Barreling past the competition

Barrel racing peaks in Poway


Natasha Phanthavong, Staff Writer

   Saddling up her horse to begin the event, junior Jordan Smith lets the buzz of adrenaline rush past and begins to trot towards the entrance to her race. In touch with both the weather and her horse, Smith picks up speed to narrowly dodge the barrels in her path. Maintaining her composure, the time seems to slip away as she breezes through the race so fast that she feels like she’s flying.

   From the start, Smith always had dreams of becoming a barrel racer and has come to love it more with only a month of experience. While never forgetting her fears, Smith chooses to fully immerse herself in the moment to enjoy the race. Having now competed in two races, Smith feels the key to success is to stay vigilant and focus on the task at hand. 

   Having previously done horseback riding, Smith formed a passion for barrel racing from the start. It allowed her that extra speed that she always loved, in comparison to the slower pace of pleasure riding.

   Not wanting to take all the credit, Smith praises the help of her trusty steed, Zara, who she specifically sought out for the job. Through long hours of training, the pair worked together to learn how to reign in Zara’s fast and powerful tempo to better balance their bond. Repetition remains a virtue as they work in small circles to nail everything from the entrance to the walk-off. 

   Although this work can be tedious, some of Smith’s fondest memories come from riding with her friends alongside Zara.

   “The first time I tried Zara out, it felt super cool to be on a horse who knows her job so well since she’s been doing it for so long,” Smith said.

   Being able to relate is sophomore Johanna Hegerstrom, who started her career in barrel racing at the age of eight, accompanied by her horses Jewel and Riot. With a longtime stance in the community, Hegerstrom has come accustomed to the tiresome and rigorous regime both she and her horses go through to stay at their top performance. But these results reap big rewards, as Hegerstrom celebrates in her big win at West Coast Barrel Racing Finals last year with a check of $1,800.

   “When training it can be really frustrating, but when racing it can be very fun and rewarding when the stars align,” Hegerstrom said.

   Catch both Jordan Smith and Johanna Hegerstrom at their next race at Poway Rodeo on Sept. 24 for only $20.