Barrel racing is a competitive sport, and one that is growing in popularity in Colorado. One of the events horses and riders can compete in is the No Brakes Tour, which runs from October through mid-September each year.
Grace Ann Walker of Wellington, Colo., was recently crowned the champion in the novice horse division as the high money earner, was the high money earner in the 3-D open, a top 10 finalist in the novice horse, 2-D open and 3-D open, and her horse was named Novice Horse of the Year.
The No Brakes Tour is a series of barrel races that are held every week on Tuesday, and the horses and riders are broken into divisions at the end of the evening based on their runs.
“The tour has lower entry fees, better payouts and no membership fees. It’s more laid back and a family oriented tour,” Walker stated.
She also enjoys the laid back atmosphere that comes with the local barrel racing. “With the barrel racing, you can get to a high level without the politics and without the huge money behind you to get the big dollar horses. Barrel racing is much more accessible. With a lot of the other disciplines, to be able to compete at a high level, it’s very hard to find local events. We have that high level here,” she said.
The fastest horses are paid out in the 1-D division, and then every half-second after that starts the next division. Pairs must compete in at least 15 competitions in order to qualify for the year-end awards, and the rider and horse with the most money wins.
“It really encourages anyone to go. You don’t have to have the fastest horse to win money. 4-D barrel racing has increased the number of barrel racers because of the divisions,” she said.
The Novice Horse of the Year Award is an award that is voted on by the other riders on the No Brakes Tour. The mare, named Bullys Primetimediva, was raised and trained by Walker. “It was a very big honor to have raised her and trained her and be that successful in that short of period of time,” she said.
She continued, “She is just such a character. She has so much personality. Everyone seemed to be attracted to that little mare. She loves her job. There are lots of horses there that get wound up and get worried, but she is comfortable. Her try and her heart to try just shine through and people notice.”
Walker did not start running Diva on the barrels until February of this year. “I have to not only get along with my horse, but their smoothness and their style determines if I can ride them long term. We get along great,” Walker said.
Walker basically grew up on horseback, and started showing when she was just 3-years-old.
“I was showing that young in the lead line classes. By the time I was 6, I was showing my own pony at shows. I went through the show circuit, and when I was 12 I started jumping. I have always had horses and have shown or trained them,” she said.
Walker has now switched to barrel racing full time, and spends her time training and racing. She enjoys the challenge. “I’ve ridden and shown my entire life. I got into barrels in 1994 or so, and I am still in it because I love the challenge .You are trying to get yourself and your horse together as a team to do something in 13-17 seconds. It’s a challenge to do all of that,” she said.
She now owns Rafter Anchor Horses, and her focus is on training high quality barrel horses. “We raise quarter horses, and they have barrel and race bloodlines. We have several youngsters coming up that I’m excited for,” said Walker. She loves competing on horseback for many reasons, and horses are an animal that is very important to her in her life. “I literally grew up on them, and it’s partly because of that. They are part of my life and I never want to be without them. They are always there for you, and you can go out and talk to them anytime,” she stated.
Walker is excited for Diva’s barrel racing career, as she believes the mare is just getting started. “She normally runs as a 1-D or 2-D horse. We had fallen down to 3-D a couple of times, so she had enough to win that title. I’m excited for her future. She is a great, fast horse,” she said. ❖