LUMBERTON — Five families will have part of their Christmas paid for thanks to the horsing around of some strangers.
Money raised during the World Barrel Racing League’s Winter Series event on Saturday at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center will pay the bill.
“After all the bills are paid, we take the proceeds and we have five families that we’re going to buy Christmas for,” said Beth Herndon, one of the event’s organizers. “We’re going to help with their Christmas dinner. There are families in the community, people have either emailed us or nominated them. …”
The event featured barrel races involving multiple age groups. Contestants rode their horses into the arena, where they would then attempt to steer them around three barrels in the fastest time possible. The barrels were arranged in a triangle formation, and knocking one down disqualified the rider.
The competition concluded with an opportunity for riders to show off their horses’ speed in the Reindeer Dash. Garage doors on either side of the arena were opened, allowing contestants to get a running start before seeing which horse could clear the length of the facility fastest.
“We set up two sets of timers, and they come from back there [outside] whipping and running as fast as they can,” Herndon said.
Each barrel racing class had a specific amount of money up for grabs. The Open Series required a $35 entry fee, with the potential for a 75 percent payback depending on how contestants finished. There was $1,000 added to the purse for that class. Other divisions, such as the Pee Wee and Youth leagues, charged less per entry and had smaller payouts.
Ultimately, the focus of the event was about helping people in need. Many of those who attended the event were from out of the county and brought gifts to contribute to a toy drive held at the event.
“The people here are not members of the community, it’s other communities that are coming out to us to help this one area, which says a lot,” said Ashley (Bundy) Kling, another event organizer. “There’s people that have come here today without a horse just to bring some gifts to put under our tree.”
In return for their generosity, spectators were able to see highly trained horses show off their abilities.
“[The competitors] travel every weekend somewhere,” Herndon said. “They train these horses, most are quarter horses … some of these horses are $50,000 to $60,000 horses.”
Herndon also pointed to the economic benefit of the event.
“I think it’s a good thing for Lumberton because it brings people to our community,” Herndon said. “I had several people that ran to Dollar General and Walmart to get toys for our tree. It’s good for the restaurants because they’ll eat on their way home. For these people, it brings them here, it gives us something to do on the weekend, and it helps us be able to raise money for a good cause.
Saturday’s competition marked the second installment of a three-part series. Points are tallied over the course of the three meets, and champions in each division will be crowned at the series finale on March 3.
Based in Mars Hill, the WRBL focuses on giving riders opportunities to earn big prizes while providing them with quality venues to compete in. The league hosts events in states such as Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Its signature event, the WBRL World Finals, will be held in Perry, Ga., on Feb. 7.
Reach Brandon Tester by calling 910-816-1989 or on Twitter at @Tester_Brandon.