Barrel racers compete Sunday at PR horse ranch
By Sarah Smith
Fifty daredevils of varying ages and skill levels took to their trusty steeds Sunday to negotiate the hairpin turns around three blue barrels at breakneck speed.
The National Barrel Horse Association sanctioned race at the Krabbenhoft arena and quarter horse ranch southeast of Park Rapids was more exciting than the Minnesota Vikings home opener, which the horse racing emcee dutifully announced scores of until the second half of the football game.
Whereas the Vikings petered out, the barrel riders kept getting better and faster.
The National Barrel Horse Association is the largest in the U.S. and is a worldwide event, said Bruce Krabbenhoft, the Great Lakes Regional Director of the NBHA. The region covers much of northern Minnesota. Competitors from four states were entered Sunday in Park Rapids.
The arena took on a circus-like atmosphere, with horse trailers and tents camped all over the grounds.
But it was the horses that took center stage, careening around the barrels so closely that the barrels were sent toppling if the rider’s breeze caught the plastic whizzing by.
Those runs were stricken from competition.
Krabbenhoft oversaw every aspect of the competition, from judging to timing to pulling a tractor every third race to keep the track in pristine condition.
“That would have been a good time,” he observed of a competitor whose horse collided with the barrel.
“The horse moved over on her. Took a hard left,” Krabbenhoft said.
Krabbenhoft and wife Mary, who was scoring and timing the event, run the quarter horse farm that has hosted many of these regional events.
They know most of the competitors on a first-name basis. In Sunday’s event, there was a peewee class of riders eight and under, a youth class for riders under the age of 18, an open class for any age and a senior class for riders over the age of 50.
Bruce Krabbenhoft competed in that event. He said he came late to riding at age 48, encouraged by his daughter, Sadie, an ace competitor.
“I was too busy farming this place,” the elder Krabbenhoft said of his late entry into the sport.
Sadie set the stage for competitive times right off the bat, at 16.1 seconds. But that time wouldn’t hold. Riders just kept getting better and better, nicking a tenth of a second here and there as hooves pounded and threw turf into the air.
Sunday’s event was part fun, part qualifying for nationals.
Bruce Krabbenhoft has devised a four-tiered system where reward money is apportioned out on a points basis that divvies up entrance fees.
“Everybody stands a chance (to win),” he said. “All four divisions get paid.”
Riders were masterfully controlling the skittish horses and ponies. Some even backed their equines into the arena.
Sadie Krabbenhoft’s 22-year-old steed, Buddy, lurched and threatened to toss his rider when he approached the first barrel.
Sadie, who started competing at age 5, was having none of his shenanigans. She guided him expertly through the course.
She later laughed to her dad. “That’s what happens when you say she’s for sale,” she joked.
At day’s end many riders were rewarded monetarily and buoyed by the competition.
The 2013 NHBA nationals will be held Oct. 27- Nov. 2 at Perry, Ga.
Sadie Krabbenhoft and other local riders are expected to compete.
Bruce, as a district representative, will be on the sidelines cheering.