- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Barrel racer Lilly Picard is a pretty low-key individual, not given to being chatty or effusive.

The 14-year-old freshman at Nixyaawii Community High School doesn’t need to talk much, though, to make a bold statement. She just gets on her horse and rides.

Lilly and her aunt Ashley Picard headed to the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Nov. 5, reported the East Oregonian (https://bit.ly/2f4UTgX). The pair spent the summer traveling the Pacific Northwest and Canada, spending almost every weekend competing at Indian and jackpot rodeos. Lilly entered both junior and ladies barrel racing events and performed well.

The pair, along with Lilly’s grandmother Sarah Picard, racked up the miles. When they headed out from their Pendleton home in May for the first rodeo of the season, their Dodge 3500 pickup truck still had that new truck smell.

“The truck had eight miles when we started,” Ashley said. “It has 17,000 on it now.”

When they headed to Vegas, only Lilly’s two horses were loaded into the trailer. Ashley and Sarah would share driving duties and support their girl.

Lilly and her chestnut quarter horse, Claire, proved a formidable duo this season as they topped standings in junior barrel racing for two regions - the King Mountain Indian Rodeo Association and the Western State Indian Rodeo Association - and climbed to second nationally among junior barrel racers.

Lilly doesn’t recall a time horses weren’t a part of her life.

“I really loved horses,” she said. “I just wanted to ride.”

“From when she was a baby who could barely walk, I put her on the horse with me,” Ashley said. “She’s always been drawn to them.”

Lilly started participating locally at the Mustanger Arena using a lead line and progressed from there. Ashley, 30, has a similar story. A barrel racer since she was small, she qualified for the INFR at about Lilly’s age (though she didn’t go) and competed at the Pendleton Round-Up.

Lilly credits her aunt with shaping her as a barrel racer. The two train together and spend hours on the road.

“She always been there for me,” Lilly said.

“She is like the daughter I never had,” Ashley said, shooting a warm look at her niece.

Lilly acknowledged before the trip that she was nervous, but confident that her pre-competition ritual would calm and focus her.

“Me and Ashley - we pray before every run,” she said.

Claire, who is a granddaughter of the storied thoroughbred Secretariat, is ready for prime time after a busy season and regular workouts to maintain her muscles and lungs. Training involves trotting and galloping in pastures and on a four-speed hot walker on her grandparents’ Cayuse acreage. She guides Claire through a miniature three-barrel course. She also prepared Hammer, a speedy male chestnut that will share the trailer with Claire and provide backup.

Ashley expressed confidence in her niece

“Lilly’s got as good a shot as anybody if she can keep the barrels standing,” she said. “It’ll be tough, but she didn’t get to the national finals by accident.”

Lilly thanked her financial supporters and God.

___

Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.com


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