KAMLOOPS - Professional barrel racing isn’t a typical mother-daughter bonding activity, but for Cherry Creek resident Julie Leggett, this year it is.
The 47-year-old has been competing professionally for six years in Canada and the U.S. but this year she is bringing along something special — her daughter Vanessa is a rookie pro barrel racer herself.
“It’s very rewarding being with your daughter doing a sport you both love to do,” she says. “From my perspective I always feel like I’m winning, because she’s my daughter and I trained the horses.”
Leggett has made it to number four in Canada the past two years and spends a lot of time on the road, competing in up to 40 professional rodeos a year, including the Calgary Stampede. Vanessa, who turns 21 in June, started matching her mother’s times three years ago. Currently she’s a nursing student at Thompson Rivers University, when not flying around barrels on the back of one of her mother’s horses.
“It really matters that you have a good horse, the horse will take you as far as he’s able to,” she says. “Seeing not only your daughter, but the horse that you raised; it’s a very personal experience.”
Leggett's 14-year-old horse, Ice, is the one to carry her most days, and occasionally her daughter. Leggett has had Ice since he was born, and owned Ice’s mother as a teenager.
“He was her last colt,” she says. “He’s definitely something that’s dear to our hearts.”
Horses were always part of Leggett’s life; that comes with a rodeo cowboy father. They were also her way to pay for university. She spent a few years as a jockey in Kamloops after arriving from Trail at age 19. She joined the B.C. interior race circuit while in school, until broken arms led her to retirement. The decision to become a stay at home mother followed.
“When my kids were growing up and little I stayed home and entered local competitions a lot,” she says.
Now that her kids are in university — her son Robert just finished his first year of engineering at McGill University — her pursuit of faster times on Ice have become more important.
Leggett has plenty of time to work on those times, too and is planning to race for years to come. She points out that the world’s top racer right now is Mary Burger, a 68-year-old from Oklahoma.
“I would feel blessed if I could continue on in the sport because I really love it,” she says. “Age doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned.”
More immediate though is her competition in Cloverdale this weekend. Her daughter wont be competing this time, Leggett says, because it’s an invitational event. However she’s still excited for the race.
“It’s exhilarating,” she says. “When your horse works outstanding and there’s a big crowd of people cheering you and your horse on it’s exciting.”
— This story was updated at 9:20 a.m., May 23, 2016, to correct the name of Julie Leggett's son. It was erroneously reported as Ryan which is her stepson.
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