Blazin’ Saddles: Barrel Racing at the Tillamook Fairgrounds

Thundering hooves, a cloud of dust — saddle up everyone! The Blazin’ Barrel Gaming Series is bringing off-season rodeo competition to the Tillamook County Fairground’s indoor arena.

As the event gets underway, the first horse and rider prance to the starting line, eager to begin the action. The rider leans in and, with a quick slap of the reigns, they take off across the arena towards the first of three barrels. As the horse closes in on the first barrel, it stops short, twisting into a tight circle and wrapping its large body around the first barrel, then the second, and finally the last before racing full-speed back to the finish line. It’s an exciting spectacle in horsemanship that demonstrates the skills and power of both horse and rider.

Begun as a way to practice the sport during the winter months, the Blazin’ Barrel Gaming Series, or BBGS, was formed by self-described “obsessed” riders Lindsey Griffin and Carol Averill as a way to help girls practice their skills for the summer rodeo season. During the first year they expected about 20 riders at each of the series’ six events, and two years later this exciting competition boasts more than 50 regular riders.



“Originally we expected to draw only a few riders from the families we’ve gotten to be friends with during the regular rodeo season, but we’re seeing more new faces from other counties coming out to participate,” Griffin says.

There are four events using both barrels and poles placed in various formations. Scoring is determined by the clock, with a five-second penalty handed down for each overturned barrel. A winner in each of the three divisions, Adult, Youth, and PeeWee, is announced after every event. In April, when the BBGS series final takes place, a beautiful hand-tooled saddle is presented to the winners in Adult and Youth divisions.

Word about the BBGS competition continues to spread all along the Oregon Coast. Oceanna Ward and her horse, Smokey, travel from Seaside with her mom to participate in the Youth division. “The BBGS is special. It’s competitive but everyone is friendly and supportive, and the riders have a chance to practice during the winter,” Rachel Ward explains.

The Blazin’ Barrel Gaming Series runs from October to April, with one competition scheduled each month. For more information you can visit the Blazin’ Barrel Gaming Series Facebook page where you’ll find results from the latest competition and information about the next event.
Dena Weigel Bell
Dena Weigel Bell began traveling in college on two cultural history study abroad programs and hasn't wanted to stop yet. After 10 years working in corporate marketing departments, her wanderlust had her seeking out ways to combine her love of writing and travel, which led to becoming a freelance writer. Dena lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, where their combined travel bucket list grows exponentially with each new day.

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