USA - NBHA OPEN WORLDS 2023
October 30th - November 5th 2023
(ROUND 2 & FINALS BELOW)
As the tractors fell silent, the sand and dust settled and the arena lights were dimmed, the NBHA super computer was in full swing churning out the results of multiple competitions and Sidepots, all running concurrently with each other.
Over 900 horses and riders rode in the open over the past day and a half followed by another 190 senior riders to close out day two at the NBHA open worlds in Perry Georgia. Out of these there are the 2 main classes, Open for everyone and Senior for over 50’s. On top of this was a mixture of Sidepots (side bets) for different criteria like men, women, wearing a safety helmet and age of horse among others.
All these classes and pots are split into divisions in half second intervals, for example the open had the fastest overall time of 14.663 and every competitor who finished between 14.663 and half second later (15.162) were classed as Division 1 (D1), Division 2 was 15.163-15.662, Division 3 16.763- 16.162, Division 4 16.163 - 16.662 and finally Division 5 of 16.663 and everyone else with a time.
There was a very mixed bag of emotions and fortunes for the 10 riders from the UK, some feeling the highs of victories and prize money while others were left thoughtful over what could’ve been if the barrel gods had looked down on them in a more favourable way today.
In total the NBHA’s bank balance took a hit of over $1200 in paying out prizes earned by the representatives of 4 Strides Equestrian UK. Anna turner being the main beneficiary with $848 In total winnings after bagging open 5D 10th ($352), youth 5D 1st ($178), Helmet 5D 3rd ($129) Golden horse 4D 4th ($79) and women 5D 6th ($110).
All these placings were achieved off Anna’s only run of the day being a 16.707.
Mark Dame also faired very well, pocketing over $400 himself by finishing Senior 4D 3rd ($287) and Men 4D 2nd ($119) with his best time of 16.528.
The final money earner of the night was Sally Heron who claimed the International 5D 1st ($42) with her only time of a 17.325.
The fastest time of the day for the UK team was Greg Cooper with a 16.346 but sadly fell into the cracks of the divisions and ended up with no final placing and no prize pot. Greg was very pleased with his run and thinks there’s a bit more in the tank to come in round 2.
Michelle had mixed fortunes as her round 1 open run had her lose a stirrup at barrel one and she never recovered and bought her horse Foxy home in 24.497. Her run in the senior was significantly better tho and a nice clean run saw her clock a 18.293.
Mary’s first run saw her behind the horse the entire run as the sudden acceleration caught her off guard and was fighting to regain for the remainder of the run. Still achieving a 17.564 though and followed that time up with a 16.976 in her senior run.
Jemma rode her first international run on Toast and put any nerves aside to clock a very respectable 17.874. The owners of her horse believe there could be room for some improvement in round 2 and I’m sure Jemma will be looking to knock some considerable time off that.
Eloisa has travelled to the US for what is her 3rd international outing in just 12 months, having attended Malta last October and South Africa in September this year. A significant achievement considering she’s just turned 13 ! Her first run was a little unsettled and sadly had a barrel down for a no time. This mounts the pressure onto round 2 for a clean fast run to try and qualify for the final.
Hannah also had a barrel down in her run on Bonanza, but that didn’t stop the smile. Being here in America has been Hannah’s goal ever since Malta last year, a true dream come true and she is loving the time out here and the experience. Hopefully a clean run beckons in round 2 and Hannah may be able to sneak into a division placing or some side pot winnings !
Susi Coopers horse seems a carbon copy of her horse back in the UK with similar characteristics and Susi just broke the 17 second barrier with a 16.920. Sadly just like husband Greg, Susi’s time dropped her into the cracks of the divisions and ended the round with no placing or prize money. I’m sure Susi will be looking to make amends with all this come Round 2 !
Finally Sally Heron on her horse Boogga, a disappointing run in Sallys eyes saw a clean run but a 17.325 wasnt in the luck for a division placing to advance to the final with a similar fate to the Coopers of slipping in to the cracks of the divisions. She did however place 1st in the 5D international side pot and bagged her self some prize money.
Round 2 is currently underway and there is plenty on the line with not only advancements into the final but also prize pot money being reset for round 2 !
The teams spirits have been great and the togetherness and team spirit has really shone through, the support has been the loudest of any country in attendance and the results on the score board are showing.
ROUND 2 :
The mercury may have plummeted but the stakes couldn’t have been any higher for our UK riders racing into Round 2. A huge 20° shift in temperature from Sunday and Monday had the riders ditching their shorts and reaching for the hats and gloves.
For Anna on Runner, the pressure was off, she had already advanced to the finals with her result from round 1 but she still ran in round 2 and bagged some more side pot winnings in the youth ($114) women’s ($150), helmet ($129) and golden horse ($79). It’s been a glorious week for the youngster and took her winnings to over $1000 for the 2 rounds. A huge well done to Anna and Runner.
