Jenna and Winnie on fast track
Jenna Mergl has been around horses her entire life.
The Grade 10 student at E.L. Crossley was on a horse by the time she was three years old and started riding horses by herself when she was six. Her father Brent Mergl, also a rider, began taking her to local saddle club horse shows and she tried a number of disciplines before deciding to focus on barrel racing.
Barrel racing is a rodeo event which combines a horse’s athletic ability and the rider’s ability to safely and successfully maneuver a horse in a pattern around three barrels placed in a triangle.
“I like the speed of it and it’s timed,” the 15-year-old Fonthill resident said. “You are not being judged by judges.”
There are no secrets to success in the sport.
“You need a fast horse and you need to train every day,” Jenna said.
Doing just that has resulted in impressive performances as she competes every weekend across Ontario.
In her first year competing in the Ontario Barrel Racing Association (OBRA) and National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA), she captured rookie of the year honours. Two years later, Jenna was crowned the 2018 OBRA Youth Champion and 2018 Reserve Youth Champion for NBHA. But Mergl didn’t stop there. Taking part in the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, she won her class and became a Congress Champion in 2018. Her strong season earned her the Community in Sport Award at the E.L. Crossley’s athletic banquet.
In 2019, Jenna has taken up where she left off last season. She presently sits in the top two in the under-18 division on the OBRA circuit and is also performing well in the open division. At a recent open event competing against more than 200 riders, she placed seventh. One of the competitors was the winner at the Calgary Stampede two years ago and Mergl finished only half a second behind her.
“She is a quiet rider who possesses a very calm and gentle hand with all the horses,” Brent Mergl said. “We are so proud of her hard work and dedication to her passion.”
Jenna’s partner in competition is her horse Winnie, or Win for short. She started riding Winnie a year and a half ago.
“If you have a special bond with your horse, she will try harder for you,” Jenna said. “We have a bond together and we try really hard together.”
That bond continues to develop.
“You have to spend time with her, brushing her, petting her and stuff like that.”
Jenna plans on making a return trip to the All-American Quarter Horse Congress.
“Now that I am 18 and under, I want to see how I am going to do,” she said. “I want to have faster times and hopefully get in the top five again.”
Down the road, she has even loftier ambitions.
“My far-ahead goal is to go to the Calgary Stampede and to start doing rodeos,” she said. “I have to go to rodeos and start qualifying for the bigger rodeos.”
She is thankful for her parents’ support of her passion.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have them.”