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Riding into the sunset

Local girl wins round of NBHA Youth World Championships

Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Jess Shafranich, 14, stands with her horse Gigi at her home in Milroy. Jess won the 1st Go at the 2020 National Barrel Horse Association’s Youth World Championships held in Georgia with a time of 14.757.

MILROY — Ever since she heard of the National Barrel Horse Association youth championships, Jess Shafranich dreamed of winning a round. This year, Jess made that dream a reality winning the first go of her division at the 2020 NBHA Youth World Championships held in Perry, Georgia.

After her usual pre-ride prayer, Jess mounted her horse Gigi, and went on to race in the first go. Jess and Gigi recorded a time of 14.757 seconds, good enough to push her to the top of the leader board. After the round, during an interview with the NHBA Jess said she was impressed with the performance of her 5-year-old quarter horse.

“I never thought she would do that,” Jess said. “She felt so good. She felt like she wanted to run.”

After finishing the go, Jess felt she and Gigi had done well.

“When I heard the time I was really excited,” she said.

At the end of the day her time of 14.757 seconds was good enough to keep her atop the leader board — an impressive feat considering Jess comes from what is considered a “non-equine” family and living in a state that isn’t usually represented in the NBHA events.

“You get South Carolina, Florida, all those southern states because those kids have the opportunity to ride all year long,” Jess’s mother Jo Shafranich said. “We (Pennsylvania) don’t. I mean we shut down real early then we got to get back on our feet real quick.”

Nearly 8,000 world qualifiers participated in the nine-day event with only five youth competitors being from Pennsylvania. The world qualifiers included both youth and senior competitors. Although she did not qualify for the finals, her time remained the fastest time recorded in her division at the event.

Along with Gigi, Jess also rode her 7-year-old quarter horse Ruthie in the qualifying rounds. Because of the sweltering Georgia heat, when she wasn’t racing, Jess was making sure her horses were doing well.

“I checked on them every two hours and made sure they had plenty of water,” Jess said. “I also made sure to give them a bath two or three times a day to cool them off. It was so hot down there and they aren’t used to being penned up in a stable for a long time. We really had to keep an eye on them.”

When she’s not competing, Jess spends around 2 to 2 1/2 hours riding her horses each evening to practice and keep the them limber and in shape. Jess and her horses will be in Plainfield this weekend in preparation for the next event, the 2020 NBHA Colonial Super Show to be held in Lexington, Virginia Aug. 14-17.

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