By Kevin J. Sabo
The Alberta Barrel Racing Association (ABRA) has ended their 2021 season on a high note.
Running from Aug. 23 to Aug. 29, the Calnash Ag Event Centre in Ponoka hosted the 2021 ABRA provincial finals.
“(The finals) went awesome,” said Jill McDougall, ABRA office manager.
Instead of its previous format, where riders competed multiple times over several days in a “long-go,” “short-go” format, the finals this year were spread to six days, with competitors split into three groups, each of which competed over two days. Each group was limited to around 400 riders of various levels.
“We were able to streamline about 400 racers every two days,” said McDougall.
“It definitely made it busy for the board of directors and the office, but it was a nice format for a lot of members.”
One other change was the timing of the event. In previous years, where there were fewer days, competition would start around 7 a.m. and continue until 10 p.m., making for long days. With this year’s format racing started a little later and was done each day by 6 p.m.
“This format allowed for people to be done at 6 p.m. and get a good night’s sleep to do it again the next day,” said McDougall.
Around 1,000 competitors took part in the event over the six days, consisting of open, youth, and peewee classes. The overall winner of the event was Ponoka cowgirl Aimee Cripps and her horse, Chase, who won around $7,500 in cash and another $6,000 worth of prizes.
“I really enjoyed (the format),” said Cripps.
“It was nice to only be there for those two days. The prizes and the extras they put in this year were amazing. It was beyond my expectations.”
During the event, there were winners for each day plus an overall payout and prizes, resulting in thousands of dollars of prize money being handed out.
“(Cripps) pretty much swept these finals,” said McDougall.
“The two days she was up, she won both days — the overall round in one and two, and the average. It’s pretty cool that a local cowgirl did so well.”
With the 2021 finals now complete, McDougall says that the leadership of the ABRA will be going back to the membership and the vendors of the sold-out tradeshow to get feedback on the event.
“We will be polling the membership following the finals and surveying the vendors and the members to see if they like the new format or if we’ll go back to a different format where we have our ‘short go’ again,” said McDougall.
Other Ponoka area competitors who did well include Nicole Groeneveld, who won the overall youth average, and Janae McDougall, who won the youth overall round two.
“You had some local cowgirls win some big money,” said McDougall.
“You could win money every single day, plus the average. Jenae walked out of there with $1,600, a buckle, and a day prize. It’s pretty cool.”
According to McDougall, the event could not have happened without the board of directors, or Michelle Auclair, who arranged the trade show and the prizes.
Planning for the 2022 finals is already underway.
“It just really was a great way to end 2021,” said McDougall.
“There are so many plans for 2022 already circulating.”