A rider who started barrel-racing on a former racehorse just over a year ago has qualified for a prestigious competition in the United States.
Jennifer Wittridge, 44, who started in the sport in August 2017 has qualified for the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships in Georgia in October 2019.
Jennifer told H&H: “The National Barrel Horse Association came to Norfolk, I thought we’d give it a go and I’ve never looked back.”
Jennifer trains on her nine-year-old mare Aspen, whom she bought as a three-year-old after she retired from racing.
“I had been looking for something untouched but I saw an advert for Aspen and thought she looked perfect,” Jennifer said. “I had always wanted a horse to do western riding with which has been a passion of mine since I learnt to ride at 11.
“I still remember our first barrel run. Aspen’s stride kept getting bigger, and longer and higher. She enjoyed it so much. It didn’t take her long to learn how to balance herself round the turns – it’s about getting her to follow your hand round the turn. She knows what the barrels are for now and turns herself.
“The difficulty in barrel-racing is the speed of turning round the barrel – coming out quick and lining up for the next one. You very often forget to line up for the next one; you don’t want big gaping turns because that’s where you make up your time.”
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Jennifer who qualified after gaining points throughout the year says she cannot wait for the championship in Georgia but will not be taking Aspen with her.
“I just took each race at a time and never expected to qualify. The championship is huge and expects 55,000 visitors. What normally happens is you get a trainer there and you hire a horse. It’s a shame we won’t be able to take our own horses but I’m not keen on taking Aspen on a long flight.
“It will feel awful not riding my horse – I qualified with my teammate, I would prefer to ride her but won’t put her through all that stress travelling. I will be doing this for the both of us, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without her.”
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