No sooner does Shae-Lynn Ringrose put her books down after school than the 16-year-old heads straight to her room to grab a change of clothes.
Facebook and Instagram may have the teenage market cornered, but for the Westview secondary student, her obsession isn’t pointing the camera inward, looking for the approval of a network of so-called friends. She’s not changing to impress her friends. She’s changing so she can play in the mud.
Her obsession has four legs and a stride built for speed.
Just around the corner of her home near Webster’s Corners in northeast Maple Ridge, Shae-Lynn wastes no time making her way to the farm located just five minutes from her house. That’s where Shae-Lynn’s friend is literally chomping at the bit, waiting for her arrival.
For the past three years, Shae-Lynn and her 12-year-old horse Annika have been barrel racing throughout the Lower Mainland. This fall, the two have put the barrel racing world on notice, that this is much more than a weekend hobby.
On Sept. 20, Shae-Lynn trotted out of Langley, winning three buckles at the National Barrel Horse Association finals. Most noticeably, she was crowned, or buckled, as youth champion. The distinction not only comes with the fancy hardware, it qualifies the two to compete in the NBHA World finals in Georgia in October 2016.
One week later, she backed up her impressive showing in Langley by winning the Canadian Barrel Racing Association youth championship in Chilliwack, taking home a new saddle to go with her trio of belt buckles.
For Shae-Lynn, the sudden rise in success this fall caught her a little by surprise. But her mother Sandi believes a big part of their success is the a bond between her Shae-Lynn and Annika.
Success in barrel racing depends heavily on both the rider and horse being in sync with each other, said Sandi. She said there’s a bond between the two that seems to mirror each other’s personalities
“Outside the ring, both Shae-Lynn and Annika have a calm demeanour. Neither seem easily rattled,” said Sandi, “They’re real warm, gentle approach in how they treat each other.”
But the second they get close to the starting gate, a light switches and the gentle personalties of both the rider and the horse give way to the competitor itching to start, said Sandi.
Shae-Lynn happily agrees.
“I just love the adrenaline,” said Shae-Lynn. “Once she see’s that alley she starts to pick up and get excited. I can feel her heart rate racing. Then my adrenaline starts to go. It’s just me and the horse. People will be yelling out you from the outside, but I can’t hear it. It’s just me and Annika at that point.”
For Sandi, she said her daughter’s attitude also helps the two succeed. Win or lose, no matter the outcome, she said She-Lynn always has high praise for Annika.
“She never blames the horse. She owns her mistakes,” said Sandi.
For Shae-Lynn, the focus now is on the future. She
Once she graduates, the goal is to turn pro and add a few more belt buckles to her collection. There’s one she specifically has her eye on ever.
“I loved to watch the Calgary Stampede,” said Shae-Lynn, who starting riding when she was five and moved into show jumping a few years later,
But she knows the competition is tough. Of the 20 riders invited to this year’s event, only one was a Canadian.
Cost is also an issue. For Shae-Lynn to compete at the worlds, there’s the hefty $5,000 cost of either shipping Annika while she and her family fly down or they spend three weeks driving the 9,000-kilometre round trip. But those are questions for another day. On a cloudy October afternoon, Shae-Lynn is quite content living in the moment.
“I just love to ride.”