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Friday, October 10, 1997

Rider proves barrel racing is a man's sport too

By BETH HALLMARK Staff Writer

Championship horseman Talmadge Green knows millions of reasons why barrel racing is a man's sport too -- and they all add up to dollars.

Green, 36, has won almost $2 million competing in the sport since 1985. Some of it he earned several years ago in Abilene, which is why he chose the city to have the first Cowboy National Championship barrel racing competition.

The event is sponsored by the National Barrel Horse Association, founded by Green just five years ago and already boasting 13,000 members throughout the country.

"There were a lot of barrel racers, but no unifying organization," Green explains. "Now we're the fastest-growing equine sport association."

About 400 barrel racers from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mexico will participate in the Cowboy Championship, which began Thursday morning at the Expo Center and runs through Saturday.

"We expect it to grow every year," Green said. "That's why we chose Abilene to host the event; we want a town we can build a relationship with."

Green's relationship with barrel racing began at the age of 10. He started competing professionally in his 20s and was soon the first racer to top the $1 million prize mark.

The three-time barrel racing world champion typically competes in NBHA events but has had to sit out some of this year's rounds because of recent surgery on an injured knee.

Because of a fall from a horse?

"Nope, basketball" he says.

A sports enthusiast, Green admits he's better at some than others.

"I broke three ribs in a softball league, but horses don't seem to hurt me."

NOT JUST FOR WOMEN

Green bristles just a bit when discussing the perception that barrel racing is primarily a woman's sport. The Georgia native notes that "back east" most of the riders are men.

"Until you get on that horse and go through that pattern, it's hard to make a judgment. In barrel racing you've got to have a little bit of everything.

"You have to have a cutting-type horse with a racehorse speed."

He admits men are at a slight disadvantage in a sport where the less one weighs the better.

But offering everyone the chance to compete together is the main feature of NBHA events.

Prize money is divided up three ways, with 50 percent of the purse going to the fastest racer. After one second is taken off the winning time, the racer closest to that time gets 30 percent. The racer coming closest to two seconds below the top time wins 20 percent.

The idea behind the handicap system is to allow "backyard barrel racers" to compete with the professionals and still win prizes and titles, Green said.

In addition to the open class, the youth and senior classes offer all ages the opportunity to race. Green said competitors' ages range from 8-years-old to over 65.

Open class competition, which began Thursday, continues today. Finals and youth and senior class competitions will be held Saturday. Admission to the event is free.

"We're trying to change the myth that this is a women's sport," said show director Sherry Fulmer.

"Out here it's kind of a macho thing."

 

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