Smith, Maddie qualify for barrel racing nationals

By Cathy Loupy

Sun Correspondent

There’s more than a foot of snow on the ground back at her home in Tendoy, Idaho, and no indoor barrel races for over 100 miles. That’s one reason why Grace Smith winters in Wickenburg. Between Rancho Rio Arena, Horns and Hooves Arena in Morristown and Dunns arena at Litchfield Park, Smith can haul her five-year-old horse, Madam Streaks a Lot, aka “Maddie,” to an open 4D (divisional format) barrel race less than 35 miles away most any day of the week.  

The divisional format was developed by the National Barrel Horse Association over 20 years ago. The 1D begins with the fastest time, 2D begins .5 of a second slower, 3D begins 1 second off the fastest time and 4D begins 2 seconds off the fastest time. The top four or five of each division are in the money.

“Not every horse runs a 16 (second race),” Smith said.  “The beauty of the divisional system is it evens up the field so you can compete with horses at your level and gives everyone a chance to win.”

Smith has been running barrels since she can remember.

“Growing up on a (Wyoming) ranch, I’d go to the corrals and set up my barrels and run patterns,” she said. “I had all the ranch horses that I could ride trained.”

Smith began competing as a 9- or 10-year-old when she joined 4-H.

Being a mother, Smith mentored her daughter, Bobi, and many other young riders as a 4-H leader. Over the years, she’s given oodles of private riding lessons. Grace and her husband, RJ, even host sanctioned barrel races at their ranch in Idaho. Horses are simply part of their daily living.  

Finding the right barrel horse is a challenge and she has tried many. For the past eight years, Smith has been raising her own colts purposely choosing a known stud to breed her mare.

“This makes a difference,” Smith said. “Since they are part of the family, you spend more time with them from start to finish.”

Then there’s equipment. Smith uses a treeless saddle that weighs about 18 pounds and is flexible.

“What I like about this saddle is I can feel my horse and her muscles,” she said.

This is an important connection between horse and rider. Feeling the movement of the horse helps the rider stay with their horse for the approximate 16 seconds, from sprint to “slow enough” for a full turn around each of the three barrels to complete the cloverleaf pattern in barrel racing.

Both athletes – horse and rider – use protective gear.

Smith said her goal was to qualify for the UBRC National Finals, and they did.

UBRC stands for “U” Barrel Race Championship and was founded by Ross and Casey Wagner from Copper Spring Ranch in Bozeman, Montana. They hosted the recent sanctioned 4D barrel race series at Horns and Hooves Arena in Morristown where Smith and Maddie recently qualified.

Smith is 60-something and plans on racing as long as she can. She now wants to focus on the important parts of barrel racing.

 “Just enjoy my horse and stay local and have fun,” Smith said with a smile.

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