Sitting atop her 14-year-old horse “Flo Jo,” 9-year-old Chayni Chamberlain accomplished something this past week that most people will never accomplish in a lifetime. Clocking a fast-and-furious time of 13.9 seconds, the third grader became an instant Barrel Racing legend when she took the top spot over 114 qualified entrants, all veteran talent, in The American rodeo’s semi-finals round. Their unbelievable performance earned Chayni and Flo Jo nearly $45,000, as well as a spot in the coveted finals for a shot at $1.1 million.
The American is the world’s richest one-day rodeo, and attracts top Western sports athletes from all over the globe, including Barrel Racers. As eight-time World Champion and rodeo legend Larry Mahan put it, “Golf has the Masters. Football has the Super Bowl. Rodeo has The American.” The prestigious event is held each year in the Dallas Cowboys’ home, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
To put her win in perspective, Chayni, already a member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, was the youngest of the more than 500 competitors at The American, and her semi-finals’ time was nearly 1/10th of a second better than second-place finisher Carmel Wright of Montana (age 54). It was also faster than the time Lisa Lockhart posted (14.035 seconds) when she won the Barrel Racing event at The American in 2014.
A Barrel Race is a kind of sprint that requires riders to complete a clover-leaf pattern around 3 barrels as quickly as possible. Chayni has only been Barrel Racing since the age of 7, and riding a horse since age 3. Technically speaking, she was on horses before she was born because her mom rode with her while she was pregnant, so riding really is in her blood. Even Chayni’s trusty sidekick Dat Flowin Bunny (a.k.a. Flo Jo) is all in the family; he was passed down from her grandma, to her mom, and eventually to her. The girl and her horse also share a name – Jo is Chayni’s middle name.
Of the six-footed, dynamic duo, Chayni’s proud dad describes their special relationship like this, “They both have a trust. They trust each other so much that he’s not going to hurt her and she’s not going to hurt him. So they’re nearly unstoppable in my opinion.” He added, “When that little girl gets on his back it’s game on. They’re going do something.”
The American finals were yesterday, and while Chayni did not take top honors or the $1.1 million, the 9-year-old phenom finished in an impressive seventh-place among Barrel Racing’s elite with a time of 14.892-seconds. Sadly, she missed advancing to the final-four shootout round by just a fraction of a second.
So what would Chayni have done if she had won the million? She said she would have given some to charity “because they need it more than I do,” and she would have saved the rest for her college fund. Smart girl.