- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

KENDALLVILLE, Ind. (AP) - For a few seconds, barrel racing seems to be an individual sport, with only the rider and her horse competing against the clock.

But as Kendallville resident Judy Bortner knows, it takes a lot more people than her alone.

Horses have been in Bortner’s blood. Her sister Brenda Watson, participated in Western pleasure in her youth.

“She was an inspiration because.she’s done the Western pleasure and she’s competed at many different levels,” Bortner explained of Watson.

Despite being around horses, Bortner never competed herself. In fact, from the time she was about 13 to about 32, she had nothing to do with horses.

Then, her neighbor, Kim Griffiths, invited Bortner and her family to watch the Griffithses at barrel races in LaGrange County.

“I watched them and I looked at my husband and said, ‘I’d like to do this,’” Bortner said.

Griffiths helped Bortner get started, even helping her find and train her first horse. Through racing Bortner then met Sherry Logan, also of Kendallville.

“She has helped me tremendously,” Bortner said of Logan. “(If) we get stuck somewhere we’ll say, what do we need to do, or if we need to change equipment up she’ll give us a suggestion.”

Bortner also met Brian Langeworthy and Teri Forrest of Sturgis, Michigan, who watch her racing videos on Facebook, critiquing them and giving her pointers.

“As far as getting me where I’m at now, I contribute it to those three people, for helping me. And my sister of course. And I couldn’t do any of it without my husband (Bob) who is my biggest supporter,” Bortner said.

Where Bortner is now is no small feat. She purchased her current horse, Bella, sight unseen from Goods Performance Ranch in South Dakota and, along with Bob, trained her themselves. When she began barrel racing she had a bucket list, and has been able to cross most of the items off, winning money, getting her picture in Barrel Horse News and winning a buckle at the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships in Perry, Georgia, this past October.

The goal of barrel racing is to have the fastest time racing in a clover-leaf pattern around three barrels, Bortner explained. Races are broken down into divisions based on finishing times.

“You don’t have to have the fastest horse out there.you want something that’s consistent and will always place you,” Bortner said. Hitting a barrel can result in either a five-second penalty or not recording a time for that run, depending on the event.

The NBHA is broken into districts within the states, with riders competing in various shows for points. The five with the highest points at the end of the season are invited to the world championship.

Bortner made that list this past season, earning her first buckle for qualifying to go to worlds.

The event was an emotional one for Bortner.

“My father had passed away and never got to watch me run and my brother passed away at a very young age, (as did) my sister. So when I was in Georgia, I pray before I run every time,” Bortner said. She also wears pink in honor of her sister who passed away from breast cancer.

At the world competition she qualified for the finals in the open class, earning herself another buckle. She also won her largest payout to date for finishing in the top 15 in her division.

“My sister was the first one who congratulated me and she said, you know who’s up in heaven rooting for you and watching down on you? And I said, you know, I thought of that every single run I made, that they never got to watch me in person but they got to watch me,” Bortner said, smiling.

She also discovered that her father had barrel raced, and the family’s love of horses has been passed down to Bortner’s children as well: her daughter, Amanda, participated in Western pleasure in her youth and her daughter Samantha has followed in her footsteps as a barrel racer. In fact, Bortner and Samantha both qualified for the world championship next year.

“The best thing about horses for our family as a hobby is everything’s been in the family,” Bortner explained. Even though her husband doesn’t ride, he is always involved in working with young horses.

“The girls and I would be out riding together every night. If you can get your whole family involved, we were very fortunate, it’s an awesome family experience,” Bortner said.

Bortner said that support is essential in allowing her to accomplish her goals and help her reach the items still on her bucket list: riding in a rodeo and earning a saddle for placing first in her division at a show.

“You don’t have to have the most expensive horse.(but) you need a good support system. It’s hard to go out and do it on your own. You need somebody who’s going to support you,” she said. “You’re never too old to ask for help.and it’s never too late to start either. . As long as you’re physically able to do it and it’s what you want to do, do it.”


Source: KPC News, https://bit.ly/2gQ4LJp


Information from: The News-Sun, https://www.kpcnews.com

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