Millen teen chases barrel racing championship


Monday, June 7, 2014

MILLEN, Ga. (WRDW) -- For 15 years, the James Brown Arena hosted the World Barrel Racing Championships.

While the event left for Perry, Georgia a few years ago, there's still a number of local riders. One Millen teen is doing whatever it takes and pays whatever price to keep riding.

Hayley Parker loves horses. The feelings and sounds connected to hooves in the dirt and barrels passed by.

"It just kind of took off. She has a natural ability, so we let her do it," Kris Parker said.

A 15-year-old from Millen took the path less traveled in barrel racing. She'll be riding at the upcoming NBHA (National Barrel Horse Association) Youth World Championships as one of the best riders in the world. She's also independent, paying her own way in the sport.

"It just means a lot when I can pay for myself. I know the reward is something I worked for by myself," Hayley Parker said.

"She had to make money to start to play and we realized she wasn't really playing she was serious about it," added her mom.

Parents pay for gas. Haylee saddles up to the multi-hundred dollar entry fees. As for the horses, well, they're along for the ride until it's time for the show.

Hayley rides two horses competitively. Pippi right here and Wild Thing. Yes, each of them has a personality of their own.

"Pippi, he's impatient and he loves attention. And then Wild Thing...to say the least she's a brat," Hayley said.

Riding her first at three years old, there isn't a guarantee in a horses temperament or performance. Last year, Haylee learned just that.

"I felt her kind of melt under my hands and she just fell. The grace of God that is the only way I stayed on. That is the only way I can tell you," added Parker.

Some falls, some pain and a stitched lip are the only barrel wounds. Nothing stops Hayley from riding toward a world championship.

"I would love to win it. I'm sure that won't happen, but I would love for it to happen. I just want to place high, ride well, and I want my horse to be feeling good."

The connection between ride and horse still matters most.

Two years ago, Parker finished eleventh at the world championships. Her highest finish in the top competition. Hayley hopes to continue riding at the college level at Texas A&M.


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