Horses, riding and friendship

Routt County Gymkhana Club's Thursday night series is a family affair

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It's just a typical Thursday night for the Logan family.

They roll into Brent Romick Rodeo Arena in the family's four-door Chevy diesel truck a little before 5:30 p.m., a 24-foot trailer with three horses in tow and a backseat filled with the unbridled energy of their three children.

They are eager for a night of barrel racing, pole bending and stake racing.

"This is an all-day thing for us," Jeannie Jo Logan said. "The kids are excited about it from the time they get up in the morning until they get on their horse for the first race."

This is the first year the Logans have taken part in the Thursday night series, which is hosted by the Routt County Gymkhana Club.

At the weekly event, barrels start at 6 p.m., followed by pole bending and stake or flag racing. Members pay $5 an event or $15 a night to compete. Nonmembers pay $8 an event to race or $24 for the night.

Competitors in all divisions, with the exception of the pee-wees, have a chance to get their money back with top finishes.

Pee-wees pay a reduced entry fee, $3 for members and $5 for nonmembers, and are rewarded with ribbons instead of cash.

But organizer Celia Mitchell said the series isn't about money or winning. It's about teaching children about horses, riding and friendship.

Jeannie Jo Logan said the series has been a great experience for her 7-year-old son, Eric, who has watched his times in every event drop each week.

"At the first event of the season, his time in the barrels was 47 seconds," she said. "Now, he is doing it in 26 seconds."

His brother Jace, 4, also loves to race in the weekly series, and his dad, Mark, said it's only a matter of time before 2-year-old Kody also is testing the clock at the arena.

A majority of the 50 riders who regularly attend the 10-week series are younger than 18, but adults take part, as well.

The riders' ages don't seem to matter as long as they share the Logans' enthusiasm for the series.

"Hopefully, this is a fun series for the children," Mitch--ell said. "A lot of these children are right off the ranch. They work all day, and we want to give them something fun to do on a Thursday night."

High School freshman Liz Lyons discovered how much fun gymkhana was two years ago after years of competing as a Western and English rider.

On Thursday, she kept the good times rolling by topping the junior division in the barrel race, pole bending and the stake race. Lyons finished the barrels in a time of 50.5 seconds, the poles in a time 27.27 and the stake race in a time of 21.33.

"It's not really about the competition or winning," Lyons said. "Of course, I like to win. I like it when the younger riders come to you for advice or say that they want to ride like me someday."

It was also fun for intermediate rider Kylie Hawes, who placed first in the barrels with a time of 18.99. She returned a few minutes later to take second with a time of 19.25 while riding a different horse. Hawes also took first and second in pole bending with times of 24.39 and 25.79.

Kaylee Matt posted the fastest time of the night, at 18.43 seconds, to take the honors in adult barrels. Cynthia Hatlee's time of 29.18 won the adult poles, and Karlie Maneotis' mark of 19.87 won the adult stake race Thursday.

Johnathan Ely won the pee-wee barrels and stake race, and Journey Vreeman won the pee-wee poles.

But for most of the riders, Thursday night at the rodeo grounds is about more than the results.

That's why you find Gary Lyons volunteering his time in the arena while Liz and her younger sister, Emma, race around barrels and poles.

It's nothing unusual for the gymkhana club. It's just a typical Thursday night.

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