When it comes to young horses and new riders, it’s often said that green plus green means black and blue, but the combination has proven lucrative for Merrill Mundy and Smoke More Money.
The young cowgirl from Parrish, Florida, was just 8 years old with a budding passion for barrel racing when her family purchased “Silly,” a 2007 sorrel overo mare by Smokachicolena and out of Suzie Moore Money (QH). Now 13, Merrill has ridden Silly all the way to the top, earning nearly $20,000 and securing the No. 1 title in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s junior world standings.
“Silly barely knew the barrel pattern when we got her, and I was just trotting through the pattern and having fun; I never thought I’d be where I am now,” Merrill said. “It’s crazy to think that was just a few years ago. We never had intentions of ever running outside the state of Florida, and now we’re all over the place! She’s such an amazing horse.”
This isn’t the team’s first appearance in the standings—they finished fourth in 2013 and earned the reserve title in 2014—but reaching the top still didn’t feel certain, Merrill says.
“Last year I won $18,000, so my main goal was to beat that and earn $20,000,” she said. “I wanted to be the world champion, and I knew I had the right horse who could do it, but I didn’t think it was going to happen; it’s tough competition.”
Silly is Merrill’s top horse, though she has some colts that are coming along in training. Competing on one main mount can be challenging in barrel racing, especially when other riders might compete on a string of several horses. Planning ahead for the year, Merrill says she targeted only high-money events. Then, she worked hard to stay consistent and run clean patterns.
“It was a lot of picking and choosing where to run because I just have Silly and I didn’t want to over-run her,” Merrill said. “The beginning of the year was slow, but then Silly just picked up and never quit.”
Barrel racing isn’t without its challenges for Merrill and Silly, however—the pair struggled with frequent knocked barrels in 2013—but Merrill’s father, David, says the pair have come a long way in just a few short years.
“I think she’s grown quite a bit, and I’ve watched her become more confident as a rider on both Silly as well as any other horse,” David said. “She does everything to take care of her horses and she’s very connected to Silly, and I think that’s given her an edge in competition; Silly trusts her and she trusts Silly.”
“Silly makes me so confident because I know she’s going to go in the pen and try her absolute hardest; she’s just so honest when she runs,” she said.
Though Merrill and Silly will return to the WRPA Junior arena in 2016, but the young cowgirl has her sights set on an even bigger goal: competing at RFD-TV’s The American rodeo, touted as the world’s richest one-day event in Western sports history. The pair will vie for a qualification slot on November 14 in Fletcher, North Carolina.
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