Calgary Stampede barrel racing: Sydney Daines a competitor to watch

Sydney Daines is young, athletic and competitive — just like her horse Flame. Together they are ready to make the trip from their hometown of Innisfail, Alta., to the big city for their first-ever Calgary Stampede.

19-year-old barrel racer is ready to follow her parents' footsteps to the Stampede

Innisfail's Sydney Daines on her prized horse Flame is ready to compete at this year's Calgary Stampede. (Mike Copeman)

Sydney Daines is young, athletic and competitive — just like her horse Flame.

Together they are ready to make the trip from their hometown of Innisfail, Alta., to the big city for their first-ever Calgary Stampede.

Barrel racing is the rodeo event where women rule. The competitors explode on horseback and have to circle three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern.

A downed barrel results in a five-second penalty and an incorrect pattern means disqualification. It combines the horse's athletic ability with incredible horsemanship skills of the rider.

Her break-out year 

Like many rodeo athletes, Daines comes from rodeo stock. Both her father and mother competed at the Calgary Stampede — her father in saddle bronc and her mother in barrel racing.

Sydney Daines of Innisfail, Alta., will compete in Ladies Barrel Racing at the Calgary Stampede for the first time. (Kaylee-Jo Henkelman)

Last year was the 19-year-old's best season so far, as she came third in the Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifying her for her first Stampede.

She feels like she's hitting her stride and the same can be said for her 11-year-old horse Flame (named after the Calgary Flames hockey team that was making its playoff run in 2004 just as the horse was born).

"I've raced him for five years now and he's at the peak of his time now."

Daines says the travel schedule can be gruelling.

"We can drive 12 hours to compete for 15 seconds."

Barrel racing is just one of Daines' sports. She also competes on the Red Deer College soccer and basketball teams and was named 2014 Athlete of the Year by the Red Deer Advocate for central Alberta.

She just finished her first year of education studies at Red Deer College and hopes to some day be a teacher.

On making it to the Stampede

Daines is getting good advice from her parents, Duane and Cheryl Daines — both Stampede veterans.

"I wouldn't know half the stuff about barrel racing I know today if it weren't for my mom," she said. 

"She knows all the breeding and which rodeos to enter. And my dad for more the mental side of it. He's been to the Calgary Stampede lots and NFR (National Finals Rodeo)."


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