FARMINGTON — Riders ranging in age from 7 to 70 took to the arena floor Sunday evening and tried to earn their best times at a state barrel racing event.
The New Mexico District 1 chapter of the National Barrel Horse Association held its 15th race of the year at the McGee Park Memorial Coliseum as part of the San Juan County Fair.
"We love the county fair," said Kathy Price, the district's director. "It's one of our biggest youth races because they are all here for the fair."
About 130 riders raced in the youth, senior and open categories of the barrel racing event, trying to complete a clover-leaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time,
Another 16 riders competed in the pole bending event afterward. In pole bending, riders ride horses through a line of six poles, weaving between the poles for the best time.
Jeannie Roberts competed in barrel racing's open category with her horse Runaway. Roberts said she was happy to see her horse compete after recovering from ulcers in the past couple of months.
"You don't know what you are going to expect from him," Roberts said.
Sunday's run was the second one for Runaway since Roberts started riding him again. They are still working on getting back in the groove of things, she said.
"He's nervous. He has nervous issues," Roberts said. "I have to work on getting him calmed down and relaxing before the run so he can focus."
Ultimately, Haley Wolfe won in barrel racing's open and youth categories with a time of 16.9 seconds.
Destinee Dale, who starts her freshman year at Navajo Preparatory School in the fall, rode her young horses, Skunkman and Sunshine, in the youth category.
The 14-year-old became interested in horses and barrel racing after spending time with her father, Art, who participated in rodeos.
"I love being around horses and being able to ride them and compete with them," said Destinee Dale. "That's what keeps me in this work."
Skunkman and Sunshine, who Dale bought in March, are still in the early stages of training. And Dale has been working with them to handle the barrel racing course.
"You have to go as fast as you can. You have to do all these cues to help your horse," Dale said. "You don't have much time to think, you just have to react to do it. That's the difficult part."
Dale has been working specifically with Skunkman on making turns at the barrels. She kicks her outside foot to get the horse around the barrel, timing it so it doesn't shock the horse.
Her mother, Colleen, said her daughter has learned about responsibility from taking care of the horse and learning to race with it.
"It makes her very responsible, having a horse is a lot of responsibility," she said. "She has learned a lot."