All Blogs, In The Arena

Barrel Racers on Fire: Sarah McDonald



First off this year has to be a dream come true, you have dominated! So lets start with your background.. tell OTRR Fans about your history in the arena?

I grew up into a horse riding family. My Mom Carol, rode her pleasure horse, Angel around the farm while she was pregnant with me. My older sister, Brook, and I both started riding on Angel. I taught Angel the poles, cones, Texas, arena race, and barrel pattern. My Dad, Mike always told me if I did good in school I could go to the horse shows and I remember them taking me to every horse show that we could go to. I always looked forward to going to the barn every day after school and to the shows on the weekend. My Uncle Stephen trains horses so there has always been around 20 horses at our barn. My Dad, Mom, and Uncle taught me everything about a horse and competing. I would get mad at Angel because she didn’t want to go fast and I told my Mom I’m going to whip her she’s too slow. My mom said okay, but she’s not going to like that. I remember whipping her and then of course she bucked and I landed on her neck. She stood right there until I got back in the saddle. After Angel I moved up to faster horses. Bones was a big step up from Angel and he taught me patience, that going faster wasn’t going to be easy. He had a heart attack while we were running the poles and made sure he landed where he wasn’t on me. He is buried at the local saddle club arena in my hometown. Jazz was so consistent and I learned how to trust her. Flicka was a palomino mare that will forever be one of my favorite horses. She was so beautiful and I wrote “I love Flicka” on every notebook in school. She loved the poles, and would run 20 second pole runs. I lost her way to early to West Nile disease and was very sad because she was my best friend. Soon after, my Uncle had traded and got a black gelding named Jerry. He was very fast and strong. My Uncle did good on him and let me start riding him. He taught me so much and made us a name in the barrel racing world. At first I could not control him and we ran circles around the field. My uncle taught me how to gain control of him and rate him in our runs. He was so fast and I hardly didn’t weigh anything so he would run wide at every barrel and still win the race. He carried me to my first big show win that was followed by multiple district, national, and even a 2005 NBHA Open World championship. Looking back, at 13 I really didn’t know what we had done because I’ve been trying to win that title since then and it’s not easy! He is 19 now and I’m so happy he has also taught my niece, Anna Williams the same things he has taught me. He means so much to my family. Ubetcha is a bay mare that has the biggest heart and she is the first horse I seasoned myself. My niece Anna is doing awesome on her. Each horse taught me something I will never forget and I’m so thankful my family has kept me on great horses. Horses has always kept my family close.

Tell us about the horses in your trailer and your relationship with them?

Bling is a 9 yr old bay roan mare sired by Streak of Fling out of Short Penny, a Dash Ta Fame mare. My Uncle Stephen and our very close family friend Larry purchased Bling when she was a yearling. My Uncle broke and trained her on the barrels, so she is very special to us. Bling and I have a very special bond. She trusts me to always be there for her and I trust her to show up when I need her. I have learned so much about her while being on the road and I spend close to every moment of the day caring for her and watching her. I know what she likes and doesn’t like. It’s really amazing how smart she is. Rose is a 6 yr old black mare that is usually with us, but she has been at home this trip due to an injury. I am really looking forward to getting her back with us very soon. Hottie, a 4 yr old palomino mare has been on the road with us since May. It’s been really cool watching her grow up as we have traveled. It’s awesome to watch Steve and Larry bring these horses home when there young, and then watch them through their training and growing up process. It’s humbling seasoning them and it makes the good runs very special.

There are many highs and lows on the road, how do you deal with those mentally?

I always think how I’m traveling this beautiful country with awesome horses that my family has worked really hard to get them to this level. Bling deserves to be running against the toughest competition and I want to perform our best. It helps to know my family is behind us and one call or plane trip away. I pray a lot and I am really close to my horses. I enjoy caring for my horses, spending time with them, and competing. The miles of road is tough but it is part of it. Mentally I treat it like I’m on a business trip and I’m lucky that I love my job and I couldn’t do it without a partner like Bling.

You are well on your way to Vegas this December, what are your plans between now and then?

I want to keep my horses happy and healthy and learn from every run and pen. I plan to enter smart and keep Bling in shape. I’ll go home the end of the season and give her a nice break.



What do you feel is one of the hardest things about being on the road?

It’s hard to be away from home and my family. I miss them a lot but I know this is what God wants us to be doing right now. I know Bling is a very smart athlete and it’s hard to find horses like her. The long trips are hard and since I live in Georgia I can’t go home much. It’s funny, I use to hate to leave home and now I travel everywhere. It’s probably good I’m not close to home or I would always go home. Haha We have 4 of Bling’s babies at home so I can’t wait to see how big they are when I get home.

Please stay tuned for more from Sarah! Check out all of our “Barrel Racers on Fire” Series!

Pictures provided by Sarah McDonald.

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