Ask any of the more than 200 women what drove them to compete in the barrel racing provincial finals in Kamloops this weekend and they’ll give a variation on the same theme — a passion for the rodeo lifestyle.
Try breaking it down into financials, however, and you get a blank stare.
“We did that once,” chuckled Amanda Fitchett, a 31-year-old B.C. Barrel Racers Association finals competitor from Armstrong. “We cried.”
There’s no doubt that the cost of participating in events on the rodeo circuit adds up significantly — entry fees are but a tiny portion.
Caring for horses, trailers and trucks for hauling, fuel for travel and accommodations all total to . . . who knows? None of the women interviewed by The Daily News would hazard a guess.
But the rewards are incalculable.
“All these girls desperately love their horses and they love competition,” said Valerie Murphy Moore, a 27-year-old Kamloops nurse who is just returning to the sport after a year of maternity leave.
Murphy Moore exemplifies that love when talking about her mount, Angel.
“She’s got a heart of gold, she tries really hard and keeps me safe, too,” she said.
Barrel racing involves a horse and rider attempting to complete a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time.
Although boys and men at the amateur level will sometimes enter such contests, it’s primarily a rodeo event for women.
It tests the athleticism of the horse and rider as well as horsemanship skills. And typically, the closer the bond between woman and animal, the better they race.
Competition is a big part of what keeps Gina Volansky going.
The Nakusp participant has barrel raced for many years, and despite the inherit risk involved, it’s the rivalry that gets her heart racing.
“It’s still an adrenalin rush,” she said. “I’m really competitive.”
Despite the intense desire to win, the challengers are all very close knit.
“This is a good group because everyone is really supportive of each other,” said Murphy Moore. “Everyone cheers for each other and says, ‘Have a good run.’ ”
The competitors often say they’re like family, but frequently, they actually are.
Fitchett said she’s thrilled to bring her daughters into the circuit.
Hanna and Taylor are only seven and six years old — still nowhere near the youngest cutoff of three.
Just like their mom, they started with the B.C. Little Britches Rodeo Association.
The young girls become the family’s third generation of rodeo riders.
“My dad used to rodeo, so this is tradition somewhat,” said Fitchett. “It’s precious that my girls are so in love with doing this.”
She added that the activity has created an ingrained sense of responsibility in the girls even at such a young age.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way for my kids to grow up is around horses.”
The provincial finals continue at Mount Paul Centre through today featuring four categories: peewee for those under 10, junior for those between 10 and 15, senior for those over 50 and open.