For the first time in more than 30 years, there will be no Maritime Barrel Racing Association (MBRA) competition at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition.
The decision not to take part in this year’s exhibition was made after the MBRA board deemed the new footing in the MacMillan Show Centre was not suitable for high speed barrels and poles racing.
“We were invited to come in and test it, which we appreciate,” said Tracy Higgins, MBRA president. “At the walk and jog, it was great, but at the lope it didn’t feel right. There’s no grab. The surface rolls from under the foot.”
The footing in the building was replaced this summer, with a layer of crusher dust on the bottom and sand on top.
About 20 MBRA members, with 15 going in on horseback, checked out the facility.
“It was a unanimous decision of the MBRA board not to compete,” said Higgins. “It’s a safety concern. We’re not willing to risk our horses or our members.
“This was where we got one of our largest crowds and had some of our fastest running times, so we’ll miss it, and we’re sorry to disappoint fans.”
The MBRA was offered outdoor space, in the centerfield of the raceway, where the old soil from the arena had been spread, for their competition, but the board didn’t feel it was suitable.
Chris MacLean, who competes in MBRA barrel racing events, was one of those who tried riding with the new footing in place.
“I’ve been riding horses for a long time, and I loped in a circle, but that was all I would do,” he said. “I wouldn’t change direction quickly.”
He said, when he first heard new footing was going to be added to the arena, he offered to provide advice but was not contacted.
“It’s pretty upsetting to me,” he said. “This is my home arena, and my favourite place to go.
“Other exhibitions and arenas have ground suitable for all. I’m at a loss about why it couldn’t be done here.”
Ken Jardine, president of the Highland Highwaymen Cowboy Mounted Shooters, is uncertain about whether mounted shooting will go ahead at the exhibition.
“I haven’t seen the new footing yet,” he said. “We have barrels, poles, balloons and pistols, so we need good, solid footing.
“We have board members in the area who will look at it.”
The NSPE event was part of the RAM Rodeo Tour, sponsored by RAM Trucks. This year, it was to be followed by an extra run, for the 10 fastest horses, sponsored by Blueline.
NSPE general manager Darrelyn Hubley hopes to be able to turn the situation around and see the MBRA competition back.
“We had a hunter spectacular here earlier, and then the sand was topped up because we thought it needed to be deeper for the horses to do pivots,” she said. “I think that layer is too deep, so we’d like to skim it down and have the riders retest it next week.
“I understand the concerns. I certainly don’t want to see an injured horse.”
The MBRA had planned to hold its year-end jackpot in Bible Hill, but has now moved it to Windsor.
At press time, Higgins hadn’t been contacted about plans to reduce the layer of sand, but said she hopes this year’s exhibition is successful, and she’s hopeful things can be worked out for future events.
“It looks fabulous in the MacMillan, and I hope we’ll be back in the future,” she said.