Barrel Racing

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“Marissa 1010 on Shyster,” the announcer calls. My fingers tighten around the reigns, and my heart pounds. By this time in the show, it’s getting dark, and the arena lights are just getting turned on. Getting antsy, Shyster is almost to the point of being uncontrollable. I need help from my dad just to get him in the gate; however, he always seems to make it through. He prances as I’m fighting to get him to the right position to start our run. My nerves are running wild, but I don’t let one ounce of fear show on my face. I hear from the crowd, “Come on, Riss. You can do it!” My family is always right on the fence, supporting every move I make in the arena. I check one last time that we are in the right starting spot, and we’re off.

Shyster is my nine-year-old American Quarter Horse, whom I received Christmas of 2010. After spending months and months of training and showing, we finally came to a point where the control was completely in my hands, and he just followed and did what he was supposed to. Shyster is very different from my old horse. There is a little too much spark in him, which mainly comes from him being younger. He can be like a drama queen sometimes. At the end of the day, I know he is my horse, and I know he’s always there for me. I don’t know where my life would be today if I didn’t have Shyster and horses in general.

Shyster and I barrel race in a cloverleaf pattern consisting of three barrels. The rider can go to either the left or right barrel first, and it doesn’t matter which one is chosen. Choosing the barrel mainly depends whether the horse makes his or her left or right turns better. Barrel racing is a very competitive sport, and it takes so much time and effort to get a horse ready for it. The rider has to prepare herself mentally, and she must also prepare the horse physically.

The adrenaline rushes through my whole body, and I can tell it’s going through Shyster’s, too. I know he wants the win just as badly as I do. We approach barrel number one at good pace. I check him up, and he makes the right turn like a champ. Now the hard one is in the past; two left turns and we’re done. He has an amazing stride going to barrel number two. In a last second effort, I grab the horn on the saddle to prevent myself from falling off, as my amazing American Quarter Horse doesn’t seem to slow as he glides through the second barrel. One more barrel and we’re fighting to get there as soon as possible. Seeing no color other than the blue barrel and my bay-colored Shyster, the world around me seems to be a blur. We are now at the third barrel, and once again he rounds the corner like it’s what he was born to do.

The home stretch is about 120 feet away, and we’re giving it all we have. My legs are kicking so fast I’m barely in the saddle. I feel like I’m forgetting to breathe, as my breaths are far and few between. Finally, we get to the timer, and the race is over. I round him off to get him to slow down and eventually stop. Dust flies everywhere as my supportive family cheers. Anxiously a waiting our time, we catch our breaths. Finally, the announcement is called: “20.13 seconds for Marissa and Shyster.” I give Shyster a huge hug around his neck.

Unfortunately, the waiting game isn’t over. We still have to sit and watch patiently as the other competitors have their moment under the lights. Depending on how everyone else does will determine the place we receive. In this particular instance, we didn’t do well enough to place or take home any money. Although we may not have won, I know Shyster always tries his hardest.





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