorraine France, 18.993

Age 10-13

Oaklee Hoffman, 15.796

Kennedy Kleinlein, 16.404

Sadie Nichols, 16.459

Age 14-17

Morgan Watts, 16.466

Kendra Huntington, 16.736

Makinsy Huntington, 16.989

Age 18-39

Megan Matsura, 16.459

Aubree Reger, 17.053

Emilene France, 17.502

40 & Up

Margaret Jones, 16.458

Louise Kennedy, 16.779

Margaret Jones, 17.22

Pole Bending

Age 6 & under

Kaisley Kennedy, 47.483

Kaisley Kennedy, 54.863

Quincee Hoffman, 58.146


Loraine France, 23.185

Eberlee Okarma, 24.04

Cedar Kirk, 31.234


Sadie Nichols, 21.057

Oaklee Hoffman, 21.27

Sadie Nichols, 23.614


Kendra Huntington, 21.67

Annalene France, 21.999

Kendra Huntington, 28.58


Kassidy Hewitt, 23.099

Emilene France, 24.565

Samantha Hakala, 27.05

40 & Up

Margaret Jones, 22.958

Margaret Jones, 24.471

Wendy Pratt, 24.49

Third Event — ”Big T

Age 6 & Under

Kaisley Kennedy, 31.332

Kaisley Kennedy, 35.327

Kanin Kennedy, 53.376


Loraine France, 18.734

Cedar Kirk, 20.798

Eberlee Okarma, 21.98


Ashton Folks, 17.686

Sadie Nichols, 17.73

Ashton Folks, 19.001


Kendra Huntington. 16.19

Kyra Folks,18.449

Brynn Abbott, 18.821


Emilene France, 16.739

Samantha Hakala, 17.315

Kassidy Hewitt, 18.068

40 & Up

Wendy Pratt, 15.447

Kimberly Foran, 18.61

Christina Sanders, 20.757