The Nolan Watters Memorial Barrel Race was created to raise awareness and help open up conversations about suicide and depression. The 6th annual event was the best one so far. Hosting close to 920 runs over the 3 days in October came as no surprise to the NWM board of directors. After they lost their friend Nolan Watters to suicide in October of 2015, they made the decision to host an event which brings awareness to mental illness and suicide, as well as its prevention. The Nolan Watters Memorial with $16,000 added, Epic two-day Barrel Race was a success. “Thanks to the support from key sponsors like Adam Horde of Cabrillo Mortgage, Renew Gold, Spurr Ranch, Kahm CBD, Nick Fonzi Realtor, Adeptus, Pyranha, Boot Barn, Professional Choice, Adequan, Bernardo Winery, HorseLogic, Western Lifestyle Insurance, our amazing board of directors and the horse community, we were able to offer a race like no other in California once again,” exclaims Renier.
2021 brought a lot of changes including saddles to both open and youth average champions, barrel down insurance, re-entering options and a Roohide Saddle gift certificate for the high money earner of the 3 day. The event was held at the beautiful California Ranch Company in Temecula, California again this year. It paid out over $88,000 and gave away over $30,000 worth of awards. Each day, division champions were awarded a beautiful Professional Choice buckle along with a hefty check. All five divisions paid to 11th place, and average prizes were awarded down to 5th. Additionally, each day had $5,500 added, with $5,000 added to the average. The cause was certainly enough to bring in the crowds of people, but the awards and money were an added bonus. “Our numbers stay high because we offer great payouts and awards. Mike Fester donates free breakfast burritos to the first 100 contestants, we have a fun shot relay race that everyone stays to watch and we follow it up with the taco social, so it’s a fun packed weekend ” says co-founder Virginia McClintock. Friday started off a little wet with showers in the early morning but it cleared up and kept the dust down, which made the event even better. “Love and be loved” was the theme of this weekend, and everyone who attended kept up those spirits and smiles. Nolan’s loving and caring nature was evident all weekend as people remembered their friend as well as others that lost their fight against depression. This year with the pandemic still going on, suicide is up 30% so our efforts to raise money were more important than ever.
The Friday night 5D warm up race kicked off the event with 190 riders, paying out $9,145. This started off the first race of the high money earning horse and rider combo for the 3 days. Paloma Alvarado and Exclusivly Dry were just out of the money on Friday night but that didn’t stop them. They came back Saturday to grab 2nd in the 2D which earned the team $1,017. Sunday they didn’t disappoint, running a smoking 14.722 to place 2nd in the 1D winning another $1,134 and securing that top money earner spot and a custom Roohide Saddle!
Exclusively Dry (Ella) is a 12 yr old quarter horse. She was born and raised by Angela Patterson at Patterson Ranch and is out of their stud Exclusive Red Man and Plumb Big Punkin. Ella was patterned with Dude Overton and maybe entered twice until Angela realized she didn’t have the time for her and eventually sold her to her dear friend Shawn Jones. Fast forward to 2017 my trainer Heather Burton Gibson was helping us look for a horse that I could really start competing on. We looked at a few but none were quite right. Heather remembered Ella and reached out to Shawn to see if she’d consider selling her. Lucky timing for us, we bought her right after she passed her ppe! I’ve now owned Exclusively Dry ( Ella ) for 4 years, THE best 4 years of my life; she is truly my heart horse! Winning the Roohide Saddle at the 2021 Nolan Watters Memorial Race was a complete surprise! I followed my winnings over the weekend and by Sunday honestly had no idea where we stood, there were so many amazing horses and riders. When my name was called I thought maybe I needed to sign a form or something. Sitting there waiting I felt a lot of emotions when I realized it was more than that. Then they called my name and the certificate was in the producer’s hands. I felt so blessed and grateful to be in the position I was in. I set goals for myself every year and one of my bigger goals was to eventually win a saddle on Exclusively Dry. She made that happen and has made all of my dreams reality! Thank you to everyone who goes above and beyond at this race, you guys are all so amazing and your hard work is appreciated!
