A slew of tough barrel racers and their horses descended upon Blackhawk Arena in Salina, Utah, from May 13–15 to take a shot at the Southwest Desert Classic Mega Run for the Money. The event offered a unique format—riders paid one entry fee for the opportunity to make three separate runs over the course of three days. When the dust settled, it was Terri Wood-Gates and Smooth Movin Lena who rode away with the victory.
“The first day, we had a pretty good run—it was a 15.581. It felt like a good run, but not real snappy. When she ran in the second day and got to the first barrel and turned it, I thought to myself, ‘You better just hang on, because she’s going to be a little quicker today,’” Wood-Gates laughed.
Wood-Gates’ second run was quicker, indeed—the duo turned in a 15.155 to run the fastest time of the weekend and win the SWDC Mega Run for the Money, earning $3,251.
For Wood-Gates, the win was about more than just a paycheck—it was also about a comeback. In 2019, she was sidelined when “Lena” kicked her in the head in what Wood-Gates describes as a freak accident.
“I had given her a little slack in the rope to go up a hill,” Wood-Gates explained. “The horses had all been locked in—it was the end of January—it was cold, and she just bucked and kicked. I remember this thing hitting me in the head and then everything went black.”
Wood-Gates was home alone at the time of the accident but regained consciousness a short time later. Still, the road to a full recovery has been a long and ongoing one.
“I had a whole bunch of issues, of course, being kicked in the head,” Wood-Gates shared. “I lost hearing in my right ear. I lost a lot of my memory. I got kicked in the right side of my head, and I still really have to concentrate on my right turn and what I need to do with my right side.”
Undeterred by her newfound challenges, Wood-Gates was determined to find her way back into the saddle and, ultimately, back to the rodeo pen. While the pair did go on to win the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Wilderness Circuit Finals later in 2019, Wood-Gates concedes that it took a long time for her to regain her confidence.
“Winning [the SWDC Mega Run for the Money] means a lot because honestly, she’s so quick and powerful. It’s been three years; we’ve been through a lot, and we’ve made a lot of runs. I love feeling like she’s not too fast for me. It took me a year and a half to feel really confident on her. In the beginning, it was a lot of me hanging on while she just did her job. I’ll be honest—it was a struggle, and I don’t really remember a lot of it,” Wood-Gates said.
Wood-Gates says her accident has taught her an important lesson, and it’s one she thinks every barrel racer should learn.
“Never let your highs be too high or your lows be too low. We need to judge ourselves against ourselves and make our own goals. Don’t always try to win everything. In the beginning, for me, it was, ‘Here’s my goal for the day—don’t fall off my horse,’” Wood-Gates said with a laugh. “But honestly, that’s kind of how I started again. My goals had to change a little bit. Race against yourself, compete against yourself, and never get too high or too low.”
- 1D – Terri Wood-Gates on Smooth Movin Lena, 15.155, $3,251
- 2D – Sheena Hansen on Slick Designer, 15.662, $3,251
- 3D – Shawnalee Hinkins on RGR First Down Blake, 16.155, $3,251
For complete results from the Southwest Desert Classic Mega Run for the Money, PCR Pink Cadillac Futurity and Open 5D, click here.