Barrel series adds sanctioned races

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Even on the coldest, snowiest Sundays, Marina Bull doesn't mind driving, horse trailer in tow, from her home near Clark to the Brooks Arena in Hayden.

The adrenaline rush of running her horse in the annual Saddle Series keeps her motivated.

"I just love riding my horse and running barrels," Bull said.

This year, Bull and other barrel-racing enthusiasts have something else to look forward to: The Brooks Arena will host a barrels-only series, sanctioned by the American West 4-D barrel-racing organization, in addition to its annual Saddle Series.

Both competitions start in Nov-ember and involve four to six races.

The sanctioned events are an opportunity for participants to take their racing to the next competitive level.

At the same time, other participants can continue to enjoy more laid-back barrel racing and pole bending in the Saddle Series, organizer Kay Brooks said.

Competitors in the barrels-only series can add to points from other American West 4-D events in the state, aiming for the national finals in Reno, Nev.

However, racers do not need to be American West members to compete in the Brooks Arena races, Brooks said.

Bull, who won two belt buckles in the summer series at Brooks Arena, expects the more competitive races will attract more participants.

"They'll see how much fun we have and what a great place it is to be in the winter when nothing else is going on," she said.

The winter series, which started in 2003, grows every year, bringing racers from throughout Routt County as well as Rangely, Rifle, Walden, Kremmling and Wyoming, Brooks said.

Contending with winter driving conditions can be tough, but participants who commit to most or all of the races get a leg up on their riding skills.

"Like anything, if you want to stay competitive, you've got to come," she said. "Our races are always a go."

The sanctioned series is divided into open, youth and senior classes. Anyone can enter the open division, made up of four divisions for top finishers: The fastest time, a half-second off the fast time, one second off the fast time and two seconds off the fast time.

Youth riders must be 15 or younger, and senior riders must be 50 or older.

A bonus $100 will be divided and added to payback in each open division.

The regular Saddle Series has open and youth classes with four divisions. Youth riders must be 17 or younger to compete. A saddle will be awarded to the highest point winner in the open category, and buckles will go to each class and division winner.

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