Go, granny, go! 68-year-old gallops to World Barrel Racing Champs title

Mary Burger and Mo in action at the National Finals Rodeo in Nevada.
Mary Burger and Mo in action at the National Finals Rodeo in Nevada. © WPRA/Greg Westfall

Ten year ago Mary Burger became the oldest rider, at 58, to win the Women’s Pro Rodeo Barrel Racing World Championship, and she’s done it again.

Now 68, Burger came into the National Finals Rodeo ranked first in the world barrel racing standings. Throughout ten rounds of competition at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, she maintained her lead and emerged from the December event as the 2016 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Barrel Racing World Champion.

Burger, of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, and her seven-year-old buckskin gelding Sadiesfamouslastwords (known as “Mo”), took the barrels by storm during each of the ten days of competition at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, placing in the top 12 every time.

Burger was accorded the honor of pinning on the prestigious No.1 back number at the National Finals Rodeo, only the third time for a WPRA barrel racer since 1967, when the barrel racing was added as an event at the NFR.

Mary Burger and Mo, the 2016 WPRA Barrel Racing World Champions.
Mary Burger and Mo, the 2016 WPRA Barrel Racing World Champions.

She set a new regular season earnings record in the WPRA in 2016 en route to the top spot with $190,977. Although Burger usually just goes with the flow, once she realized that she could be the 2016 top regular-season money earner, she had a new focus.

“I wasn’t going to go to some of the rodeos at the end of September but started thinking I really should try to win a little more to cinch that deal,” Burger said of the race to the No. 1 back number.

“I didn’t really realize it until we were almost into August where we were at in that race. I thought at this point, there were a couple of roughstock riders who were gaining leaps and bounds, so to me I thought I am just going to go to a few more of these last ones to stay right in there giving me a chance. With everything that has happened this year, I really wanted to try to stay in that No. 1 slot. It means a lot to me to have secured the No. 1 back number.”

Mary Burger
Mary Burger

When Burger won her first World Championship in 2006, she set the record for being the oldest WPRA rider to ever earn this title. “I just thank God, my family, my sponsors, and everybody who’s helped me get here. It’s been a wonderful year that I just could not even imagine happening to me,” she said.

“This is just what I love to do. Other than working on the ranch and keeping that in order, this is my life. I guess it’s just all I know how to do.”

Burger is also passing on her barrel racing skills to her 10-year-old granddaughter, Kaden, who has been competing in Little Britches Association rodeos. Kaden has a barrel horse and a pole bending horse.

Burger and Mo have had the help this season of TheraPlate, using the platform regularly to help healing and reduce inflammation. Many successful barrel racers besides Mary Burger also use TheraPlate to ease the strain on their top horses and reduce risk of their horses becoming injured in the sport they love. Other TheraPlate customers include Mary Walker, who ranked third in the barrel racing standards this year, and 11-time World Champion barrel racer Charmayne James, who is a proud TheraPlate Brand Ambassador.

TheraPlate became an official sponsor of the WPRA (Women’s Professional Rodeo Association) last September.

Additional reporting: Ann Bleiker, WPRA


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