In 2015 the Alberta Barrel Racing Association (ABRA), celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a big bang. Not only was this a landmark year for the ABRA, but the event proved to be bigger… and better, than ever.
From August 17 to 22, 1111 ABRA barrel racers from all parts of the North country, descended upon the Ponoka Calnash Events Centre. According to media relation’s manager Janet Patriquin, this year the event was exceptional.
“There was a lot of extra buzz around this one, because of the 20th Anniversary – it was a milestone for us and it was the biggest one ever,” smiled Patriquin. “Everyone was pretty exited about the little extra things that we were doing for the 20th.”
As part of the events this year, the ABRA honored those who have supported the event for the past two decades. Patriquin explained the ABRA celebrated the members and directors who have been a part of this event since day one.
“We had six people that we gave gold cards to that have been members all 20 years and entered the Finals all 20 years,” said Patriquin.
The ABRA promised this event to be the best ever and it was. The total payout was $181,500 and entry numbers were up 10 percent over last year’s. Patriquin said, these numbers are exciting statistic for barrel racing in Alberta.
Open 1D Champion
Melissa Harding, from Bassano, Alta. hustled a big win in the Short Go to capture the 2015 ABRA 1D championship. Following the final run, she said this race was epic.
“It was awesome!” said Harding.
Harding’s 12-year-old gelding Im No Dainty Chic, aka “Digby” (Fast Moon Chic X They Call Me Dainty), cracked out a tough race for any of the competition to beat.
After the qualifying rounds, Harding said Digby felt like he had just enough left in him to win the race on Sunday. When it was time to make their way into the arena for the Short Go on Sunday, Harding said she gave Digby a little pep talk before the final run.
“I begged him, because he was a little nervous,” said Harding. “We were going to go for it.”
Evidently, Digby pulled out his fastest time of the week for the Short Go, as their time of 17.272 seconds, shot to the top of the scoreboard.
Harding and Digby are a very tough combination to beat, but this pair has had their share of adversity. Harding explains she doesn’t run Digby very often, because he has some health issues.
“He has some health issues, so we don’t run him everywhere.”
Harding said that she’s been able to monitor his immune system with proper conditioning and care. Now she says she only enters Digby at a handful of races in a season, and conditions him to peak for the big races.
“We save him for the big stuff,” smiles Harding. “I pick about three months in a season and I try to get him to peak at this time of year.”
Over the last decade, Harding has rode Digby and said she has created a winning conditioning program – that keeps him solid and consistent. Harding said, she does everything she can to keep Digby running strong so he can bring home a big win like this one.
For 10 years, Christine Drisner of Sherwood Park, Alta., has been aiming for a title at the ABRA Finals. This season it all paid off. Drisner and her horse Dry Docs Whiplash aka “Homer”, claimed the top position in the 2D, with a time of 17.873 seconds in the Short Go and drove home with a brand new 2D Open Champion trophy.
According to Drisner, the Calnash Event Centre is one of her favorite arenas to run at and she wouldn’t miss the ABRA Finals, for anything in the world.
“The ground is always good – this is a top event,” said Drisner. “I always come back every year.”
Drisner landed a time of 17.873 in the Short Go on Sunday, which positioned her on top of the 2D standings. She said Homer, ran a little bit slower than he ever does… however, it paid off and she was thrilled with this win.
For Jillian Ranks of Millarville, Alta., her backup horse TS Peppys Taco aka “Taco”, was her ticket to win the 3D saddle at the Finals. She said she was expecting her mare Ms Peppys Lash aka “Ruby”, to crack out some top times. However, it was her backup horse Taco, who would claim a top position in the 3D.
This win put a cap on a roller coaster weekend for Ranks. She explained she had a lot of hiccups throughout the weekend and to win on her backup horse was completely unexpected.
After her name was called as the 3D saddle winner, Ranks said she had to give her faithful horse Taco, a big hug.
“I went up to my horse and said thank you so much,” smiled Ranks.
Until the final run was made in the Short Go, Ranks said she didn’t know for sure where she would place.
“It was a very tight race!”
Ranks said her main horse Ruby, knocked barrels in both qualifying rounds. She said this was discouraging for her, because this mare had won her the ABRA Reserve 1D title on in 2013.
“It was quite stressful,” said Ranks.
Sometimes things turn out the way they were meant to. Ranks purchased Taco as a backup horse three months ago from pro barrel racer and Canadian Finals Rodeo Qualifier, Kendra Eddy, of Longview, Alta. She and was banking on her horse Ruby, to win a check. However, unbeknownst to Ranks, Taco would be the horse to pull a win home from Ponoka.
