Local woman top barrel racer
A Rostraver Township woman has become a golden girl in the world of horse barrel racing.
Shilo Turner, a blonde-haired cowgirl, took home a state championship title at the National Barrel Horse Association Championships that were conducted in Canvas, W.Va., in September.
The win came as an early birthday present for Turner, who turned 21 on Nov. 3.
Weeks after the victory, Turner still glows with enthusiasm when she recalls the historic night.
She said the title is one of the most precious highlights in the long friendship she shares with her devoted steed, ironically named Extra Pressure.
Turner said she and her horse ran a mediocre qualifying round during the first day of the competition.
But 40th place was enough to secure the last spot in the finals the following day.
The dark horses found instant fame with a final time of 16.302 seconds - first place among a total of 138 riders from around the nation.
When she and her horse hit the dirt track, Turner said, it seemed they were destined to win.
"My first run, it wasn't real good. We were off," she said. "I don't know what happened on the second run. Everything just came together."
Turner said the special bond that exists between her and Extra Pressure helped them get to the top.
"I believe either you have it or you don't," Turner said. "You have to run as one."
Turner said the win was mostly Extra Pressure's doing.
"I give all the credit to the horse," Turner said with a smile. "I just sit there. I'm just extra baggage. It's completely up to him.
"I consider him my best friend. I just love him to death. My grandfather bought him for me before he died."
Despite the horse's name, Turner said she feels no pressure when she races.
The NBHA tournament was the first time she faced national talent.
"I've won a lot around here locally, but that's my first big title," she said. "It was closer for me to sign up for the West Virginia (competition) than it was for the Pennsylvania (competition)."
Barrel racing courses comprise three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern that must be rounded in the quickest time possible.
Turner said she thrives off the atmosphere of competition and the audience at the West Virginia event was the largest she has seen.
She relived the rush of being underneath a blanket of cheers on the race floor.
"There's no other better feeling than just hitting' a chute and then just seeing hundreds of people all staring at you," she said. "It's the best adrenaline rush ever and I just love it. It's just the greatest thing in the world."
Turner said barrel racing is physically grueling.
"After I run a pattern, I feel like a Mack truck ran me over," she said with a grin. "It is very rugged."
Competition is also a test mentally, Turner said.
She said scoffs and intimidation from competitors at the competition did not bruise her ego.
"A lot of people don't talk to me," Turner said. "I don't care. I think a lot of people really didn't like me down there ... I was coming from Pennsylvania. They had never seen me. They'd never heard of me. It's just like anything else. You're always going to have people who hate you."
Turner said she remains focused on the course and instinctively whispers encouraging words to her horse during a run.
"I don't hear a word. I talk to my horse when I run, too," Turner said. "If I don't talk to him, he doesn't run well. I whisper, just real slightly, just enough so he can hear me. I carry on a conversation."
"Usually, we'll talk about somebody that I didn't like," Turner said with a chuckle.
Turner's win in West Virginia qualified her for a wild card entry into the world championship, which will be conducted in November 2003 in Augusta, Ga.
Only four riders are chosen from the NBHA for the world competition.
Turner will also have the luxury of being the reigning champion at the next NBHA competition.
The champ is a seasoned rider.
She began riding at the age of 5 and frequently traveled out of state to barrel race on rodeo circuits.
She has competed since she was 8 years old.
Extra Pressure is one of five horses the Turner family owns.
"I got him out in Oklahoma," Turner said.
Turner said the horse's breeder, Bob Parsley, gave him the name Extra Pressure.
Turner's victory brought a $1,000 check and a championship saddle for Extra Pressure. Unfortunately, a trophy she won was stolen at the stadium, Turner said.
But, Turner said, the hardware was not as important as the experience and the good time with her friend.
"I'd never sell him. He'll die with me," Turner said.
Turner said she realizes her name will be well known when she returns as reigning champion.
But she doesn't mind the "extra pressure."