Saturday started early with 370 riders and a payout of $24,925. Cheyenne Hattesen on Fairlea Mr Elwood out ran the competition with a 14.676. Cheyenne’s fast time won her $1,279.00, and a beautiful Professional Choice buckle. Cheyenne rode three horses over the weekend.
Kris missed the 2019 Nolan race due to the fact that she had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl the week before. The 2020 Nolan race had jumped up a weekend in October making it extra special to be able to celebrate Harper’s 1st birthday with her Nolan family.
The average champions were gifted a beautiful award saddle, a MVP gift bag, a leather plaque cooler filled with some amazing goodies like Healthy Coat and a Professional Choice buckle coffee mug. You didn’t have to be first to reap the benefits of these great prizes. Other average prizes ranged from rolling saddle racks donated by Sherri Kastilahn Law Services, American Hats, Dyson hand vacuums, Impact wrenches donated by Equine Conditioning & Fitness Center, Professional Choice saddle pads, head stalls, Back On Track blankets & boots, Rusty Brown jewelry, Navajo duffle bags, HandOn gloves, Flair Strips and so much more.
The average pot was $17,985 this year with 370 riders participating. Just like every other high energy race a lot of barrels went down and that made for a big change up in the average results. Rylee Cooper-Christman on Denim Catz took home the 1D average championship. Emily Hannaford on Chasin A Firefly grabbed the 2nd place win.
Once again we offered a separate youth race. Youth 16 years and younger could enter the open and carry over to the youth or they could just enter the youth class. The youth class is designed to make sure that all levels of youth contestants have a chance. The 4D format with full second splits ensures that even beginners have the opportunity to win. The youth class had a huge turn out with 99 entries each day. Stella Lawhorn on Pistol Annie won the Youth class on Saturday with a 14.830 winning $423. Jersi Laughton on Kody, the 2020 Open average champions, came in a close 2nd with a 14.956. Stella and Pistol Annie took 1st in the 1D on Sunday out of 102 youth riders with a 14.895 and secured the youth average champion. Thanks to Tanner Greena and Adam Horde of Cabrillo Mortgage we were able to award beautiful saddles to the average youth champions in each division! Other amazing youth awards were 3S Custom equine saddle pads donated by Wine Country Trails, Professional Choice buckles, Rusty Brown Jewelry, American Hats and more.
The Youth Challenge was created by the board of directors to challenge the kids into rounding up sponsorships outside the horse community. Sixteen kids participated this year, and they were given raffle tickets for some amazing prizes. Emmilee Kelley, Hailey Hagerstrom, Ramsey Harrison, Samantha Dye, Peyton Russell, Zoe Champion, Gianna Joyce, Bella Pate, Indie Laughton, Jersi Laughton, JoJo Hagerstrom, Lily Reeves, Lily-Ann Sjem, Isla Hornstein, Brooklyn Payne & Briellen Ricotta brought in over $7,500 in sponsorships! The board and our awesome sponsors made sure the kids had some great raffle prizes like Professionals Choice tack, Apple IWatch, American Hats, Renew Gold Bisquits, and so much more. “These kids worked hard, and we were so proud of them,” said Denise Munson, “there is nothing harder than asking for money, especially in these crazy times, and they did such an amazing job.”
Not only did exhibitors get to run their horses for a chance at $16,000 in prize money, but also other happenings made the occasion even more exciting. Saturday evening HorseLogic hosted the annual taco social party. Thanks to HorseLogic’s support, riders and family were able to enjoy a taco dinner before or after the exciting relay shot race. That’s right we said shots! Teams of 3 competed in the fast paced and wild race. Each rider had to run down to the third barrel, turn it and grab their shot of Fireball (root beer for the kids), drink it before they crossed the start line and their next team member could leave. It was fun watching and full of excitement and spills! “The stands were packed and everyone came and stood around the arena to cheer on each team,” exclaimed David Renier, “with 2020 keeping everyone quarantined, it was so great to watch everyone let lose and enjoy the night.”
