Eleven-year-old Merrill Mundy and Smoke More Money did just that in 2014: smoke the competition and win more money as one of the fastest young barrel racing teams in the country.
This isn’t the Parrish, Florida, cowgirl’s first taste of victory, however, and the Paint Horse Journal celebrated the team’s success as the 2013 fourth-place duo in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Junior Division standings. This year, they came back to capture the reserve championship title and more than $18,500 in earnings.
Merrill and “Silly,” a 2007 sorrel overo mare by Smokeachicolena and out of Suzie Moore Money (QH), also finished on top of the Southeastern WPRA Junior circuit. Flash caught up with Merrill to learn more about her stellar year.
Flash: How does it feel to improve upon last year’s success?
Merrill: I had such a wonderful year competing in the WRPA Junior division. I can really say Silly and I stepped up our game this year. I am so proud of her and always will be; Silly sure rocks my world!
I think my biggest win this year was at the NBHA Shamrock Showdown in March. I won the biggest go-round and came home as the highest 1-D money earner of the weekend, earning a saddle and almost $2,500 in Open and Youth wins.
Flash: What were your challenges this year?
Merrill: Last year I had trouble in the summer with knocking a barrel, but I managed to get those problems solved in time for this year. I worked Silly away from the barrels to keep her freed up, and if I hit a barrel I tried to keep positive and not let it affect me.
This year, Silly was really solid and didn’t make things too hard on me! We pulled through everything and kept going; we were really consistent. I think a lot of that is because I’m getting older and I’m learning how to correct issues.
Flash: What does this kind of success mean to you? What do you do with your winnings?
Merrill: It’s amazing! Ever since I was little I knew I loved horses and barrel racing, but I don’t think I ever thought I would make it this far. Winning second in the world for WPRA Juniors is something I’ll never forget.
My dad helps me manage my winnings. He first takes out the cost of gas and entry fees and then the rest goes into my bank account for savings. Even if it was my choice on what to do with the winnings, I don’t think I’d choose another way to spend them.
Flash: What does it take to succeed at such a high level at your age?
Merrill: To win at the competitions I go to takes a lot of dedication and hard work. You really have to love barrel racing because it takes a lot of your time. You definitely need a great bond with your horse so that they love and trust you.
Next year, I plan to keep working hard. As long as I’m still learning and having fun, I hope to continue barrel racing for years to come. My dream would be to run in the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
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The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.