By: Korie Marshall

Two local young women are heading to the Alberta Barrel Racing Association finals in Panoka this year. Melanie Brown says she and Kelsey Griffin have been working towards the finals since May, traveling to Prince George, Edson and Hinton in order to qualify.

Each rider has to race in nine events over the season in order to qualify, and each horse has to attend at least five of the events. Griffin will be taking her horse JD, and Brown will be taking both of her horses, Indi and Milly. The young women managed to compete in those events while working part-time jobs and planning for post-secondary school next year.

Brown says the finals at Ponoka are the seventh largest barrel race in North America, with over 800 racers. This is their first year attending, and they are very excited to be going. The full event runs from Tuesday August 19 to Sunday August 24, and both Brown and Griffin will be running on Thursday and Friday. They won’t know until Saturday evening if they will be racing again on Sunday.

Best times in the races depend on the arena size, so they vary, but Brown’s best placing this year was first in the second division, and Griffin’s was second in the first division.

“I am not sure what all the prizes are but I do know there are trophy saddles for first place in each division,” says Brown.

Both racers had good times at the Rodeo held in Valemount in July, but were both penalized by a knocked-over barrel.

Griffin and Brown both say they love the rodeo lifestyle, traveling around to see new places and meeting people they can learn from and look up to, and they thank their family and local supporters who have helped make that happen, especially Larry and Linda Simpson, Bob and Lorna Griffin, Richard Dehnke, John Brown and Karen Doughty, and Cheri Dehnke.

These young women also love the feeling after a good run, when all the hard work pays off. But most of all, they love the connection they build with their horses.

“Feeling you grow and work as a team with them, reaching your goals and the hours of training and hard work that pays off in competition,” says Griffin. “I just love the feeling after a nice hard, barrel run and knowing that your horse just ran his heart out for you.”