By Dr. James Reisner
Barrel racing draws spectators, riders and horses to Salkum
Does anyone want to compete with Viki Friedrich? You’d better have a very fast, seasoned horse who “hugs the barrels.” Some riding expertise and a lifetime of experience and intensity would also help. Most of the smart money would still be on Viki, but maybe you could convince her to use one of her “greener” horses and ride backwards, just to level the field a bit. It’s over if she mounts Blaze Ta Thunder. (Left: Viki Friedrick and Blaze ta Thunder wrap the barrels at Rocky Top Arena. Photo by Molly McCall Photography, Scappoose. Other photo show sRTA. Photo by Jim Reisner)
A “horse woman” since age 7, Friedrich has become a leading competitor in Northwest and National barrel racing events. You can meet her at her spectator-friendly Rocky Top Arena near Salkum, Wash.
“I have years of competition and awards, said Friedrich, “but people don’t want to hear about something I accomplished 10 years ago.” Her more recent accomplishments include numerous Futurity and Derby championships, a derby triple crown championship and several rodeo and barrel racing awards. Her current top horse is a 7-year-old quarter horse, Blaze Ta Thunder who she got as a 2-year-old, trained and “brought him up through futurity and derby events.”
“He is a one in a million horse you wait a lifetime to get,” Friedrich said. “He is special to me.” She rode Blaze for her 2010-2011 wins.
“Futurity” and “derby” refer to the horse’s age during competition (futurity: 4-5 year-olds; derby: 6-7 year-olds). Think of thoroughbred racing where 2-year-olds would be futurity and 3-year olds would be derby.
Three-year-old thoroughbreds hit their maturity peak and are challenged in longer races. Top horses and jockeys are competing in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, along with other top races. Winning the Triple Crown requires the horse win all three of the big races. The Belmont is the longest — 1.5 grinding miles. In the 1970s three horses won the Triple Crown — Secretariat 1973, Seattle Slew 1977, Affirmed 1978. Many fine horses have tried but none have succeeded since then.
It’s an interesting concept: Horse races pitting one horse against all the others in the field, with the winner crossing the finish line first. Barrel racing, rodeos and related events are won or lost based on the stop watch. The fastest error-free time wins. These are all “timed events.” Horse competition not based on time or head-to-head match up would include things like dressage or jumping.
Rodeos usually have no divisions; the winner has only one chance. He or she must follow all the rules, avoid disqualification and get the best time. RTA and similar venues typically have divisions based on a variety of criteria. The event is set up like this:
1 d---15.0 seconds
2 d---15.5 seconds
3 d---16.0 seconds
4 d---16.5 seconds
These times, from preliminary trials, determine which division the horse will be in. Note that Friedrich competes in the 1 d category — the best, the pros. You can move up in category if you and your horse have a good day.
Freidrichs and her husband go “on the road” with a top-of-the-line travel rig, a semi tractor and a large fifth wheel rig with a sizable living area and room for four horses. You’ll see them around rodeos, fairgrounds, and racing events. If you’re going on the road, do it in comfort.
The family-owned business, with its arena, barn and white fences all around, encompasses 200 acres. Freidrich’s parents owned the property and her dad built the arena several years ago. In 1996 it became Rocky Top Arena, named after a rocky knoll on the property. Today it is run by the family, including the racing events where each of various jobs are done by family members.
“I always loved competing in basketball, volleyball and track but more than anything,” she said, “in horse events.” It has always been “in my blood.” She still finds time for horse training and riding lessons.
Other gaming events (“Games on Horseback”) at RTA include “Pole bending,” “speed barrels,” “Figure 8,” “flagging,” and “Bi-Wrangle,” with an emphasis on the “Texas barrels.” the standard race with the three barrels set in a triangular pattern. Spend an evening at Rocky Top Arena. You’ll have a good time.
If You Go
Rocky Top Arena,1040 Gore Road, Salkum, WA
360-985-2080 • rockytoparena.com
SPRING SADDLE SERIES April 18, 25; May 2; Final Races & Awards May 11. Time-onlys 4:30-5:45. Races 6:30
Located 14 miles west of I-5 at Salkum, Rocky Top Arena attracts competitors and spectators alike at regular barrel racing events. Admission is free at the large indoor arena with seated spectator area; parking is plentiful. Take money for the concession stand and wear warm clothing and footwear.
Driving directions: Take Exit 68 off I-5. Continue east on Hwy 12 for 11 miles. Turn left on Stowell, go 1/4 mile and turn left on Gore Rd. Go 1/4 mile and turn left into driveway with sign for Rocky Top Arena.
Jim Reisner is a retired OB/Gyn physician. Owner of two quarterhorses, he lives west of Longview on a small farm. He has written for CRR on various topics over the past eight years.