On an evening that featured powerful bulls, bucking broncs and some of the best rodeo cowboys in the business, a set of inspiring barrel racers stole the show.
Cortez resident Autumnrain Chee’s intensity and beautiful horses have made her a favorite with local fans.
Competing on her sister’s horse, Dooley, Chee’s entrance into the arena elicited roars from the largest crowd of the three-day event. Announcer Jody Carper implored the crowd to welcome the “hometown cowgirl.”
Although Chee’s time of 19.44 was slower than she expected, in part because she was riding an unfamiliar horse with limited pro experience.
“The thing with barrel racing is that you have to be one with the horse,” Chee said. “If you don’t have that connection, you won’t do well.”
And there was the miracle story of Amberley Snyder.
The Elk Ridge, Utah, resident, robbed of feeling below her waist in a 2010 car crash, rode using a set of straps designed to hold her legs on the saddle. Snyder raced to a time of 17.94, which represented the fourth-fastest time of the night.
“For me, giving up wasn’t an option,” said Snyder, in a youtube video telling her story. “I was going to be competitive ... and show up to a barrel race to win like everybody else.”
Working toward making the circuit finals and becoming one of the top barrel racers in the country, Snyder has become a formidable force at pro rodeos.
“When I get on my horse, it becomes my legs,” she said. “I get to leave my wheelchair at the trailer, and I’m able to live in the moment on my horse’s back.”
CJ Vondette’s time of 17.45 seconds was the fastest barrel racing time of the evening. Barbara Johnson finished second with a time of 17.59.