When it comes to barrel racing, the difference between winning and losing is a great horse.
Liz Combs of Eltopia has one of the top barrel horses in the sport in Skeeter, and the pair proved it last weekend, winning their second consecutive barrel racing title at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
“He truly is a blessing to me,” Combs said of her 9-year-old gray stallion. “I’ve owned him since he was born. I’ve raised him since I was 12. What makes it even more rewarding is I trained him to run the barrels. I’m really proud of him.”
Combs’ title came with a saddle, a buckle and more than $3,000. Skeeter was recognized as the top horse in the women’s division at the CNFR for the second consecutive year, earning Combs another saddle.
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Competing for Sam Houston State University, Combs won the first go-round, maneuvering the clover-leaf pattern in a time of 14.19 seconds.Combs was sixth in the second go (14.16) and was fifth in the third go (14.21).
In the short go, Combs topped the field at 13.91 — the fastest run of the week — just edging Tyla Treasure (13.95) of University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Combs finished with a combined time of 56.47.
“On that last run, I think he knew. I think he can tell when there is something important by the way I act,” Combs said. “I think he remembered from last year. He knew where we were. When my adrenaline is going, I feel his heart pounding faster. He can tell what he needs to do by the way I am acting. We read each other pretty well.”
Combs was in a battle with Hayden Segelke of Northeast-ern (Colo.) Junior College through the first two rounds, but Segelke and her horse Rascal knocked over a barrel in the third go and failed to make the short go.
“If she wouldn’t have hit the barrel, it would have been nearly impossible to beat her,” said Combs, who trailed Segelke by .16 seconds after two go-rounds.
A 2008 graduate of Connell High School, Combs will spend the majority of the summer on the road competing.
She competed Thursday at the Strawberry Days Rodeo in Pleasant Grove, Utah (results were not available). She’ll arrive home this weekend and plans to return to action after July 4.
“I plan on traveling pretty hard this summer,” Combs said. “My ultimate goal would be the NFR, but we’ll see how it goes. I competed last summer, but just on the Columbia River Circuit. This year, I am going all over the place.”
Note: Walla Walla Community College won the men’s team title, led by all-round champion Bryce Palmer, who ran away with the title with 365 points. Palmer, a graduate of Touchet High School competed in tie-down roping (fifth overall), and team roping, where he finished eighth with Jake Minor of Ellensburg.