After the awards presentation on Sunday, Ranks said the trials of this competition were worth it in the end.
“It turned out to be a really good thing,” smiled Ranks.
2015 was the first year Kim Meise of Prince George, B.C., decided to enter her name into the ABRA Finals. Following the Short Go on Sunday, she said she was very happy she put her entry in the mail.
Meise drove 11 hours to Ponoka, with a trailer load of horses including her mom’s (Debbie Skwarchuk) 11-year-old gelding, NRS Silver Moon aka “Gage.”
“This is my first big win,” commented Meise.
Meise has been barrel racing for 10 years, but this ABRA win is a new feather in her cap.
From start to finish – Meise said the whole competition was a blast.
“Wednesday he had a really good run,” said Meise.
During the Second Go on Saturday… Meise said Gage was a bit fresh and bobbled on the first and third barrel.
However, Gage stepped up his game. In the Short Go, Meise said he went to work and nailed a time of 19.077 seconds.
“We ended up where we ended up, and I’m pretty happy,” smiled Meise.
Meise has been competing for the past 10 years, and always wanted to compete in Ponoka for the provincial Finals.
“I’ve heard a tone about the ABRA Finals,” said Meise.
It was all-good for Meise. Following the awards ceremony on Sunday, she said this event was well worth the 11 hour drive and she’ll be coming back to next year’s event.
It was a very tight race for the 5D saddle, but Jessica Geitz from Brooks, Alta., and her 15 year-old gelding Riley Bill aka “Bill,” slipped into top position, by one hundredths of a second.
Staying solid and keeping the barrels up, was Geitz’s strategy to win. Throughout the ABRA Finals, Geitz said Bill was consistent, despite being timid at times.
“He is very spooky, said Geitz. “He seemed to love it in this arena.”
In their first run, Bill spooked a little bit on the third barrel. However, Geitz said by the final run, Bill ran hard, fast and solid.
This was Geitz’s first saddle and first trip to the ABRA Finals. She said the weekend was awesome and full of excitement.
“We had a few people from District 2 camp together. It was a really fun week.”
ABRA High Point
It was a high rolling weekend for Rene Leclercq and Flirt For A Diamond aka “Flint” (Chicado Book X Molly Parton), who claimed the High Point, the Open Average and over $6,000 from the Finals. Leclercq she said her homegrown horse gave her a good advantage over the competition.
Evidently, Flint loves the arena at Ponoka. Over the past two years, this pair has won the CBHI Futurity and Derby under the roof at the Calnash Event Centre. This year, she sailed into the top high point position and placed second overall in the Open 1D.
2015 has been an incredible year for this pair from Holden, Alta. She said her 7-year-old mare is getting stronger at every race and competes really well in this arena.
“She’s way stronger this year. She’s going into each and hunting the barrels.”
This has been a big year for this pair. Aside from competing in the ABRA circuit, Leclercq and Flint are also within top 15 of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Standings this season.
ABRA Youth High Point
Purchasing a good barrel horse is like winning the lottery. For this family from Bergen, Alta., the ABRA Finals proved that they’ve hit a big jackpot with a horse called Concerned About Cash aka “Bailey” (Pacific Cash Bar X Major Concern).
Throughout the Finals, 11-year-old Reagan Tebb and Bailey, were on fire and put on a show for the competition. Tebb’s first run on Wednesday, posted a first place time of 17.346 seconds. In the second round, the pair captured their second first place time of 17.455 seconds. In the final moments of the Youth ABRA competition, Tebb and Bailey scored a hat-trick as the team sped out of the arena with an even faster time of 17.065 – and claimed the fastest times of the entire weekend.
Tebb said this was a completely unforeseen win. Tebb and her mom Lisa, started Bailey on the barrel pattern only one year ago. For this young barrel racer, her extraordinary debut to barrel racing has left their family almost… speechless.
“I was super excited,” smiled Tebb. “I was really-really happy with him.”
Tebb said their first run of the Finals on Wednesday, felt awesome.
“He is super calm and he does everything I ask him to,” Tebb said.
Tebb said her mom and dad (Greg) purchased Bailey, in the summer of 2014 and everyone on this team is new to barrel racing.
“I only started barrel racing to spend time with my daughters, maybe a year ago,” explained Lisa Tebb. “We are just starting out.”
Bailey is just a newbie too. The 16 year-old, ranch raised gelding from Didsbury, Alta., has spent most of his career in mountains and hunting. Tebb said he never saw a barrel pattern before they purchased him.
“He was a very quick learner,” said Tebb.
Tebb said Bailey now has a new place in their family and a new saddle to show off. No one would ‘ve foreseen this win, this time last year. However, according to this family that is makes this win even more extraordinary.