Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Fast N Furious Barrel Racing: An Interview with Molleetha Gomez by Gina McKnight

Fast N Furious Barrel Racing: An Interview with Molleetha Gomez
By Gina McKnight
No Duplication without permission.
Archived from the August 2020 issue of Florida Equine Athlete

Celebrating eight years, Fast N Furious Barrel Racing is going strong. The competitive series runs from April through December at Florida’s Okeechobee County Agri-Civic Center & Fairgrounds. I met up online with Molleetha Gomez, the event co-founder. Molleetha, a dynamic horsewoman with a passion for barrels, shares her excitement and wisdom about horses. She is a gold card holder with WPRA Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and is a long time NBHA and FBRA member.

Molleetha begins, “I started the Fast N Furious Barrel Racing about a year and a half after resigning from the Fred Smith Arena where I was the secretary. I did the Dash for Cash Barrel Race there. I have a lot of help with the barrel race mainly from my husband Fred. He is part owner. Our good friend Gwen Kinney takes entries and announces for us. Our newer help is Johanna Trimble who is soon to be my daughter-in-law. We do a series that usually starts in April and runs thru December.  Our January show is our awards presentation show and the February show is an extra show to raise money for the new series. Our shows are held on Thursday once a month at the Okeechobee AG center. PJ Atkinson always does our concession stand and we have the K9 Resque come out and sell treats to raise money to help their cause. Lately we have the Cowboys for Christ who come out and say a prayer before we start and are available for anyone that wants to seek them out. Matt and Victor at the Ag Center in Okeechobee are great people to work with. I try to do a show as I would like to have it run if I was the participant - I guess that is why, at least I hope, that people take the time to come out and participate.”

Welcome, Molleetha!

GM: Molleetha, it is exciting to connect with you and talk about your life with horses. When was your first encounter with a horse?
MG: I remember going to the Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden. I saw a pure black pony and from there I was hooked. It was many years later in Florida that my Dad finally gave in and purchased an Appaloosa Gelding - a Western pleasure show horse. I took riding lessons and did a little showing, but I kept going to the rodeos that were held in Davie, Florida. I watched the barrel racing and knew that I wanted to compete. I came from a family that did not ride or have horses - knew nothing about them and really did not have an interest. My first barrel horse was a 3/4 QH, but a registered Appaloosa. He had raced on the APP track. He had come from Oklahoma. I purchased him from Darrel Clair, the father of Greg and Jeff Clair who most rodeo people know. I had a young lady start him, but after a month he had to come home he had colic. It turned out he would stress colic especially after a weekend of running, mainly on Sunday. After this happened a couple of times, the veterinarian would just leave me a shot of banamine to give him and he would be fine. He got better over the years. We learned to barrel race together. He did so well, we won the Davie Pro Rodeo and placed second at Ocala Rodeo. With him, I won many saddles and buckles. After him, I was able to purchase DH Special Bug who is now 31 years old. He had just won the 1995 NBHA World Show with Daniel Nelson. He gave me my Rookie of the Year title for the SE Circuit and three trips to the SE Circuit Finals and one trip to Pocatello, Idaho, for the Dodge Ram Circuit Finals. We won or placed at most every rodeo in the SE and a few out West. We were in the top 50 in the World, and back in the 90's when rodeo money was not that lucrative coming from the SE that was a feat in itself. He was my once-in-a-lifetime horse and gave me the experience to know what it feels like to just leave the barrels up and come home with a check.

GM: That’s a great story, Molleetha, of hard work and perseverance. Congratulations on your success. What makes a great barrel horse?
MG: Confirmation always helps, bloodlines help, too, but either one does not give you a guarantee. You can always overcome every obstacle with a horse that just loves you and wants to please. It is the bonding between you and your horse that will make all the difference, when you know each other, every move can be amazing. I have had 1D horses that made it seem too easy, they were just amazing. And then I had 3D horses that would go out and give their all and the great thing with them was that they still won for me.

