Q & A with Sarah Rose McDonald, 2015/2016 NFR Qualifier in Barrel Racing


Sarah Rose McDonald of New Brunswick, Georgia, lost her barrel racing partner Bling (Fame Fling N Bling) in January.  She posted the following tribute to the mare on Facebook:

This is very difficult and my heart is so broken while I write this…
Yesterday Bling had an extreme case of muscle tying up which sent her kidneys into shock and caused them to fail. I rushed to her and got to love on her right after she passed. I never thought I would get that phone call or that she would have been taken so early in life, but His plans are bigger than ours. Not that this makes any of it easier but maybe one day I will look back and see why. He blessed me with Bling, always opened doors, and kept us safe on our journey.
Bling was the most magical horse.
Her color was one in a million and it changed with the seasons. She made all my dreams come true and won the hearts of many. We gave 110% and performed off of each other’s energy. She loved competing in front of the big crowds as much as I loved being on her back. She fought hard with that huge heart of hers and pulled runs out when our backs were against the wall. She was a champion!
Most of all, she was my best friend.
She taught me so many lessons and picked me up countless times. There is not a day I won’t think of her and I will carry her in my heart forever. Sweet Bling, I smile when I think of all the ways you have blessed me and others! What a huge blessing you were and always will be to my family and me!
I promise I will give your babies the best chance and life they can have! I see you in all of them and that is so special.
Thank you for the best rides of my life and the feeling of being on your back will forever be in my soul. I’m so thankful for the memories we have and the time we got to spend together. Rest in peace, sweet girl. I hope to ride you again one day.
I love you, Bling.

Mike Milazzo interviewed Sarah just before Bling passed away.

Sara, how did you start riding?

We lived on a family farm that had dairy cows, and my dad and uncle and whole family rode, so I kind of grew into it.  I was always at the barn.  From the time I was 3 or 4 my mom would ride with me every day.

I started competing at point shows with events like poles, cones, Texas barrels, arena races, and clover leaf barrel patterns, on my mom’s and my sister’s pleasure horse Angel.  Almost every weekend my parents would take me to whatever show was going on.  The different events helped me with my balance.

Angel and I learned all of the events together.  She was very laid back, which was good, but then I started wanting to go faster—and she wouldn’t!  I went on to the next level of horse.  My parents always made sure I stepped up to better horses.  I started competing in the National Barrel Horse Association district shows.

When I was 9 I lost my really good horse.  I started riding JC Highly Motivated, a gelding that my uncle had gotten through a trade deal.  “Jerry” was pretty good, and by the time I was 13 we were winning a lot.  I give Jerry a lot of credit.  I was very small, and he would get out of control and run around the field!  I had to learn how to control him.  My uncle trains all of our horses and he has taught me the things that he does in training.

In 2005 I won the NBHA World Championship.

Did you ever high school rodeo?

No, I didn’t.  I didn’t rodeo until my 2014 rookie year for the PRCA.  There’s not much rodeo where I am—it’s strictly barrel racing.  People I went to school with didn’t even understand why I wanted to go to a horse show every weekend.

Tell me about that 2014 rookie year.

I didn’t start my rookie year until June.  My horse did very well and I won rookie of the year at the last rodeo of the season.  I was just out of making the NFR.

In 2015, when you first qualified for the NFR, how many rodeos do you think you hauled to?

Around 50.  I started 2015 at Fort Worth and I won everything there.  I had an awesome winter and had the finals already made, but we continued to have a great year.  At the 2015 NFR I won three go-rounds, about $130,000 in one week, and finished third in the world.  I rode Bling all of 2015.  She’s a petite horse, about 15 hands, but she’s very quick footed.  That’s where she makes up for her size.

How was 2016?

I had a rough winter… my horse Bling was injured.  I rode some of Callie DuPerier’s horses (she was the 2015 World Champion Barrel Racer).  The main one I rode was Foxys Driftin Jewel.  I went out to California in the spring, and I would say that’s where our season kicked off.  I won Clovis and got back up in the standings to the top 15.  I must have gone to more than 80 rodeos, though.  It was a lot harder than 2015, but still a good year.

I rode Bling at the NFR.

Going into the finals I had around $89,000.  At the finals I won around $70,000.  I went in at 8th, finished 7th in the average, and finished 10th in the world.  After such a rough winter, you could not have told me that I would be making the finals.  I was happy to work hard for the summer and make it!

Is there any advice you have for young girls who are getting into barrel racing and wondering if they can get to the NFR?

You can’t expect to ride your horse every now and then and just go win.  You have to practice and work hard at getting your horse under control.  You have to ride every day at home and spend hours riding multiple horses, putting in your time with them.  Make it work and don’t give up when things get tough!

I’m on the road pretty much all year.  It’s December and I haven’t been home since February!

Do you have young horses you’re bringing along?

We did embryo transfers out of Bling.  I’m riding two of them now.  I’m pretty confident in them, but, you know, seasoning horses takes a really long time.  We’ve had Bling since she was a yearling.  We raised her and my uncle trained her.  It just makes it more special to raise your own horse, rather than just hop on one.

Thank you, Sarah.