Article and Photos Courtesy Debora Mann  

National Barrel Horse Association Las Vegas Super Show – the first time I ever heard that event title I got chills. I don’t think I’m the only who has felt this way. This year the Nevada event sported just under 600 entries. The whole concept is very hard to imagine until you have been there. I wish for anyone who plans this trip to buddy up with a whole bunch of people you adore, which is exactly what happened for me this year.  However, in my case, the events of this journey to the NBHA Super Show took the most heart-warming twist in the history of running barrels.

It all started last month (May 2016) when I got a call from my dear friend, Bailey Nahrgang – who works with Spurr Ranch. She asked if I was booked for the weekend of June 2-5, 2016. (I’m honored to explain that I’m the official Spurr Ranch photographer). The whole crew over at Spurr Ranch is always up to something innovative and fantastic, so I really wasn’t all that surprised when she said she couldn’t give me any details, yet. We were getting ready for the Spurr Ranch’s Nutrena SafeChoice Spurr Ranch Race held May 14 -15 and I knew I would get instructions once I got to the Spurr Ranch arena.

I wasn’t even suspicious when she came to my trailer that Sunday morning (May 15, 2016) and said, “I know we have you out first, but we need you in the arena about 20 minutes before start time for a very special presentation.” 

The only thing that struck me as odd was that she asked for my second camera to be used by our buddy Krista Williams for a “different angle on the presentation.” But still, if you know Spurr Ranch at all you know there is never a dull moment.  So, I went over and waited leaving Dana Luther in charge of my kind horse, “Joseph,” until I would be done shooting this auspicious moment. 

People filed into the arena until the front half was full and Bailey began reading the most beautiful tribute that I have ever heard. I could not wait to hear the name of this blessed and lucky recipient of whatever “surprise” would be called forward. Taylor Nahrgang (Bailey’s husband), as always, was perched in a precarious place to record the event. And still, I had not a clue. The infamous video reflects this when Bailey revealed that the person they were honoring was “the person behind the camera” and that she needed to come forward for her special surprise. You could have knocked me over with a feather!  I love what I do, and the people I do it for.  It never entered my mind the shenanigans that had been taking place for the last couple of months on Facebook and all around me. And, nobody had given away the secret! You see, my dear barrel racing buddies all went in together to fund and arrange my dream trip of a lifetime: the 2016 Professional’s Choice NBHA Las Vegas Supershow. Not only that, but my travel arrangements were taken care of by my outrageously fun Spurr Ranch family.  Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck for days thereafter.

DeboraMann web2 SpurrRanchFast forward to that incredible event in Las Vegas! We arrived midday on Thursday (June 2, 2016) so Missy Tuck and I could enter the Senior race and get our feet wet before the Open. I was so jazzed I could barely contain myself through the hubbub of putting our horses and gear away in air-conditioned comfort below the gorgeous South Point Hotel. I felt like I was the biggest somebody there ever was. I was blown away by the spacious and perfect accommodations just for me when I am accustomed to staying in my 6-foot living quarters trailer.  Imagine Ma Kettle goes to the big city!

Anyway, Missy and I tromped down to the amazing show office and were happily added to the Senior draw by the welcoming and courteous NBHA crew. Even with all the hustle and bustle that an event this size attracts, they still had quite the sense of humor and got us squared away in the Senior race.  Standing at attention in the opening ceremonies, and warming up in the indoor pens – out of the heat – I was simply blown away.

Though a moment’s indecision from my normal riding routine cost me coming off my gentle, sweet racing partner, I still had the weekend of a lifetime. If you’ve never found yourself upside down in your saddle at the biggest show of your life, you can’t imagine the feelings of embarrassment that washed over me. But, that wasn’t the way people made me feel. Suddenly there were folks everywhere telling me to stay still and handling every detail of my care, even as I lay there in shock. The details of what happened during my fall and the moments after are a bit hazy even though I was fully conscious. I only wish I could’ve witnessed my buddy Taylor Nahrgang clear that block wall coming in as they said he did!

DeboraMann web1Debora Mann at South Point Equestrian Center.I want to offer many, many thanks to every single person, whether in the arena, hauling me out carefully on a board, doing triage outside, and subsequently driving me away in the ambulance (another first for me). The knowledgeable staff at the arena, the paramedics, and ultimately the ER at St. Rose Dominican Hospital probably saved me many extra weeks of recovery by advising us as to what was best for me.  My only true regret was that my wonderful husband, Bob (who put me first enough to send me on this fantastic journey), was watching the whole thing on his iPad at home. (Note to self: turn off the home internet whenever I may execute non-scheduled trick riding and fancy dismounts in competition!)

Again, I just have to thank, with all my heart, my Spurr Ranch family for their constant vigil while I was in the hospital, their exemplary care when I came back to the hotel, and for their wisdom (with doctor advise) to get me up and going immediately. I’ll never forget rolling through the South Point Casino on a red scooter clad in two hospital gowns! And when I pointed out to Dave Spurr that at least I could watch the event from closed circuit TV in my room, he laughed and said, “Nice try, Deb. Missy will be there early in the morning to get you showered, dressed, and in the scooter. You’re coming down to the arena with us. Done deal.”

I won’t go into some of the other good decisions he and his family made on that important day, but my new motto is now: “Yes I can. And I will.”

No one has ever had more love and support showered on them than I have had in this last month. In fact, this “oops” is only a little bump in the road.  It could have been so much worse, but thankfully, it was not. The many blessings I have received throughout this experience from the beginning through tearfully watching all my dear friends ride through their runs with my name glittered on their horses.  Each horse was lovingly decorated in sparkly glitter by the artist in our family, Krista Williams and supported by my angelic friend, Annie Spurr. That memory something that will never leave my mind. It made me so happy when Chloe Gray, who was a part of our group in the barn, was also blessed by taking home her very first average championship saddle in the 3D.

Look for me and Joseph to be back at it as soon as possible. He probably would just as soon stay in his spa environment in Shandon, California.  The equine spa there is keeping him going for me until I can ride again.  I can’t wait to see if I’m cleared to ride – a little slower maybe – at the amazing 2016 West Coast Barrel Racing Association Finals at King City, California, September 3 – 5, 2016. See you there, and thank you all for this amazing ride.

Make sure to catch the full event coverage of the winner’s of the 2016 Professional’s Choice NBHA Las Vegas Super Show in August’s issue of Barrel Horse News.


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