GM: A great horse history! And great insight to what it takes to be a good racer. Fast N Furious Barrel Racing has been an exciting adventure for you, too! Tracking all the riders, their horses, scores, etc., is a huge task. How do you handle all the statistics/data?
MG: In the past I have done everything on paper and with an excel sheet. In the past few years, it has gotten so big that I went to the Charlie Horse Program and it has made a big impact at least with the entries, the draw and the points for that particular show. It takes care of my reports that are sent out to the WPRA, WBRL and now with the BBR coming on board this new year I will be able to print off results and send them in. It also takes care of my payout and we are able to announce results and have the money ready very quickly. I still use the excel sheet to help with point totals and the show count. 

GM: What should racers know about the behind-the-scenes efforts to put on the best event?
MG: The behind the scenes activity starts well before the week of the show. We open entries about two weeks prior and pre entries close the Tuesday prior to the show. Anyone can still enter on site. Once the pre-entries are closed, the draw is done and posted usually on Wednesday. It sounds easy, but between the books closing and the start of the show I usually have about 50 changes to be made (draw outs, addons or changes). I have prizes for the Pee Wee, so I shop for them and get their packages put together. I usually get the envelopes for the payouts started. We have an idea of how many places are going to be paid by the pre-entries. On the day of the show I have a bank run for change, get to the arena, and set the stakes, and put up the banners of our sponsors. Gwen and Johanna help with the check in, the setting of the times, and scoreboard. It never fails, I usually have more changes before we even start. Fred handles the exhibitions that begin two hours prior to the Pee Wee. Matt and Victor at the AG Center has the ground prepared in top shape, so one less issue for me. Once the Pee Wees start, we check to make sure that everyone has paid, or who has not shown and not contacted us - that they are not coming. Then we are ready to enjoy the show and watch everyone compete.

GM: With Pee Wee to Adult events, you come across a lot of riders. Do you have a favorite rider you follow?
MG: Year after year it changes, it has been great to see the transformation of the Pee Wees just over the series each year. You see their horsemanship develop right in front of you and can tell when they are ready to move on. I look at the results of a lot of shows and of course the bigger ones I tend to look at and love it when I see people that come to our shows and stand out and place while competing against 500 entries elsewhere or place at Professional rodeos. I have known Wendy Culberson for a long time. She is a WPRA member and I like to see the colts that she brings to run and see how they are doing.

GM: I love that Cowboys for Christ is involved in your program. What do they bring to the event and how can riders connect with them?
MG: Cowboys for Christ started coming out this past year. They say a prayer before we start out show. They set up a table across from the concessions stand and offer items and speak to anyone that comes to them. They have Bibles, etc. and if you have a donation, fine. If you cannot afford it at the time, the Bible is still available.

GM: Has the COVID-19 Pandemic had an impact on rodeo events?
MG: We have been hit hard. So many rodeos have been not only postponed but cancelled entirely. Our first show was to be held in April and now it will be a makeup sometime during the summer. Our sponsors, which are our lifeline, have been hit hard and I am not sure that they will be able to come thru for us this year.  We will have to see how things bounce back. I do think that after this the way entries, payments and payouts are made will change to less personal contact but hope to still be able to make it seem personable.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
MG: Horsemanship encompasses many aspects. Not all people are natural riders or natural barrel racers - they have to work at it. I think the true horseman will work at getting better and look for ways to do that either by getting a trainer, looking at videos or more importantly just spending the time in the saddle. They say colts need a lot of wet pads, well so does the rider. Don't be afraid to ask for help, but also more importantly, don't get upset if the answer is not what you want to hear.  Everyone has their own opinion as to what will work. Take it in and see what works best for you and use that. A great horseman is also one that puts their horse first as to what they need over what you want.

Connect with Molleetha
Photos Courtesy Wibada Photo

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