Arrow Lakes News
Ten horse and rider duos took part in a specialized workshop last weekend held at Nakusp Creek Quarter Horses on Gensick Road. A huge dirt paddock became their classroom for two and a half days as they received individual coaching from one of the top names in the sport of barrel racing.
Special guest Judy Myllymaki, a former schoolteacher who hails from Montana was on hand to offer individual coaching for each of the participants and their horses as they learned technique first and speed second. Myllymaki earned her credentials in the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), one of the U.S.A.’s top venues for the sport, and she coaches NFR riders in addition to teaching clinics all over North America. She sits unassumingly on a tipped over barrel; one crutch leaning against the fence on her left and her salty little dachshund on a blanket in the shade behind her. Myllymaki speaks with an American accent into a headset mic in tones to match the instruction: quiet to instruct the rider to slow down and focus on technique, strong and loud when she needs to get someone’s attention. She’s a professional; it’s easy to tell.
“Barrel racing is an intricate sport, really for anyone who wants to improve their horsemanship. It helps to develop the riders’ and the horses’ relationship. Having a clinician such as Judy instructing offers a way to isolate aspects of a person’s ability and to get individual coaching to fine tune their technique,” Janet Brown, organizer explained from atop her horse, Woody while she waited to be called in for her turn to ride and receive individual coaching.
Barrel racers who want to get serious in the sport can “run for money” so to speak. There are competitions happening all over the province and in Alberta where riders can take home saddles, buckles and even cash for their efforts. But many came to learn for other reasons.
Participant Shari Wahl said, “I really like seeing what I am doing so I can correct it. I would do this for 12 hours a day and start all over again tomorrow. There is nothing I would rather be doing.” Her goal? “To go fast, but with precision.”
Janet Brown, 68, has been breeding, training and offering lessons in the horse world since her daughter Gina Volansky was 11 years old and got to barrel race in the Calgary Stampede. That was 35 years ago. One would never guess this woman is nearing 70 years old — she looks closer to 50 — maybe it’s the great outdoors and the horses keeping her so young. Watching her friends achieve their goals in the ring has no doubt some positive effect as well.
Brown explains, “I enjoy watching people learn. Horses are animals with their own minds. It can be really challenging sport but to watch their progress gives me great satisfaction. But I sometimes think I am getting too old for this.”
Barrel racing isn’t the only high-adrenaline event happening at Brown’s facility. The Arrow Lakes Saddle Club will be hosting a gymkhana at the Brown property on the weekend of May 9 and spectators are welcome to attend. Gymkhana is a sport involving speed pattern racing and timed games on horseback and promises to be action packed.