Round the barrels

Ashley Grady, 14, of Manson brought two of her best friends with her to attend the Iowa National Barrel Horse Association races this weekend at the Webster County Fairgrounds.

They are Hooker and Olivia, a pair of horses.

She spends up to eight hours a week working with them and building up the relationship that is important to success in the race ring where they ride around three barrels set in a clover leaf pattern.

“It’s about trusting each other,” she said.

Like any other close long term friendship, you get to know the other’s mood.

“They can sense emotions,” she said. “If you get mad, they get nervous.”

Before competing, she tries to clear her mind.

“You have to let things go,” she said. “It’s the mental game.”

Like many riders, Talynn Griggs, 17, of Boone, has been riding horses since she can remember.

She’s riding Cricket this weekend – much of her tack was won in previous races.

Griggs said that almost all of her family is involved in the sport.

“It’s a family sport,” she said. “I have great memories.”

Since events are often two-day events, an overnight stay is usually part of the weekend.

“It’s our home away from home,” she said.

When Griggs finishes her senior year, she plans on attending Iowa Central Community College. Racing barrels on the school’s team is part of that.

“That’s my goal,” she said.

The horses will continue to be a part of her life. She plans on eventually becoming an agriculture teacher for high school students.

Kyle Hamilton, of Mapleton, came along to the race to help his girlfriend, Molly Peters, of Jewell, with her horses – Paycheck and Rico.

There is just one slight problem.

“I found out I’m allergic to horses,” he said.

In spite of that, he does plenty to help out.

“I help her get her horse ready,” he said. “I feed them and help with the gates.”

He said he goes to as many of the races as time allows.

“I try to support her as best I can,” he said.

Peters said that she appreciates his help and that his allergy is easily dealt with.

“Claritin seems to take care of it,” she said.

Katie Kramer, of Knoxville, found herself at the races after a nearby family visit.

“We were on the way home from my mom’s in Algona,” she said.

As they waited to get into the ring, her son, Jett, 3, played nearby. He’s already riding his own horse named Doc.

Her situation was similar. Kramer said she was 2 or 3 years old when she began riding.

Like Grady, she too believes that a high level of trust and a good relationship with the horse is important.

As long as the mood is right.

“You have good days and bad days,” she said. “Each of you.”

She also gets a bit of help from her husband, Steve Kramer.

A bit.

“I”m just the truck driver,” he said.

The show continues at the Webster County Fairgrounds today. Competition begins at 11:30 a.m.

The public is welcome to watch

Raffle tickets for a horse are available.