Barrel racers get chance to race in BCNE make-up event

Taylor Cherry has probably logged enough distance in her rodeo travels to cross Canada several times over.

Whatever it takes to get to the top of the barrel racing world.

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Saturday in Prince George she made the relatively short trek from her home in Vanderhoof and rode her 16-year-old Palomino quarter horse Whisper to a big win at the B.C. Northern Exhibition. The 19-year-old Cherry won the D1 open class event, cutting around the outdoor barrels course at Exhibition Park in 16.458 seconds for a $1,000 payday.

"The ground was shifty but my horse handled it, so it was good," she said. "Other people had slips and issues. I was not too bad on the draw, second on the rake. It didn't feel smooth. The horses couldn't get into the ground today, but I'm happy."

Cherry grew up in a rodeo family in Quesnel and moved to Vanderhoof with her parents in 2016. She's been rodeoing since she was four and was the B.C. Rodeo Association all-around cowgirl rookie of the year two years ago. In 2017 she finished fourth in three events at the B.C. high school finals and qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Cherry started training Whisper in 2012 and they've been a winning combination ever since.

"I've had him since he was two - he's just an awesome horse who tries hard every time,' said Cherry. "We had a few gate issues today. He stalled a bit and I had to have some help, but it happens. He did really well."

She admits she wasn't a frequent competitor on the BCRA circuit this year. She's been keeping busy as a horse trainer and was kept grounded as a result of a few injuries to her horses and their vet bills, which cut into the travel budget.

"I have a couple young ones coming up that's been taking my time," said Cherry. "I had a good horse started this year that ended up getting hurt. (She) has a really rare airway issue and there's nothing we can do."

Cherry did enter a few jackpot events, some big-money slot races and competed for the first time at the Alberta Barrel Racing Association finals in Ponoka, but didn't get rich at any of those events. She finished 13th in the 2018 BCNE barrel racing standings with $1,798.38 in earnings. She also ended up 19th in the breakaway roping standings.

Cherry plans to go hard at it again in 2019 as she chases her dream of becoming a professional barrel racer, following in the tracks of B.C. pros Sarah Gerard, Katie Garthwaite, Julie Leggett and Jolene Seitz and Carmen Pozzobon.

"I'm looking for a younger horse to go pro, I just don't have the horsepower at this point," she said. "I had high hopes for that mare I can't run now. Hopefully in couple years I can go pro."

Three sisters from Clyde, Alta., Hailey, Nevada and Bree Keith - the granddaughters of BCNE team roping event organizers Carl and Judy Hyde - all made their mark in the arena Saturday.

Hailey, 13, won the junior barrel racing (16.912 seconds), with her 12-year-old sister Nevada a close third (17.226), behind Hailey and second-place Lainey Proctor of Prince George (who clocked 17.191). Nine-year-old Bree captured the peewee title (17.729).

"I made my run on my rope horse (Itty Bitty) today and it definitely helped me that he was a little horse to be able to move around those barrels so tight," said Hailey Keith.

Hailey's mom Megan grew up in Prince George and is a former barrel racer and her dad Murdock is a two-time CFR competitor in team roping. Hailey and Murdock competed together in the No. 11 team roping event on Sunday. Everyone in the family knows how to handle a rope.

"It's competitive but it brings home some fun and little games to do," Hailey said. "Most of our barrel horses know how to rope as well."

Murdock followed the amateur rodeo circuits in Alberta this summer and that kept the three girls busy almost every weekend. Hailey ended up sixth at the Lakeland Rodeo Association finals. She came into the Wildrose Rodeo Association finals sitting second in the standings and finished second in the event. Nevada qualified in breakaway at the WRA finals and placed sixth.

The barrel racing was combined with team roping events Saturday afternoon and Sunday. They were originally scheduled as part of the BCNE in August but were postponed due to the wildfires that left the city under a choking haze of smoke.

Audrey Cooper of Vanderhoof won the BCNE senior barrel racing title (17.255).

In the team roping open event which followed the barrel racing Saturday, Todd Bonderoff of Aras and Kyle Bell, both of Monte Creek, captured the title with a four-round cumulative time of 35.2 seconds. They each left with BCNE championship jackets and each earned a $1,250 payday.

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