By Leila Dycus, Intern
During the week of July 21, hundreds of young barrel racers from across the world flocked to Perry, Ga., for the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Youth World Championship.
Among them was Morgan County’s own Keegan Pollard, who lives in Newborn.
Pollard was one of over 900 riders that qualified to compete at Youth World. Pollard not only qualified for the event, but with a time of 15.705 seconds, he beat out all of the riders and went on the win the NBHA’s Youth World Championship.
Pollard’s story, though, is unlike some of the riders that came to the championship. He began the journey to Youth World halfway into what is considered to be the competitive season. While NBHA’s season starts in January, Keegan began his pursuit of the championship in August.
Barrel racing is a sport that requires a lot of time and practice, time that includes bonding with your horse, learning to successfully communicate with your horse as well as being able to get around the barrels without knocking them down.
Pollard’s own barrel-racing story marked a one-year anniversary while at the world championship. Before getting to the championship Pollard had to ride in district events, and at these district events, riders competed to earn points. Points are awarded based on what place the rider takes in the event. The points earned add up and allow riders to qualify for the World Championship.
On average, Pollard rode in two district shows a month.
“Stressful, lots of time on the road,” said Karen Pollard, Keegan’s mother, when asked about what it was like for them as a family with Keegan preparing for NBHA World.
Keegan, like many riders, enjoys competitions because they provide a chance for him not only to race, but also to gather with his friends. Riding often takes competitors on the road, causing them to make friends with others who have the same lifestyle as they do. Moreover, riding is a sport that is difficult to do without the support of family and friends.
Keegan and his mother talked about the importance of riding at a facility that allows him to socialize with other riders.
Keegan described his friends reaction when they found out he had won the Youth World: “They were surprised because it was my first year,” he said.
Barrel racing is an equestrian sport in which riders are timed while running around three barrels set in a cloverleaf pattern. If a horse and rider knock down a barrel, a time penalty is applied to their final time.
“Probably the running part of it, I like the speed,” said Keegan referring to his favorite part of horseback riding.
Keegan won his first NBHA Youth World atop his horse, Gold Man Jet. Jet and Keegan have only been a competitive team for three months. Before Jet, Keegan rode a horse named Hickory, who he qualified for the world event on. However, Hickory was injured and Pollard decided to continue on Jet.
Not only was this Pollard’s first trip to Youth World, but it was also only his seventh or eighth show riding Jet.
“He’s different because he was used as a tool before, and he’s honest and has a big heart,” Keegan said about Jet.
Once in Perry for the World Championship, Keegan and Jet had to run two rounds before making it to the finals.
“I felt really proud of myself because it was my first year. I was there and I was quite shocked because I didn’t really think I would do good my first year and I’d just try to figure things out. When they called out my name for winning, I was really shocked,” said Keegan.
Now that the Youth World is over, it’s on to preparing for next year’s event.
Keegan wants to return to the championship to defend his title. This will mean staying on the road at least two weekends out of each month competing to qualify for the event.
What is Barrel Racing? “Barrel racing is an equestrian sport in which riders are timed while running around three barrels set in a cloverleaf pattern. If a horse and rider knock down a barrel, a time penalty is applied to their final time.”
“We’re trying to qualify for this year. Well, like this month he has a show every weekend but one,” said Karen.