Turn And Burn

Riding horses is a way of life for Payson families

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Turn and Burn sounds like a workout, and it is.

It is not an aerobic dance for individuals in a gym.

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Skye and Melanie McNeeley are a mother-daughter team in many areas of their lives, but when it comes to barrel racing and pole bending, the two are competitors. You can see them compete, along with at least two dozen other Rim Country residents in the last of the Turn and Burn Series at the Payson Event Center Thursday nights.

It is a barrel racing event for a rider and his or her horse.

Turn and Burn is also time for families and friends to unite for a little fun competition.

"It's not often that you get to participate with your kids; that's what makes it so great," Melanie McNeeley said.

Melanie used to barrel race with her son Shadrach. She currently barrel races with her 15-year-old daughter Skye.

"Horses have always been part of our lives and I've always competed," Melanie said. "Now it is fun to haul with Skye and compete with her and just watch her blossom."

Skye's dad shoes the horses and cheers the family on. Many of the same local riders participate in barrel racing and pole bending.

"It helps make it fun," said 18-year-old Tiffany Klemstine, who has been riding since she was 12.

"It's nice because you get to ride with people I really only get see at barrel events."

Horses become friends, too.

"Jasmine is my best friend," Klemstine said of the sorrel quarter horse she has been competing with for a year-and-a-half.

At 14.1 hands Jasmine is considered a short horse, but Klemstine is proud of the buckles they have won.

Her best time on a standard cloverleaf pattern at a National Barrel Horse Association sanctioned event in the Valley was 18.84 seconds. Split seconds count as horse and rider race through the timing line for speed barrels that are lined up three in a row.

The rider must navigate her horse around the first barrel on either side, past the succeeding barrels on alternate sides, turn around the last barrel, and run the remaining barrels on alternate sides, then race through the timing line. Horse and rider train as one, so with the pressure of a boot heel and voice commands the horse knows what is expected.

Gymkhanas include cloverleaf barrels and Washington pole bending while the Turn and Burn series includes more patterns, like birangles and keyholes and is run by age divisions.

"We like to do birangles, keyhole and speedball patterns because it is fun to let your horse go and it is fun to do something different," Klemstine said.

The format Charlene Hunt runs at the spring gymkhanas allows the riders to bring in a young horse, train the horse and progress with it to tougher competition.

"Charlene (Hunt, Payson Parks and Recreation specialist and coordinator of the barrel riding series) made a really awesome program. We used to always have to go out of town to Cornville or the Valley or Tucson. Charlene has created like the gymkhanas and the Turn and Burn," Skye McNeeley said.

Patsy, a black quarter horse, came to Mickey Willig's home just a month ago. Willig started training him for barrels right away.

"He likes to run barrels," Willig said.

This is the first horse the 16-year-old has trained. It not the first time Willig has run barrels.

"Patsy is doing really good and he has improved a lot because I ride him every day and me and my mom work on turning around the barrels."

"It has been so fun watching these kids over the years just get better and better," Melanie said.

Horses are a way of life for the McNeeley family and so teaching her children to ride one was easier than teaching driving skills.

"Riding a horse is something that you feel," Melanie said. "You are dealing with an animal that thinks for itself so you have to predict its behavior. I just think (learning to ride a horse) applies to so many things in life."

Melanie rides her quarter horse Gus in a different age class than her daughter.

"I can't outrun her anymore," Melanie said. "She can run 1 D times my horse runs 2 D times. He's usually a step behind her which is half a second to a full second."

In barrels that half second is a long, heart-pounding time.

Remaining competitions

The summer "Turn and Burn" series that started in August has three more Wednesday evenings to go:

Sept. 13: Barrels and Speed Barrels

Sept. 21: Barrels and Single Stake

Sept. 27: Barrels and presentation of awards

Spectators are welcome.

Riders may still enter. There is a $5 entry fee per event and the order of run is first come first through the gate.

Age groups are: 8 and under, 9 to 12, 13 to 15, 16 to 19, 20 to 29, 30 to 39 and 40 plus.

Books open at 5:30 p.m. Competition starts at 6:30 p.m. For further information, call (928) 474-5242 ext. 260.

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