Barrel racer Sinclair Schiller, 10, remembers first participating in the sport back “when I was really little,” the College Station fifth-grader said Monday. Between horses on the bill, she was waiting to ride out again in pursuit of speedy, smooth turns around three barrels in John Justin Arena.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” she said. “I went through a phase of not riding, but then I got back in it.”
This is the first year she has competed in the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, she said, and she brought two horses with her, Chase and Sunny.
“I don’t know my time yet, but I think I did good,” she said after her first ride on Chase. “Every arena’s different.”
Zoey Korenek, 15, claims Sinclair as a sister, since both girls grew close when Zoey’s mom started a new job on the Schiller ranch.
“I think I was 8 years old when I started riding,” Zoey said, adding that she, too, went through a time of sitting out competition.
“I lost my favorite horse — his name was Ace,” she said. “I stopped riding for a while. It’s like losing a family member.”
Ace actually belonged to another girl, and when Zoey and her family moved to College Station she no longer had access to ride him.
Honestly, I just love the sport, the horses, and I love the people in here.
Barrel racer Zoey Korenek, 15
Now, a pair of handsome horses named Delilah and J Lo are the high school freshman’s go-to rides.
“Honestly, I just love the sport, the horses, and I love the people in here,” Zoey said.
The girls’ horses were swift and silent out of the “alley,” the fenced corridor in which they pick up speed before entering the arena and rounding the barrels in 15 to 17 seconds typically. They needed no prodding to start, and they didn’t brake until they were inches from the gate at the alley entrance.
The cloud of dust still hung in the air from the start of the ride.
“It’s not so much the going,” Zoey said. “It’s the getting them to stop.”
The two young riders have plenty of women in their sport to admire.
Fallon Taylor, 2014 National Finals Rodeo world champion barrel racer, was competing in the adult categories Monday with her horse Nick’s Nefertiti.
A true star in her sport, the seven-time NFR qualifier’s story might as well be a movie script.
“I turned pro when I was 7, in Tampa, Fla.,” Taylor said. “I turned pro in 30 days after I discovered what rodeo was, from watching it on TV.”
Taylor now lives in the Grayson County town of Collinsville and runs a business that includes training, horse selling and breeding, and her own line of women’s rodeo athletic wear and makeup.
I turned pro when I was 7, in Tampa, Fla. I turned pro in 30 days after I discovered what rodeo was, from watching it on TV.
2014 world champion barrel racer Fallon Taylor
“I teach clinics all over the world,” she said, “and one of the things I teach them is mental preparation.”
“It’s knowing what your goals are,” she said. “Anything you do has a struggle period, and if you know what you’re doing, you’ll get through it.”
Martha Wright, 65, needs no lessons.
“I’ve run barrels almost all my life,” she said Monday as she trailered her horses for the ride back to Dublin. “I grew up in a rodeo family.”
Her father, Harry Tompkins, was a world champion bull rider and six-time PRCA all-around champion. Her grandfather was Everett Colborn, a rodeo producer and stock contractor during the 1940s and ’50s who produced the Madison Square Garden rodeos of that period.
“It was kinda bred into me,” she said. She and her late husband Ed Wright trained barrel horses since 1970. “I do train, and I still compete,” she said. “It becomes a routine, and you just do what you do. I love my work.”
She has seen several changes in barrel racing competition, including a point system that changed the winner-take-all practice of purse payout to a wider pie that rewards runners-up.
“The prize money has gotten so much better, too, and it gives more people a chance to participate,” she said. “That has caused the barrel racing industry to boom, through tack sales, saddle and horse sales. Not all horses have to be [National Finals Rodeo] horses now.”