By Mike Linn
CLOVIS — The first time Kourtnie Cole got on a horse — at the ripe old age of 3 — she got bucked off.
She didn’t want to get back on, but after some coaching from her grandfather she decided to give it a shot.
The 16-year-old has been in love with horse riding ever since.
Her devotion to riding and the many hours she spent practicing paid off for the Clovis High student at this year’s High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals, when she took first place for the year in 13-15 girls barrel racing.
“Coming into the finals I was only down by 10 points, but me and my horse put it together and we did good and caught up,” Cole said.
Cole, who practices about four times a week, said she likes competition and barrel racing, a timed event that pits rider and horse against a triangular course with three barrels.
“The competition was nerve wracking,” she said. “There’s a lot of really good girls out here and a lot of good horses.”
Skye Sellers of Denver City, Texas, was one of Cole’s fiercest competitors this season, which included about 15 competitions.
Sellers was leading the standings entering into the finals, but faltered and fell to third place. Lisa Maez, a first-year rider from Dalhart, Texas, earned second place in barrel racing.
“It was horrible,” Sellers said of losing. “It’s a tough event. Most people really don’t think barrel racing is that challenging but you really have to be able to ride a horse to barrel race.”
But even in defeat, Sellers said she’s glad Cole was the one to take the prize.
“She’s an awesome rider, I give her all the credit in the world,” she said. “I figure most of the time I don’t like people I compete against, but Kourtnie’s different. I do like her and I don’t regret it that I didn’t win. I give her credit.”