Barrel racers compete

You can tell when she’s up to something or when she’s angry.

Sometimes, when irritated, she spits her food at whomever happens to be around her.

Mya, a Red roan and partner of 13-year-old rider Tabby Slack in the show ring, is only 5 but is known as a moody teenager by Slack’s family.

“Come back five minutes later, and she’s all loving like nothing ever happened,” said Tabby’s mom, Lisa Baker, 36, of Mya.

Tabby and Mya are members of the Pioneer Riding Club, which has called the Washington County Fairgrounds home for more than half a century. The members, both adult and youth, present shows and competitions in western, English, halter and contest, including barrel racing, especially during the summer.

That’s the event in which Tabby and Mya shine.

They can be seen in a show at the Washington County Fairgrounds at 4 p.m. July 13 and 27, Aug. 10 and 24 and Sept. 21.

The team has racked up some impressive times. Their fastest time so far is 16.1 seconds, Slack said. They have participated in three Pioneer club shows and 11 events, winning 11 first-place prizes and three cash prizes. She’s already qualified to compete later this month at the Ohio State Fair.

Fast-paced barrel-racing is included in rodeo events. Participants attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around barrels already set up on a course in the fastest time.

Tabby’s father, Howard Baker, said Mya was born to run barrels. Her father was a red roan and ran barrels, too. Her mother was a blue roan pleasure horse.

In the mornings, when Mya is let out, Howard said she will run the barrels on her own.

Tabby said she always knows the pair will do well.

“It’s what I do,” she said, with a broad grin.

Slack, of Marietta, has been riding for about four years and also is a member of the Trailblazers 4-H Club. She started barrel-racing in 2012 at the urging of other riders in the Pioneer Riding Club. After a year of training, Tabby and Mya were ready to compete.

“I’ve always wanted to do barrels,” Tabby said. “It’s been my dream. … It’s definitely a rush.”

Tabby and Mya have been a team for about four years. Howard Baker said the family found the horse in the Bulletin Board. He and Mya’s ex-owner brought her to the fairgrounds, where Mya lives. He said it was an unforgettable day because, when they pulled up to the stall, Tabby had tears flowing down her face.

“When we got her, she was untouchable, but now she’s the best horse ever,” Tabby said.

Although the duo are very close, her parents watch them closely from the stands and keep thinking, “Don’t slip. Don’t slip,” they said.

“I hold my breath until she gets to the last barrel,” Lisa said.

Whenever the pair run, Howard said he thinks of the movie, “Angels in the Outfield.”

“When you see them run, you think there’s an angel flying with them,” he said.

While they still have some shows with the Pioneer Riding Club, Tabby will train for her first appearance at the Ohio State Fair on July 26. She also spends some time training her younger sister, Mahayla Baker, 6, in barrel racing. Rounding out the team is their brother, Kenneth Sparks, 11, who helps with the saddles, making it a true family affair along with the support of the fair board, the riding club and her sponsor, American National Bowling Insurance.

Tabby also is thinking about her future. She wants to be a veterinarian, and the family already is looking at schools that offer barrel-racing scholarships.

“I just want me and Mya to be something,” Tabby said.