Middlebury's Seymour Is a World-Class Barrel Horse Rider

October 12, 2016

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Imagine riding a horse at full gallop, slowing down just enough to make three sharp turns around barrels, and then galloping across a finish line — all in under 16 seconds.

That’s what top riders will be doing later this month at the world championships of the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) and Christine Seymour from Facilities Services will be in the thick of the competition.

Christine Seymour and her 22-year-old sorrel mare named Continental Bell (top) practice in Brandon (middle) for the nationals where it's all about winning another championship belt buckle. (Click on images to enlarge)

Seymour, a custodian in Old Chapel and Twilight Hall, will be making her eighth appearance at the world championships, and she has the championship belt buckles to prove it. She lives at the Carter Farm in Brandon where she and her daughter, Michaela Ross, breed and train their horses to excel at running short bursts of speed and turning on a dime.

Vermonters like Seymour and her 18-year-old daughter are considered “weekend warriors” at the nationals in comparison to the pro rodeo riders who also enter the events, she said. This year’s nationals will again be held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, Ga., and Seymour and Ross will have four quarter horses entered in the competition. Most of the riders come from the southern or western United States, but this year there will also be entrants from Brazil, Italy, Australia, and Canada.

Seymour has qualified to ride two horses, Continental Bell and Josie, at the nationals, while Ross has qualified on two others, Downtown Alley Cat and Rosie. Riders and horses will caravan to Georgia in two rigs driving straight through the night, and then stay on the fairgrounds for a week. There’s a café and hot showers at Georgia National, and Seymour enjoys the competition almost as much as the camaraderie among the riders.

"This upcoming trip to nationals is our vacation. It will be like R and R for us for almost nine days. There will be people [in the competition] who take it very seriously, but to us it’s our vacation. Sure there is prize money at stake, but to me winning a championship buckle is the thing that really lasts.” (Christine and Michaela have already won several.)

“It’s a privilege to be in that environment with the best barrel horse riders in the world because we are from Vermont,” the Swanton native said. “Some of the people we race against are rodeo professionals who compete two to three times a week. Last year I ran a 15.5-second time with Continental Bell, and I'd be happy to do that with her again. ”

– With reporting and photography by Robert Keren