By Nathan M. Czochara
If you head down to a local rodeo this summer, you might run into some familiar faces. You might not see them in the crowd, but you will definitely see them in the ring. Vicksburg residents Lorrie Hagenbuch and daughter Juliana compete in the rodeo sport known as barrel racing.
Members of the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA), the mother-daughter duo has been in competition for nearly seven years, competing mostly in Michigan, but elsewhere in the Midwest, as well. Growing up and living in Vicksburg all her life, Lorrie has always been around horses. While she was looking for something that she and Juliana could do together, she came across the sport. She says it has been a perfect fit.
Barrel racing has been a staple of rodeos for decades. The sport involves riders individually taking their horses through a cloverleaf course around barrels. Without knocking down any barrels, the rider with the fastest time wins.
Both Lorrie and Juliana enjoy the sport in many ways. The rodeo circuit is a close community and Lorrie says she enjoys meeting and getting to know new faces among the spectators, her competitors, or competitors from other events. Besides the camaraderie, Lorrie relishes pushing herself and her horse to the limit and the addictive nature of competition.
“It involves time, commitment, heartache, and excitement,” Lorrie says. “I always think that you have a good run and you want to get another good run. It’s what keeps you going, the love of the sport and the love of the animal.”
Juliana has been riding horses since age four. Now at age 12, Juliana says she has a simpler reason for her love of barrel racing: “You get to go fast,” she says.
Yet, the Hagenbuch ladies are only half of the equation. Lorrie and Juliana’s partners in crime are Quarter Horse Gator and American Paint Horse Speed Bump. Lorrie’s horse, Gator, was bought from friend and two-time World Champion Barrel Racer Stassi Pyne. Starting off as a race horse, Gator has been in competition for 7 years. Juliana’s horse, Speed Bump, came from friends Brad and Patti Marshall in March 2011.
Lorrie says competing is great but the connection with their horses is just as important and a rewarding experience.
“Horses are amazing animals; they have a heart of gold. A lot of people don’t see that because they don’t know them, but they will give 110 percent, no matter if they are hurt or sore,” says Lorrie. “It’s that kind of connection. [Gator] is a one in a lifetime horse…don’t think I’ll quite find another one like him.”
Both Lorrie and Juliana say their two horses enjoy the competition of barrel racing, which is evident in their personalities during an event. Lorrie says you can feel the horses’ hearts race when they go in the ring and get jitters before a run.
She says the two horses even know when they have done well in an event. Both Gator and Speed Bump have their own celebration rituals after a good run. Speed Bump likes to munch on graham crackers after a good race; Gator has a more unconventional way of showing he’s happy with himself.
“I don’t know what it is, but whenever [Gator] has a really good run, he [sticks} his tongue out. He likes it massaged. He’s a big goofball,” Lorrie says.
Lorrie and Juliana will be competing through November when the season ends, but are looking forward to more years of barrel racing. Juliana hopes to earn a college scholarship for barrel racing while pursuing a degree in veterinary science. Lorrie aims to rise in the ranks of the sport, having earned her first big win out of 103 competitors at the Barry County Fair in Hastings, MI. Lorrie will also be competing in Georgia at the NHBA Nationals this fall.