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Big comeback for pair of barrel racing horses

A pair of talented barrel horses showed their owners they were right in not giving up on them at the 94th Benalto Pro Rodeo.
Benalto Barebacking 110710jer
Reid Rowan of Seven Persons completes his ride during the bareback riding event at the 94th Annual Benalto Fair and Pro Rodeo

A pair of talented barrel horses showed their owners they were right in not giving up on them at the 94th Benalto Pro Rodeo.

Traci MacDonald set the early fast pace in the barrel racing event at 16.54 seconds. She’s ecstatic to be back riding her great mare Foxy, after a long, expensive battle with horse injuries.

The two teamed up the weekend before to collect almost $11,000, racing all the way to the Showdown round of the Ponoka Stampede. It was the first time they’d clicked big since MacDonald began riding the mare again this season.

“She had lesions, or tears, on her deep flexor tendon,” explained the Stettler cowgirl, of the mysterious problem that plagued the dark brown horse.

Because it wasn’t a definite lameness, and in a hidden place, it took a long time to diagnose.

“Every time you walk in a vet clinic, it’s cha-ching, cha-ching, and we were doing x-rays and ultrasounds, trying to find this mystery lameness in her foot, and we couldn’t find it,” said MacDonald.

It eventually took an MRI at Washington State University to track the source of the pain in her horse’s foot.

“We did quite a bit of stuff with it, stem cells, and did some surgery to clean out some adhesions. But the vets don’t tell you that horses don’t come back from this injury until you’ve spent all your savings,” she grimaced.

“But she did, and every run we get out of her is a blessing. I realize she is very fragile, and I will be careful.”

The rehabilitation process included a year of stall rest, and MacDonald brought Foxy back for a few rodeos last season, only to have her come up lame with a bone chip on her other foot. That gave the new mom more time to spend with her baby and husband, and it wasn’t until the winter when she tried her horse again. Things looked promising at a few southern outings, but back home in Stettler, the wet spring meant some more hoof issues. Understandably, MacDonald began to grapple with some discouragement, and it wasn’t until her family sat her down and gave her a fresh perspective that things began to really turn around for both horse and rider.

“It’s been pretty much uphill ever since,” she grinned. “We’re just so happy for Foxy. She just deserves for people to see her do good.”

MacDonald ran the opening performance at Benalto, the only night to experience rain at the rodeo. But that didn’t deter this duo.

“The ground felt fine, and she just worked all her barrels nice, and it felt good. She just loves her job and does the same thing every time. We’re just so blessed to have her.”

MacDonald’s time held up until one of the last runs Sunday afternoon. Tammy Fisher came all the way from Ledbetter, Texas to run in Benalto, and she smoked the pattern in 16.54 seconds, winning the event’s biggest cheque of $957 by two one-hundredths of a second.

“Actually it felt a little wild out there today,” admitted the personable blonde cowgirl. “It’s kind of a wild angle, but he did better at it than I did, so it was good. I’ve never been here before, so it was exciting to win it.”

Fisher claims her experienced 16 year-old-horse Roundpen takes care of her, but she’s had to do some TLC to get him back in the swing of things as well.

“He’s been out for 19 months, and he’s been back four weeks, so now I have two of ‘em, so hopefully we’re going to get to go to the NFR again.”

Roundpen had cracked his ankle while competing at a rodeo, so it’s been quite a struggle to get his soundness back as well.

“Lots of vets, lots of different things, but we finally got him better. It’s very exciting to have him back. I figured he was done, but he’s 100 per cent now, and maybe even better than he was, so between the rest and everything we did, he’s good.”

Fisher heads from Benalto down to the Calgary Stampede, where she competes in the second pool of contestants.

It was a fast time that claimed the Benalto team roping honors. Bryan Bacon and Troy Fisher stretched their steer in just 4.4 seconds in the opening round, to win $987 apiece. The steer wrestling championship was shared by Harley Cole of Cochrane and Clayton Moore of Pouce Coupe, B.C., with their matching 3.7 second runs. They each earned $1,233 for the win. The tie-down roping title and $1,104 went to Logan Hofer of Magrath, for an 8.3 second run.

Bareback riders Jason Havens and Bobby Mote of Oregon both made the journey north to Benalto Saturday night after competing in the afternoon at the Calgary Stampede. They finished first and second at the rodeo, with Havens picking up $1,015 for a 79.5 point ride on U.S. Wings.

Saddle bronc riding went to young Chad Thomson of Black Diamond, who’s just graduated from the novice ranks this year. He got on Midnight Wine, the same horse he’d ridden just the weekend before at Airdrie. He earned $1,071, which should help him along the way to his semi-pro status.

Cody Moore, of Houston, B.C. won the bull riding with an 83 he turned in on Bamboon, to pick up $1,185. Austin Vanderlee of Stettler was the novice saddle bronc champion; Clint Laye of Cadogan won novice bareback riding, while Brian Symington of Asquith, Saskatchewan took the steer riding at Benalto.

Meanwhile, after three performances of the Calgary Stampede, Rocky Mountain House cowboy Jim Berry is sitting second overall in the saddle bronc riding, behind leader Chad Ferley and his $14,000 in earnings. Berry has already won $6,500, and he’s tied with Dustin Flundra of Pincher Creek.

Dianne Finstad is a regular contributor of the Red Deer Advocate and is the agriculture/rodeo director for Newcap Radio/CKGY/CIZZ FM in Red Deer.