About 215 rider/horse combinations will be competing this weekend in the finals, which started Friday at 10 a.m. with the adult open division.
“We have contestants from all over northern B.C. and Alberta. We have people from three years old up to 70 who compete in this,” said Amber Atkings, arena director for the event.
The riders are divided by age into adult, junior and peewee groups, and for each group, riders have to compete in a certain number of events over the season – nine for the adults, six for the juniors, and four for the peewees – to qualify for the finals. The finals is done under a “3D” format, which means each group is placed into divisions based on their fastest time to ensure a more equal competition amongst riders and horses of different calibres.
Atkings said barrel racing tests the speed and agility of the horses and the horsemanship of their riders, and that straight lines and tight turns are the key to earning the fastest times. She said the winners in each division are determined by the aggregate time of their best two runs out of three, though there are also prizes for best average time for the three runs.
Rylee Trenholm, 14, from Chetwynd is competing in the junior category this weekend, and she said she has high expectations for this weekend and is looking to win her division, though she admits that won’t be easy.
“It’s pretty tough this year, there are a lot of tough riders,” she said.
Trenholm has been competing all summer to qualify for the finals, and has competed in barrel racing events since she was very young. She competed last year in the finals and finished sixth in the first division with an aggregate time of 16.887.
This weekend she will be riding on a 13-year-old mare, Hayden, that she has competed with all summer. She said the key to their success will be to run a clean pattern, staying tight to the barrel, but not too close to knock it over as that results in a disqualification for that run. She added the pattern of the barrels and condition of the ground are significant factors in having a successful run.
Trenholm said she loves the speed of the sport and the thrill of winning, and hopes to make barrel racing a career.
The barrel racing finals are fee to watch this weekend, so the public is encouraged to attend. Spectators can enjoy a concession hosted by the local 4-H Saddle Tramps club. There will also be a social on Saturday night where for $10 people can come down and enjoy some food and beverages and meet and greet some many of the riders.
Atkings wished to pass on her thanks on behalf of the Peace Country Barrel Racing Association to the many sponsors and volunteers who made the event possible. She added the association is always looking for new members to join, and their 2011-2012 season begins shortly.
More information on the association can be found online at www.pcbra.com.