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MBRA brings largest annual competition to Virden

This fall, Virden's outdoor arena has been a popular place for horse and rider events.

The Manitoba Barrel Racing Association (MBRA) Fall Event, held on the first weekend in October, brought over 100 top-calibre equine athletes and their riders from across the province and beyond to Virden’s outdoor arena. The decision was made to relocate the competition from the Keystone Centre in Brandon to an outdoor venue so that those who were not fully vaccinated were able to take part.

At the Annual General Meeting, Charmaine Grad of Vibank, Sask. assumed the role of MBRA President after serving in the capacity on an interim basis over the past year. She noted that packing up and moving presented its share of challenges. However, she was appreciative of the facilities that were available as well as the support received in Virden.

“It's a big undertaking moving it from Brandon,” she said. “When we go there, it's turn-key. We love that facility, but this is what we had to do to be able to go this year and be as inclusive as possible for our membership. It was a lot of work to move it outside. We really enjoy it here in Virden. The facility and community are great. We have lots of events here throughout the year. We've got a really great crew that helps us out. Chas. Lambert, our arena director, helps bring in guys to work the ground for us. One if the most important parts of our event is having good footing for the horses. Our Board of Directors has done a lot of work to get things organized.”

Although entries were about half of what they would be in Brandon during pre-COVID times, Grad was pleased with the turnout. “We've got contestants normally from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario,” she said. “This year we don't have as many because of COVID regulations but we were able to have some people come into the province by being double-vaccinated. We have about 40 per cent of our membership from Saskatchewan.”

Co-operation from Mother Nature was a definite plus. “That (weather variability) is the hardest part about our sport,” Grad said. “The times are split down to the thousandths of a second, so if we get a bunch of rain, that totally changes the outcome of our competition. That’s the point that makes going outside a little uneasy for us compared to being indoors, but the weather was in our favour. It was a great weekend. Everybody had fun and it was nice to have some normal.”