Another who was feeling less pressure was Mark. Having already qualified for the Senior finals he didn’t run seniors round 2 but did try his luck in the open round 2. Sadly his time wasn’t in the qualifying places so didn’t advance to the final. Mark runs again in the senior finals later.
For every other rider, a dream of reaching the finals was almost like a lottery, every time posted stood a chance, but the division format rewards the under dogs and gives every rider a chance to progress. So dispite running a very similar 16.491 to his first round time, yet again Greg fell into the cracks of the divisions and didn’t progress. He will be entering the redemption round today for another shot. He did however grab some NBHA cash by securing 4D 2nd in the men’s side pot and pocketed $119.
Another entering the redemption is Sally. Smashing her first round time by 0.6 seconds had her tee’d up for a qualifying place until the divisions shifted with the fastest time of the day and agonisingly missed out but 0.004 of a second. Less than a blink of an eye ! Sally, similar to Greg grabbed some side pot cash by finishing 5D 8th in the helmet class and securing $52.
Susi improved by a tenth of a second on her second round run but like husband Greg, fell into the non qualifying places in the division but took home $34 in the international sidepot finishing 2nd in 4D.
Also taking some international side pot cash was Jemma. Improving by half a second wasn’t good enough to qualify for the finals but did place her 5D 2nd in the international sidepot and with it came a $30 cash injection ! Jemma will try her luck again in the redemption round.
Marys round 2 open time was half second quicker and it was noticeable that she was more settled in the round 2 go rounds and more expectant of the horses behaviour and speed. The open times just weren’t as quick as she hoped and did not qualify. Her senior run times saw her fastest time of 16.853 in round 2 and a great PB for her, sadly again like so many riders, it’s a lottery to qualify and Mary’s ticket to the final just wasn’t blessed with Lady Luck. Having run 4 times this week, the redemption rounds were not available so Mary’s US adventures draw to a close.
Hannah was hoping to make amends from round 1 and was visualising a clean round. Unfortunately she ploughed through barrel 1, the barrel tumbled to the ground and with it Hannah’s chances of advancing. Hannah was distraught that she didn’t have a clean round and the whole team felt her emotion and upset. It has been a huge achievement for her just to be here at the World Championship and all the hours of training and racing and hard work got her here in the first place. With Hannah’s horse being in its Golden years, the owners didn’t want it to race a redemption round so Hannah’s time at the Worlds is over.
Another who wanted to make amends from a round 1 barrel knockdown was Eloisa. A 18.392 in round 1 with a barrel down was followed up by a clean run of 18.307. Like so many of our riders, this fell outside the qualifying times and with her horse not being allowed to try the redemption round, it was time to hang up the riding boots in the USA. It’s been a fantastic year for the youngster having competed in Malta, South Africa and the USA. 2024 will bring many more opportunities.
Michelle was eliminated in the Open round 2 by knocking a barrel down, only the second time this entire year she has sent a barrel tumbling but had a chance to progress in the seniors. An 18.706 in round 2 seniors wasn’t quick enough and was slightly slower than her first round. With her horse having already run 4 times, the redemptions rounds were a no go and that’s the end of Michelle’s US adventure.
So Anna is in the Open Finals, Mark is in the Senior Finals and Sally, Greg, Susi & Jemma run again in a redemption round to try make the grade.
The support has been phenomenal, the team has been united and it’s been a hell of an adventure. Barely 36 hours left for us all in the US, so plenty of time for hitting the shops again !
Here at 4 Strides Equestrian Barrel Racing, we provide the opportunity to realise your dreams, no matter what your ability, age or views. We actively encourage our team to participate as one, to cheer and encourage all riders and to conduct ourselves to the best of our ability. With all this it is very humbling to hear the US announcers comments about the UK team and supporters and also from the trainers here in the stable block. We may be a small team from a small island but boy do we make an impact on the international stage. Alongside this are stories of resilience, integrity and overcoming any barriers.
I had the pleasure of hearing an amazing story about a local girl who has qualified for the final this week. A tremendous achievement made even more amazing when you hear that 7 years ago this youngster was hit by a train ! Not knowing if she would survive she showed amazing resilience to pull through and despite having to learn to walk, talk and ride again, she advanced through to the finals. Amazing, and shows that any set back you may have can be overcome.
We pride ourselves at 4 Strides for providing the opportunity and support to all our extended ‘barrel family’ and are very proud of their achievements.
Redemption Round and Finals
Friday saw 4 of our open riders attempt the redemption round to try and progress to the final on Saturday.
The senior members were ineligible due to the amount of times their horses had run throughout the week. Also ruled out was Hannah and Eloisa due to the decision of the horse owners.
First up was Jemma who was looking to improve on her previous runs of a 17.874 and a 17.369. The redemption round time (17.532) was bang in the middle of the two previous times and was not fast enough to progress in any division.
Sally, Greg & Susi then ran in quick succession, Sally with her fastest time of the week (16.489) Greg with his fastest time of the week (16.155) and Susi also with her fastest time of the week (16.608). Sadly all these times fell into the cracks of the divisions and no other riders progressed to the finals.
