Sisters share passion for barrel racing
It isn’t too surprising to hear about siblings playing the same sport, like soccer or football, as many parents and families pass down and share the same passion for a certain sport.
While most sports, like soccer, football, track, and basketball get a lot of attention, there are other student athletes hard at work, practicing their sport. You won’t find these students on the field or on the court, though; you’ll find them in the saddle.
Victoria & Eva
Sisters Victoria, 15, and Eva Viteri, 11, of Buffalo, grew up around horses. With their mother raising the animals long before they were even born, riding became a part of their lives right from the start. With being around horses so young, it’s no surprise that they both began competing at the State Fair when they were only five years old. Today, both are avid barrel racers and compete across the country, usually logging ten to fifteen weekend racing events each year.
Barrel racing is a popular rodeo event, in which the horse and rider must complete a run through a certain race pattern, set up with barrels they must navigate around. The lowest time wins, and riders must be careful to not rack up penalties from knocking over barrels.
“It’s a very competitive sport,” Victoria said. “It’s a lot of hard work but a lot of fun.”
Eva shares the same enthusiasm about barrel racing with her sister.
“It’s a super fun sport,” Eva agreed. “I really enjoy it, and also spending time with my friends and teaching them, too.”
While the sport is an intense event for the riders, training the horses to run the patterns is just as, if not more important, as the act of running the races and maneuvering tightly around the barrels is completely unnatural to them.
“You need to have a super big connection with the horse,” Victoria said. “The training is worth it when you have an amazing run. It’s a great feeling.”
Eva’s knowledge and training of horses will come in handy, as one of their horses recently had a foal and will be able to start training in the winter. The sisters have also traveled to Texas and Oklahoma to train with professionals, who coach them and refine their techniques.
A Rewarding Sport
As the sisters both began riding and racing at a very young age, they have had their fair share of the difficult experiences that come with the sport. Victoria had fallen off and broke her leg when she was five years old, and Eva experienced a bad accident just a few months ago that left her shaken and anxious about getting back in the saddle.
Despite the rough rides, accidents, injuries, and nerves that come with racing, both girls use the negative experiences to fuel their passion to grow and do better. For Victoria, getting back on her horse after breaking a leg was an important step for her to take, as most younger children would be scared away from a scary event like that.
“I’ve learned so much,” Victoria said. “You have to trust the animal and support them.”
Barrel racing is a unique sport, in that, instead of a human teammate to work with, the rider must connect with an animal, which is not an easy communication system.
“The horse has a mind of its own,” Victoria explained. “You have to go with the flow. It’s a hard process but cool to see the progress. It’s a very rewarding feeling.”
Even at her young age, Eva has already developed a mindset of growth and determination when she faces challenges with barrel racing.
“It’s hard when you do something bad, like knocking over a barrel, and you can’t fix it,” she said. “But when you can’t fix it, you need to learn from it for next time.”
Sharing the Sport
People with siblings know it isn’t always easy to get along, and sharing the same passion for a sport adds extra opportunity for tensions. Though they have their differences from time to time, Victoria and Eva enjoy spending time with their horses together.
“It’s exciting to train together,” Victoria said. “We push each other to do our best, and we get to see training from two points of view when we work together.”
This year, the girls share an extra exciting bond, as both qualified for and are competing in the Jr. National Finals Rodeo that is going to be held in Las Vegas during the first week of December.
Jr. National Finals
While the National Finals Rodeo is for professionals who qualify to ride based on the amount of money they win in rodeos across the United States, the Jr. Nationals is set up a bit differently. The participants are divided into two age groups. For barrel racing, the “JR” category is for kids under 12 years old, and “SR” is 12 to 17 years old. To compete, the kids need to win first or second place in a qualifying show, and there are only a handful of these across the United States.
Victoria and Eva skipped the Independence Day festivities this past Fourth of July to travel to Waterloo, IA to compete in the “Go for Broke” barrel race. Eva qualified for Nationals with a first-place win, and Victoria earned a second-place win that takes her to Las Vegas as well. During the week of December 3-12, they will both ride twice a day, vying for the top winner spots, which would qualify them for the main finals held on the weekend.
“It’s really cool to be going to Vegas together,” Eva said of their qualifying runs.
The challenge at Nationals will be running two different races each day.
“It’s hard,” Eva admitted. “You’re trying to focus on that one run in the moment, and then move on.”
With the Nationals a few months away yet, the sisters will be hard at work, practicing and coaching each other as they prepare for the big event. With barrel racing not being a common middle school or high school sport, they’re thankful to have a community of fellow racers and coaches cheering them on.
“No one else really does this kind of sport,” Victoria said. “Having that community of other people at races is nice. You learn a lot about commitment.”
Victoria and Eva have proven that nothing can stop them from getting back in the saddle, time after time, and this confidence, determination, and perseverance will travel with them to Nationals.