When Pacific holds its first rodeo in recent decades in October it will benefit from being home to the largest number of registered cowboys and cowgirls in the state, according to local barrel racer Chris Weber.
Area bronc riders, ropers and barrel racers who travel the state and beyond to compete in their event have become part of a large number of established rodeo riders.
In October, when Outlaw Cowboy Productions hosts its final rodeo of the 2013 season at Pacific’s Liberty field, local rodeo riders will welcome friends and opponents to their home turf.
“Our area has the largest number of Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association (MRCA) card holders in the state,” Weber said. “To be able to welcome them to our town is a big deal.”
Weber and her daughter, Annie Mueller, are among a large group of local barrel racers who race every weekend that they can afford it and face each other in competition so often they have formed a tight-knit group.
Barrel racing is sometimes thought of as the female side of rodeo competition. Although boys do barrel race, in an official rodeo only girls are entered in the competition.
The sport requires a rider to guide a galloping horse in a cloverleaf pattern around strategically placed barrels. The rider with the shortest time wins.
“It’s as exhilarating as anything you can imagine,” said Weber, Pacific, who entered her first barrel race when she was 20 years old.
“The goal is to get the horses to do the job that we’ve taught them, but a fast run always brings a big adrenaline rush.
“One good run can make up for 10 bad runs,” Weber said. “Anybody can win, anytime and all riders know that. I just heard this morning that Kim McSorley, another Pacific rider, won last night in Mendon, Ill.”
Weber got into barrel racing after working for a horse trader named Cletus Hulling. She bought her first horse in 1990, a five-year-old quarter horse named Rockin for Cash, taught herself and her horse to race around the barrels and together they competed in hundreds of barrel races.
She later bought Goose, a 15.3-hands-tall, 18-year-old quarter horse, which recently became the competition horse for her daughter,. Now Chris rides a brown Quarter Horse with a flaxen (golden) mane and tail, named Sally. Annie is making a name for herself on Goose.
Annie’s step up to Goose, a highly seasoned quarter horse, was a big move for the family. When she was pregnant with Annie, Weber bought Rosie, a quarter pony — a 12-hands-high cross between a quarter horse and a pony. Rosie was 16 or 17 years old when Weber bought her, although the vet now thinks Rosie may be older.
By the time Annie was 18 months old she was riding Rosie and at a very young age was racing around the barrels on the Weber Farm off Denton Road.
The mother and daughter still ride there almost every day, every other day at a minimum, to keep their competition horses in good condition. They also travel to area parks for trail rides.
“Annie had a lot of success with Rosie in youth rodeos,” Weber said. “But as she got older and the other riders her age had moved to full grown horses, Rosie couldn’t keep up.”
That’s when Weber offered Annie a chance to ride Goose in competition. “In 2010, at the end of the season, we decided to give it a try.
“I didn’t know what she (Goose) would do. When I ride her, she blasts out of the gate at a gallop. I didn’t know if she would do that or if she would respond to the instruction of her old rider. When Annie went through the gate, she just eased around the barrels at a gentle lope and I knew Annie had found a new horse.”
Now the mother and daughter compete against each other often. Although Chris is always in it to win she admits that it feels pretty good when Annie wins.
Recently Weber and other local rodeo contestants have been riding in the Liberty Field equestrian arena, where they are serving as consultants to help ready the arena for the October rodeo.
“It needed to be leveled and the ground needed to be worked up,” Weber said. “Rich Gullet and Sons loaned us the equipment and their foreman Mike Prichard volunteered his time to help us with the grading.”
Weber and her daughter hail from a line of athletes. Weber’s grandmother, Anna Maguire, was one of the three Maguire sisters who burst onto the national and international sports scene in the 1920s the decade that girls track ,events were introduced.
The Maguire sisters grew up and practiced on the farm where Weber and her daughter now live. Catherine would compete as a high jumper in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, but Anna and Irene also won state and national track records.
In barrel racing it’s the horse that is the real athlete Weber says, but it does take a certain amount of strength and agility for the riders.
“You have to keep yourself in pretty good shape,” she said.
Weber is so entrenched in the sport she races not only in rodeos but in barrel race events that field as many as 300 racers in a two-day event.
“It can be pretty hectic,” she said. “But if the crew is really good, they run about 50 races an hour.”
In the Pacific Iron Horse Rodeo, 15 riders will be entered in the barrel race — the same number that will compete in eight events, including saddle bronc, bareback, calf roping, team roping, break away roping, bulldogging and barrel racing.
Each event will produce one winner for the two days of competition. Timekeepers keep track of each contestant’s time. At the end of the second rodeo on Saturday, the winners will be announced.