That left team UK’s hopes of Mark in the senior final and Anna in the open final. Mark was up first and after an emotional ceremony where each rider were introduced to the crowd and asked to touch the barrel and receive their special finalist buckle, Mark was eager to go and smash out a run. His run was brilliant and he did so well, unfortunately though as he was approaching barrel 3, he ended up with both reins on the same side and as such had a steering issue. This sent him into the barrel and knocked it down so voiding his run and ending his championship with a disqualification. That didn't mean much to Mark who was still smiling like a Cheshire cat and wore his newly acquired buckle with pride.
Onwards to the Open final on Saturday. Anna was the lone surviving member of the team who had qualified, and again started with a ceremony where Anna was introduced to the, by this time, large crowd and received her finalist buckle.
Her run was magnificent, not only clocking her fastest time of the championship but the fastest time of all the UK riders ! This placed her overall top of the leaderboard and had her looking pretty promising until the top end of the 3D runners ran. The time then tumbled and eventually the fastest time being a 14.738 had Anna drop to 24th in 3D (113th overall)
Still an amazing display from the youngster and really helping to put the 4 Strides Barrel Team on the international map. The trip has been a life changing event for Anna and opened up a whole host of opportunities.
Final mentions of a memorable trip were:
to the team as a whole 10 riders plus supporters was a lot to manage but everyone arrived home safely even with some added airport delays.
The teamwork and friendship of all, from mucking out, feeding / watering the horses, sweeping the stalls and car sharing and even a 2am alarm call to rescue Mark who had his room flooded by a burst pipe. It's no wonder we refer to them all as our ‘barrel family’
The trainer (Nicole) who had the riders best interest and happiness as her goal. The horses she supplied the team with were fantastic. She wanted all the riders to have fun and enjoy their trip to the states. She worked constantly from meeting her on the Sunday, to her loading the horses for home the following Saturday. Her knowledge of barrel racing and horse training was exquisite. The team really appreciated what she did for them all.
NFR and Rodeo commentating legend Alan Moorehead, remembering the team from Malta in 2022 and having such great camaraderie with the riders and supporters. He messaged Ollie directly on our return to comment how great the UK team made the event and how we were the highlight of his week. He was also saddened by no UK man but he is looking forward to seeing us all again on our next international adventure.
Shopping ! Horse tack and clothing stores as big as football pitches had the UK team shopping til they dropped ! plenty of bargains were flown home and lots of new boots, hats, shirts and tack.
How great the team looked in matching embroidered team shirts and jackets. The team wear really was the envy of the other competitors and made the riders and supporters stand out on the international stage.
The NBHA, whom we have our NBHA UK affiliation with. A fantastic event that was extremely well presented and ran without a hitch. They were constantly on beck and call to help with all queries and to sign the many cheques for our prize winners. They really appreciated our participation at the event.
New Personal Bests ! I believe all riders acheived their lifetime PB's in the USA excluding DQ's.
And finally to the NBHA UK & 4 Strides Equestrian UK Ltd founder, Sally Heron. Without her non of this would have been possible. The countless hours training the team and travelling the length and breadth of the country to provide the opportunity to barrel race. The desire to make dreams come true is at the forefront of her mind constantly. She rallied around when the rollercoaster of emotions were at their lowest and supported everyone on their US adventures.
Work is already underway for the 2024 calendar and for 2024 & 2025 international trips which will be revealed at the christmas awards ceremony. Now i'm off to the Waffle House for breakfast, oh no i'm not, i'm off out to the mud and the cold. Great to be back hey !!
Timings of all riders :
Open Round 1
Mark Dame - 18.556
Michelle Perry - 24.497
Mary Tongue - 17.564
Jemma Alderson - 17.874
Eloisa Atkinson - 18.392 - Barrel Down DQ
Hannah Woodward - 20.347 - Barrel Down DQ
Susi Cooper - 16.920
Greg Cooper - 16.346
Anna Turner - 16.707 Qualified
Sally Heron - 17.325
Senior Round 1
Mary Tongue - 16.976
Mark Dame - 16.528 Qualified
Michell Perry - 18.293
Open Round 2
Mary Tongue - 17.140
Michelle Perry - 20.450 - Barrel Down DQ
Mark Dame - 17.185 - Barrel Down DQ
Sally Heron - 16.767
Anna Turner - 16.720
Greg Cooper - 16.491
Susi Cooper - 16.810
Hannah Woodward - 18.763 - Barrel Down DQ
Eloisa Atkinson - 18.307
Jemma Al;derson - 17.369
Senior Round 2
Michelle Perry - 18.706
Mary Tongue - 16.853
Mark Dame - Healthy Scratch
Redemption Round Open
Jemma Alderson - 17.532
Sally Heron - 16.489
Greg Cooper - 16.155
Susi Cooper - 16.608
Mark Dame - 16.626 - Barrel Down DQ
Anna Turner - 16.023
Introducing our 4 Strides Equestrian UK team riders for the USA