By Steven Penn
Several local women qualified for the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) World event, which takes place July 22-28, 2013, in Perry, Ga.
The girls are coached by Dan O’Connor and compete under the team name Bar-B M Barrel Brats, after the barn they train at, Bar-B M Farms, 3267 N. S.R. 267, Brownsburg.
O’Connor said nine riders of varying ages qualified for next year’s World event, including Morgan Zink, 18; Shelli Ogston, 46; Mackenzie McClintock, 14; Deborah Williamson, 18; Lauren Davidson, 16; and Michaela Randall, 14.
The girls said one of the main things they like about barrel racing is the speed.
“When you run barrels, it’s a rush,” Davidson said. “You don’t get that from a lot of other (horse riding activities) ... you’re running full speed.”
Zink said some people tend to underestimate her sport.
“There’s always the popular ‘horseback riding isn’t a sport’ (way of thinking), which I think ticks all of us off beyond belief,” she said.
Williamson agreed, saying that people have a certain image of riding horses.
“When people think about riding horses, they always think of their trail ride,” Williamson said, “their one vacation trail ride where you just kind of sit there.”
Zink said she feels people often overlook the fact that her horse is a 1,000-pound teammate.
“The most pride I get out of it is when people tell me my sport is easy,” she said. “I say, ‘try doing your sport without talking to your partner.’ (And in other sports), you have an hour to prove what you can do, we have 16-seconds — without talking.”
O’Connor said his team competes in one of the biggest divisions of the NBHA.
“We run in District Two in the State of Indiana,” he said. “We’re the largest district in the state, and the 10th largest in the country. When the girls go, they run and represent their state.”
He said the competition is also split up into divisions, and competitors earn points at different NBHA events throughout the year.
“They made different divisions so anybody can compete at what skill level they’re at,” O’Connor said. “Then, the better you get, you keep moving up.”
He said the NBHA offers close to $400,000 in prize money, as well as prizes like buckles and saddles.
Barb Musselman — who owns Bar-B M Farms, and gave many of the girls riding lessons when they were younger — said the girls are succeeding in an unconventional fashion.
“The girls are selling themselves short,” she said. “The horses that they’ve done this with, it’s really unique. There’s nothing wrong with any of the horses (they ride), but people put a lot of money in barrel horses when they’re doing it seriously ... (They’re riding) everyday horses. The kids have done magnificent with them, they really have.”
“They’ve taken average horses that are running against people that are (riding $30,000 to $50,000) horses,” he said. “(They) practice the pattern, condition the horses, and are able to compete with them, because they’ve learned what barrel racing is.”
Zink said her desire to get better drives her.
“What I also like (about barrel racing) is there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “(Unlike) Western Pleasure (horse shows), you can continue to place first ... but you can’t get any better than first place. Whereas you can still place first in barrels, but you can still improve your time. You can get a better first place time every time.”
Davidson said she was motivated to get the most out of her horse.
“We’re looking for the potential in our horse we know we can bring out,” she said. “I went an entire year-and-a-half of showing (the horse she rides now), and he would not turn a barrel. I was like, ‘I know he can do it’ ... now he’s a world qualifier and he won the (Hendricks) County Fair.”
O’Connor said his team will continue to work with their horses to keep them conditioned in the months leading up to next years’ competition.
McClintock said it’s hard to get motivated to work with her horse some days, but she knows it’s something she has to do.
“You have to keep him conditioned,” she said. “Even when it’s 20 degrees out, you’ve got to get (to the barn) and do it.”
With the competition being several months away, the girls said they are more excited than nervous, but they understand the gravity of it.
“It’s basically the biggest barrel race of our lives,” Williamson said.
Ogston said the team has to raise $5,000 per girl to be able to send everyone to World.
“It’s not cheap, we have to raise money,” she said. “We sold raffle tickets at the beginning of the year to cover our gas money, just to trailer our horses to the shows throughout the year.”
She said her team will save everything they can to get everyone to World, because it’s a great accomplishment and it’s something they all love.
“For this many girls on one team to reach this goal is pretty
amazing,” Ogston said. “We put everything into this. I’ve always said,
‘three barrels, two hearts, one dream — that’s barrel racing.’”
The Barrel Brats have a holiday fundraiser coming up: Family Fun Night at Bar-B M Farms on Dec. 1, which will feature Santa, hay rides, and pony rides.