Once again on Saturday from noon until 8:00 P.M., the silent auction was held and coordinated by volunteer, Jeannie Malone, who had spent a year gathering up items. She did an amazing job setting them all into a beautiful presentation to help earn money for the cause. The silent auction made over $10,000 and included some amazing items, like time share vacations to hand mad quilts, donated by the community and companies to ensure a great turn out for this worthy cause.
The California Ranch Company is beautiful and had such nice accommodations. Their new wedding venue additions made our event even nicer. Allowing the silent auction inside their remodeled reception barn was extra nice. Over 200 stalls, showers, cook shack, RV hook ups and even several rental apartments for friends and family to be able to stay the weekend in style. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to hold such an epic event.
The Board of Directors, including David Renier, Denise Munson, Virginia McClintock, Tana Castro, and Jamie Harris, worked like a “well-oiled machine.” As Munson says, the board was the driving force behind the event and assured that everything went off without a hitch. The event couldn’t happen without the help of some amazing volunteers who assisted in all of the “behind-the-scenes” action. “We had so many wonderful people that helped us with everything from office work to picking up trash,” says Munson. “Without them this event would not happen. We can’t thank them enough.” Tina Shaw spent 12 hours a day in the office writing times and making sure things ran quickly. Rachael Ross and Caitlin Koss ran the office impeccably the entire weekend, helping check riders in, answering questions, doing payouts, and so much more. “ I love helping, and for such a great cause. I look forward to it every year and can’t wait for next year.” Adam says. Adam of Cabrillo Home Mortgage was a sponsor once again but this year went big with the Jumbotron outside the arena entrance. Riders could not only watch in bigger than life size whoever was running but they also could see the next 15 riders and the fast time. Props AV were gracious enough to hook us up with the Jumbotron and extra TV’s around the grounds and in the silent auction area so everyone could watch the race.
The Nolan Watters Memorial partnered once again with the “With Hope Foundation”, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to suicide prevention through improving mental health support services and education throughout our community. “With Hope” provides services such as programs for school-age students to educate about mental illness. www.withhopefoundation.org.
S.A.W., Save a Warrior, will still be in the donation fold this year. Twenty-two veterans lose their battle with depression every day. S.A.W. is a nationally-recognized program, offering novel, judgment-free solutions to returning Veterans, Active Duty Service Members, and First Responders with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). www.saveawarrior.org.
This year we were able to add two more well deserved foundations. Not One More Vet, which helps veterinarians struggling with depression and the Green Beret Foundation. We are proud to be able to give to these organizations and help with their fight to help others.
Photos and videos are so important to barrel racers everywhere. This event had the best of both. Mark Blakely spent countless hours laying in the dirt to capture some amazing shots of all our riders. It’s so wonderful to see Facebook lit up for weeks after this event with the Nolan barrels on all his photos. There may have been over 600 riders and spectators at the event all weekend; thanks to Jeff Frietas of wwwjfvideo.com up to 2,000 more a day were able to watch the event from home with his live webcast all three days. Jeff offers riders a professional quality video of their run in regular and slow motion for only $15. He also had his timing reports available to show contestants how their run compares with the top three riders each day.
“These charities truly save lives and that is why we do this event,” Board of Director member and event coordinator Denise Munson says. “We are so excited to have raised $40,000+ again this year, and it feels awesome knowing that all our hard work will help so many.” Some of the money raised from the event will be used to support therapy for people who are unable to afford the help they need. “We were saddened this year by so many people that have lost loved ones to this horrible disease,” says Munson, “ we can’t stress enough the importance of helping those who suffer from mental illness or depression.”
Thank you to our Epic Sponsors: Renew Gold, Spurr Ranch, Cabrillo Home Mortgage, Adeptus, Pyranha, Professional Choice, HorseLogic, Western Lifestyle Insurance, Sherri Kastilahn Law Services, Big B’s Plumbing, Nick Fonzi Realtor, Kahm CBD, Kahoots, HandsOn, Bernardo Winery, Toyota of San Bernardino, Bootbarn, Adequan, Horse Logic, Luther Construction, Healthy Coat, Horseman’s News and so many more.