Alleisha Priddle gives Lethal Gem the freedom to stretch her legs during a practise run at the Great Western Indoor Arena.
Alleisha Priddle gives Lethal Gem the freedom to stretch her legs during a practise run at the Great Western Indoor Arena. Allan Reinikka AR--

Barrel of fun for red-hot cowgirl

ONE of the thrilling events of the CRCA Rodeo is the Ladies Barrel Race, and one of the finest exponents of the sport is Alton Downs cowgirl Alleisha Priddle.

Priddle has been to the forefront of the sport for a number of seasons and even though the results have not always been up with some of the best she has recorded, she is still within striking distance of claiming the all-important buckle as the 2010 champion.

A cruel blow for Priddle was the “loss” of her favourite saddle which did not assist the young rider in this season’s campaign.

Priddle had won the saddle, donated by JK Saddlery at the Gavial Creek Rodeo a couple of years ago, but in May it was taken while she was competing at a rodeo at Biloela.

Forced to use an all-purpose saddle Priddle, to her credit, was still competitive but unable to gain the wins that were once automatically hers.

In a sport where a fraction of a second is the difference between first place and an also-ran, it is vital the rider is comfortable and ready to guide her equine partner around three barrels, without knocking them over. And this is all the while galloping at speeds that look impossible to mere mortals viewing from outside the arena.

Riding well this year is Blackwater’s PJ Symes, who leads Leanne Kenny by more than 500 points.

However, wins in all three rounds and bonus points to be collected has Priddle believing she can bridge the 600-point gap to Symes.

It is not new territory for Priddle, or her trusty horse Lethal Gem, as the pair has been a successful team for a number of years.

Now that the young rider has her favourite saddle back she is confident she can do the job.

“Since I got my saddle back I’ve been placing,” she said ominously.

Most spectators associate Priddle with the Great Western Indoor Arena, as the tight course seems to suit her and the 10-year-old Lethal Gem.

However, that is not the case as Priddle likes racing at Austadium too and feels she can more than match the competition.

To watch Priddle on horseback is a pleasure, as she and Lethal Gem work as a unit, however, the rider has not just concentrated on Barrel Racing, she has also excelled in other equine events.

Like many young girls Priddle joined pony club and was a member of the Crompton Park club for many years.

There she was successful in dressage, showjumping and one-day eventing before deciding to test her talent on the rodeo circuit.

With one of her other horses she also competes in Campdrafting.

Should Priddle topple Symes, the Blackwater rider should gain some compensation as she is well ahead in the Rookie Saddle race with over double the points of Kristy Oliver Coveney.

For those who prefer the horse events, rather than the bull riding, the CRCA finals at Austadium offer plenty of variety.

Apart from the Barrel Racing and the Saddle Broncs there is also Team Roping where it is tight going into the final three rounds of competition.

The Open Bareback sees Brett Cross handily placed, while the Open Rope and Tie competition has the ever competitive Shane Iker topping the list.

Also in the Ladies Breakaway section it couldn’t get much closer, as Angela Pokarier and Jorja Watkins are neck-and-neck while a multitude of quality cowgirls are hot on their heels.

On Friday the entry of competitors begins from 6.30pm.

There are two shows on Saturday with the competitors entry at noon, again the action begins half an hour later, and the evening show has a 6pm start.

Presentations in all the divisions will be made during breaks in Saturday evening’s show.



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