Local barrel racer in top 25 of world's best

CHASE — When it comes to barrel racing, Chase resident Bobbi Hinkley is one of the best in the world.

She recently placed 23rd in the National Barrel Horse Association’s World Championships, which took place from Oct. 27 through Nov. 2 in Perry, Ga., at the Georgia National Fairgrounds. Her fastest race time was 15:093.

“You’re down there and you get to watch the best of the best,” Hinkley said. “The best trainers in the U.S. were there, along with racers from France, Hawaii and Brazil.”

The atmosphere during the week-long event is electric, with the feeling of excitement at every turn and cheers after each race, she said. Racers from Michigan support each other, wear matching shirts and announce their arrival by banging on cowbells.

Hinkley placed in the top 25 while riding her horse called Front Row Flash — who she calls Sparky — which is the last horse born on her parent’s farm. For her accomplishment, she received a coveted prize given to only the top portion of contenders.

“This is what I’ve wanted for the last three years,” Hinkley said, holding a large, ornate belt buckle scripted with the event’s title. “I cried when I got it.”

Hinkley began barrel racing as a child participating in 4-H and continued until she was 18 years old. She loves the sport for the simplest of reasons.

“It’s me and the horse against the clock,” Hinkley said. “Whatever happens is how we make it.”

Then, life began and racing stopped, although she still was a regular rider.

In 2010, 25 years later, friends talked her into beginning once more. Since then, she qualified for the NBHA World Championships each year.

To train for each season of racing, Hinkley said she snow shoes and walks up and down her dirt road during the winter months. In March, she begins to jog the horse down the road, make them walk circles and walk figure eights. Barrel racing, she said, can be done by people of all ages and skill levels. Riders are placed in different divisions based on the fastest horse.

Apart from her victory this year in Georgia, Hinkley is 18th in the nation for barrel racing and already has qualified for the 2014 world championship competition. With a positive attitude, she is looking ahead to future competitions.

“It’s my goal to win more buckles or to win the grand prize — the use of a horse trailer for a year that says “world champion” on it,” she said. “If it ever hit the time of 14:8, I would be ecstatic.”