An unexpected swell of demand for participation has led to an unprecedented situation for a local equine event last week.
The third annual Lyle Norn Memorial barrel racing series kicked off its three-event schedule on Tuesday, June 14 at the Ponoka Stampede grounds and had to cap the number of entries for the first time in its existence.
“We changed up the format a bit for this year and I was shocked by the huge outpouring of entries we got,” said organizer Kaylee Henkelman, whose grandfather the event is named after.
“We had a pre-entry done this year with participants getting their choice to run at 5, 6 or 7 p.m. I had to cap it at 175 entries, leaving some girls disappointed because they didn’t register early enough, since we didn’t have enough daylight to run anymore.”
The event sees three classes – open, youth and peewee – of riders run, or sometimes walk, their horses through the barrels, Henkelman added it is also about something more than simply racing.
“It’s helping to raise awareness of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). We have teamed up with the Lung Association and hope to raise some funds for it as well,” she said.
“In addition, this also gives the racers probably their only opportunity to race on the infield at the Ponoka Stampede grounds without having their card as a professional. It’s something a bit different than running inside and they can kind of compare themselves to the pros this way. It’s also something that is sentimental to me because of my grandpa.”
The series continues with races slated for July 19 and Aug. 9 and depending upon the interest, Henkelman stated they may start earlier on those dates in order to accommodate more entries.