Special to the Tribune
The Williams Lake Stampede grounds teemed with excitement this weekend as 295 barrel racers from across the province gathered for the B.C. Barrel Racing Association Finals.
From age three to nearly 80 years old, racers thrilled the crowds with their skill, their connection to their horses, and commitment to the sport.
One of the local barrel racers in the open category (ages 16-50) was Shelly Schiller riding her mare Sangria. “It’s very exciting to have 295 competitors here – it shows that our sport is growing,” she said. “One of the great things is the support and enthusiasm of the people in the stands. Everyone cheers everyone on and are so encouraging.
“People help each other out,” she added. “It’s the best part of the sport.”
This is her fourth season with Sangria and her fourth time at the finals. “Sangria was a cow cutting horse and really took to the barrels well,” Schiller explained. “Cutting is a great start for barrel racing.”
READ MORE: Volunteers help make BCBRA Finals a success
She said in barrel racing you see a lot of the same people all summer, adding that one of the best parts of racing is meeting up with old friends and making new ones. “Besides Williams Lake, I usually go to Chilliwack, Quesnel and Prince George,” she said. “You pick and choose where you go all over the province.”
Schiller has been on horseback all her life, and her daughter, at five years of age competed at the finals for her first time.
“I love that the next generation is carrying on this tradition. It’s more exciting for me to watch her out there on my old barrel racer than for me to make a good run this weekend,” Schiller stated. “She loved it; she’s still smiling. She’s hooked after this weekend, and it will be good for me to have a little traveling partner going to events from now on.”
Bridget Rosette, president of the Williams Lake Barrel Racing Association, has been on the board of directors eight years and was the northern director for the BCBRA for five years. She competes in both the open and the senior category.
She said that last year’s wildfire season had a big impact on barrel racing. “It put our finals back two months, because even after the fires the smoke was so bad,” she said. “The finals were held here in October.
“It was so good to be part of this great weekend, especially after what everybody experienced during the fires – the numbers are phenomenal.”
She said community support for barrel racing is outstanding. “Williams Lake really supports the equine industry and this sport even following the Williams Lake Stampede, the BCBRA packs this facility and gets so much support,” she stated.
“Grassland Equipment, for example, donates tractors, and a huge thank you goes out to Ron Hume. Weeks before the finals he comes to start grooming the arena and the track and is here diligently every day watering and making it safe for all the barrel racers,” she continued. “We can’t thank him enough; it’s people like him and our tractor drivers who donate their time that make this such a success.”
READ MORE: Lakecity to host BCBRA Finals this weekend
There are 16 people on the local board of directors this year. “The sport is growing – people love that it’s family oriented,” she said. “Barrel racing is for all ages. It’s not uncommon to see a mom and a daughter both at a barrel racing event, and even a grandma and a granddaughter – I’ve seen three generations.
“We keep entry fees and memberships affordable for families,” she said. “It’s like a small community within itself.”