When the duo became the 2011 National Barrel Horse Association Open 4D Champions at the NBHA World Championships in Perry, Ga., at the end of October, 2011, they won the use of a horse trailer for a year.
Lettering on the trailer clearly marks their championship status. They were also rewarded with a saddle, large belt buckle, and vest and boots, among other prizes.
“A little bit of luck and a lot of consistency,” is how Barkdoll sums up their success.
Ten riders and their horses emerged as champions out of a field that began with 974 horses entered in five divisions, for both open and senior. Barkdoll made her winning ride wearing her orange ostrich boots.
Barkdoll, whose maiden name is Williamson, said she was raised around horses and got her first pony when she was 7.
“Ever since then, there have been horses in my life,” said Barkdoll, who is a 1972 graduate of Williamsport High School.
She started barrel racing as a child, because it “looked like fun.” Barrel racing involves riding a horse around three, 55-gallon steel barrels in a cloverleaf pattern.
“Missy cuts ‘em real close (to the barrels). I have the marks on my legs to prove it,” Barkdoll said.
Barkdoll said she took her time when she was looking for a horse, because she didn’t want to be changing horses every few years. She admits she and Missy “battled” the first two years as they worked together, but their longevity together shows.
“Unfortunately, we both get older. I’m lucky she’s still running at this age. You can tell we’ve been together a while,” Barkdoll said.
Barkdoll, who just turned 57, has owned Missy for 14 years. Missy is boarded at Widow’s Mite on Lappans Road in Fairplay.
Debbie and Missy have qualified for the world championships all but two years since 1997. Barkdoll said it takes a top five finish in your state to earn a spot at the world championships. Because they are small states, Maryland and Delaware are combined.
“That’s your goal, to just go and do the best you can do,” said Barkdoll, who hopes to qualify to defend her champion status in 2012.
Barkdoll is an amateur, but competed against a mix of professionals and amateurs at the world championships. She said the regional competition is good practice.
“We run against some of the top horses in the country. There are a lot of good horses in Maryland,” Barkdoll said.
Many weekends from March to November are spent at barrel horse competitions “up and down the East Coast”, Barkdoll said.
Debbie and her husband of 37 years, Scott, live in Hagerstown near Beaver Creek.
“He’s my biggest fan, worst critic and best friend. He’s behind me the whole way in this. We travel and camp out all weekend. It’s a lot of fun,” Barkdoll said.
The couple have one grown son.
Barkdoll is self-employed and also does the books for the trucking company she and Scott own. Working full-time cuts into her riding time, but it is a necessity.
“You gotta pay for this hobby and her upkeep. It’s not cheap,” Barkdoll said.