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Elle Jolley, FreeState’s purchasing coordinator, has never known a life without horses. However, the connection she has made with her barrel horse runs deeper than just racing.

“I started barrel racing on my pony,” she said. “Now I have two horses: Mandy and Ash. They’re my barrel horses and Ash was born at my house by my very first horse.”

Once Ash was old enough, Elle trained him to barrel race. This built an unbreakable bond and is proving them to be an unstoppable team at competitions.

“We definitely have a connection,” she said. “I’m so close to him, so sometimes we butt heads. I did not think he would be a barrel horse, but he has caught on really well.”

The duo runs in National Barrel Horse Association races with 50 to 100 other racers. At the end of the year all districts come together at the state barrel race with more than 500 competitors. Elle has competed for years, but the largest competition was in Oklahoma City.

“The biggest race I’ve ever competed in was the Better Barrel Races World Finals.” Elle said. “There were probably over 1,500 people competing.”

Racers are given a number representing the race order and can warm up in designated arenas while they wait to compete. The waiting can be tough on the nerves, but with Ash under saddle, it helps calm Elle before the run.

“It can be hard to know how fast each race is being run,” she said. “So, it can be stressful but it’s an adrenaline rush that gets your blood pumping.”

Elle has a dedicated support system cheering her on at races, but also values the lifelong friendships she has built over the years and the memories shared at races.

“When my group of friends and I go to weekend competitions, we usually have breakfast together each morning,” Elle said. “It makes barrel racing so much more enjoyable having that family aspect.”  

At last year’s State Finals, Elle and Ash took home three buckles in one weekend- the most she had ever won. The pair plan to compete together for the foreseeable future, as long as they can.

“The only horse I’ve ever trained to race is Ash,” she said. “Barrel racing typically starts back up in May, so he needs the winter to rest and be ready for the next season.”

Although Elle always sees herself owning horses or having them in her life, her connection with her barrel racing buddy, Ash, will forever hold a special place in her heart.


Story by Tory Blosser, communications intern

Photos courtesy of Elle Jolley