Nolan Watters Memorial 2020 Didn’t Stop This Important Cause

The Nolan Watters Memorial Barrel Race was created to raise awareness and help open up conversations about suicide and depression. The 5th annual event did not disappoint. Hosting close to 825 runs over the 3 days in October came as no surprise to founder David Renier. After he lost his life partner Nolan Watters to suicide in October of 2015, Renier 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, WCBRA approved, Epic two-day Barrel Race was a success. “Thanks to the support from key sponsors like Renew Gold, Spurr Ranch, Adeptus, Pyranha, Boot Barn, Professional Choice, Bernardo Winery, HorseLogic, Western Lifestyle Insurance, Adam Horde of Cabrillo Mortgage, 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.

This year brought a lot of change including a big move to the California Ranch Company in Temecula, CA. The famous event boasted 825 entries over the three days. It paid out over $78,000 and gave away over $30,000 worth of awards. Each day, division champions were awarded a beautiful Rowdy Rose 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. Having the whole weekend WCBRA approved is huge, because our riders can literally get almost half their qualification runs in just one weekend!” says co-founder Virginia McClintock. The weather was a perfect 80 degrees all weekend, 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 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 166 riders, paying out $7,472. Kris Gadbois on CRCS Regaldash (Snoop) took home $565 winning the 1D with a smoking fast time of 14.488, setting the pace for the weekend. Thanks to the Bernardo Winery and the Krambeer family we were able to host a free welcome party for all our contestants with amazing sangria and appetizers.

Saturday started early with 340 riders and a payout of $22,160. Kris Gadbois once again crushed the competition running a jaw dropping time of 14.276 on her young mount Dapper Da Great. Kris’s wicked fast time left only 5 runners in the 1D. She won $1,476.00, and a beautiful Rowdy Rose buckle. Dapper Da Great, aka Ruben, is a 5 year old gelding by Dash Ta Fame.

Kris bought Ruben back in September 2019 from Ruby Walker after his Futurity year with Randy and Vauna Walker. Kris is no stranger to winning. She took home 5th place in the 1D with Snoop on Saturday, 1st place in the 1D on Sunday with her other gelding Famous Goodbye Lane and 2nd in the 1D on her favorite mare, Shesa Frenchmans Guy.

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 set of beautiful hand crafted corn hole boards, a stunning buckle bronc halter, and a fold-it cart filled with some amazing goodies like Healthy Coat, Renew Gold dog food, Elk Grove feed and so much more. You didn’t have to be first to reap the benefits of these great prizes. Other average prizes ranged from Professional Choice theramic blankets donated by Sherri Kastilahn Law Services, American Hats, Thunderbird shirts, buckle artic cups, Professional Choice saddle pads, halters, breast collars, HandOn gloves, Flair Strips and so much more.

The average pot was $15,584 this year with 326 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. Jersi Laughton of Escondido, California on her horse Kody took home the 1D average championship. Toni Miller on Jess Sweetness 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 big turn out with 81 entries each day. Jersi Laughton and Kody won the Youth class on Saturday with a 14.727 winning $353. Hayden Jefferies on Chickatine came in a close 2nd with a 14.788. Sunday Jersi & Kody came back strong with a 14.874 coming in 2nd to clinch the 1D Youth average title. A last minute donation from Adam Horde of Cabrillo Mortgage gave $1,000 to the average youth champions in each division! So not only did they get a beautiful Rowdy Rose buckle but they went home with a little extra cash. 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. Lily Reeves, Hailey Hagerstrom, Ally Frakes, Emily Frakes, Samantha Dye, Peyton Russell, Serena Cantreras, Gianna Joyce, Bella Pate, Indie Laughton, Jersi Laughton, JoJo Hagerstrom, Emmilee Kelley, Lily-Ann Sjem, Michaela Higginbotham, Elise Prekker brought in over $6,500 in sponsorships! The board and our awesome sponsors made sure the kids had some great raffle prizes like Professionals Choice tack, Apple Air Pods, American Hats, Thurderbird shirts, 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.”

There were many activities throughout the weekend that added to this Epic event. The Hesperia Feed Bin donated tanks and hats on Saturday and Oxy-Gen donated product on Sunday for the fastest rider in every each day. “People love to win something. Making it so one person in every drag can win a prize gives everyone an extra shot at winning.” said Munson.” The awards at this race are always above and beyond like Sheryl Dobbs donating gas cards to each person just out of the money. 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 donated by the community and companies to ensure a great turn out for this worthy cause.

The California Ranch Company was a huge step up from our previous years. The place was beautiful and had such nice accommodations. Over 200 stalls, showers, cook shack, RV hook ups and even worked hard the week before our event to make sure we had the extra parking areas we needed to fit such huge numbers. 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 Adam Horde 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.

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).

Photos and videos are so important to barrel racers everywhere. This event had the best of both. Rob Riinger 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 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 $30,000+ 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, Adeptus, Pyranha,Professional Choice, HorseLogic, Western Lifestyle Insurance, Sherri Kastilahn Law Services, Bernardo Winery, Toyota of San Bernardino, Bootbarn, The Rowdy Rose, Horseman’s News, Horse Logic, Luther Construction, Healthy Coat, Summit Equipment, Creekside Vet, Oxy-Gen, Cabrillo Home Mortgage, Horseman’s News and so many more.