Marlene McRae

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Where are you from? I was born in Rocky Ford, Colorado and my main horse facilities are on our ranch (Lone Tree Ranch) near Punkin Center, Colorado. We also have a second home in Blanco, Texas for winter training and competing.

When did you start barrel racing? At age six I started showing horses. I found myself watching the speed events and dreaming of someday competing. At age 12 I joined the Little Britches Rodeo Assn and started competing in all of the speed events. At age 13 I won my first All Around Championship and that was all it took. I was hooked.

Are you involved in any other equine events? In high school and college I showed cutting horses and trained with Buster Welch, Joe Gray and Sonny Jim Orr. I learned to rope when I was thirteen years old and competed in the PWRA. Team roping and break away roping were my best roping events. Although I do not get to do them as much anymore, I someday hope to have more time. My husband, Doug, and I still work all of our horses on cattle while he continues to train rope horses.

Who or What got you started barrel racing? I always liked running my horses and the speed never scared me so competing in speed events only seemed natural. In my area there were great horseman at the time with Sonny Jim Orr, Margaret Hammonds, Celie Whitcomb Ray and Alene Moore. I would watch them compete in their events and took advantage of every opportunity to ride and learn from them. My parents were very much behind me and bought me well broke horses that I then trained to run barrels on

On the road things sometimes happen. Do you have an unusual or funny story? I have been on the road with horses almost my whole life so there are many funny stories along with the day-in-and-day-out situations. I have learned many occupations traveling extensively from being a mechanic, to knowing too much about tires and how to change them, to how to stay awake and keep driving at 3:30 AM and many more that I never figured a girl like me would need to know. With Doug we always enjoy the travels and meeting new people. However, my husband is a joker and he has many stories that make people laugh, usually at my expense.

What was the name of your favorite horse and tell us a little about it. Dutch Watch was his name. He came into my life as an outlaw in 1982. Dutch was a bay gelding by Tiny Watch, who was a two time World Champion Running Horse. He had been raced as a two year old and had a speed Index Rating of 93. After racing he was put into snaffle bit training and entered in the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity. He won 10th out of 900 entries. At age four he was used in cutting, but he was getting very difficult to be around for most people. He was very nervous and unsure of people so they turned him out until I bought him as a seven year old. We just got along together, he always trusted me from day one and he helped make my dreams come true.

What are some of the events that you have won (or races that stand out in your mind)?

  • Most Valuable Player for Team Rodeo (Denver Stars)
  • WPRA World Champion
  • WPRA Reserve World Champion 3X
  • National Finals Rodeo Average Champion 2X
  • Olympic Gold Medalist 2X
  • National Finals Rodeo Qualifier 10X
  • Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Calgary Stampede Rodeo Champion 5X


Over the years have you noticed any changes in barrel racing what are the good or bad you’ve seen?

The entire sport has improved with the many new organizations catering directly to barrel racers of all skill levels. At the professional level, the implementation of equal money by the WPRA/PRCA has definitely made it better. The need to have better ground conditions to improve safety has been recognized and addressed. I have seen this sport grow and become more accessible to more people with the various organizations also. And I think it is still improving.

What is do you think of an equal pay out 4d? I truly believe that the 1D should be rewarded at a higher scale . This will promote competitors to advance. I have heard all of the arguments against this such as, the fuel costs, the entry fees, etc costs all who compete the same however, I believe that those who excel should be rewarded and hopefully it will motivate others to also achieve more. A 10% bonus in the 1D is all I am suggesting with all the other divisions being equal.

Do you think of yourself as a professional barrel racer? Yes. I have competed since a very young age and have come up through the youth, high school, college, open rodeo and then into Pro Rodeo competitions. Actually, I have never had a job other than training and competing with horses. My entire business structure involves horses from our breeding program, to raising horses, to training horses and people, to competing. I have traveled all over the planet teaching horsemanship, pole bending and barrel racing clinics for the past 20 years. Through my designing of equipment and endorsing products that enhance horses and their riders performances together with my husband we have developed a complete saddle, tack and supply business called World Champion Designs ( With this I get a hands-on feel for what horse people are needing and how to get it to them. We have a complete program of horse and people development that together with my on-going competing, keeps me involved in all aspects of the sport of barrel racing.

Who is your favorite horseman or barrel racer? Buster Welch, Blaine Schvanerveldt, Ted Robinson, Sonny Jim Orr ad Margaret Hammonds to name a few. I enjoy meeting, discussing and riding with anyone who has a true love of horses and their well being while developing them to be the best at what they do.

Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out in barrel racing? Become the best horseman that you can first. Learn the basics and how to teach your horse to them. Do not be apprehensive about taking lessons and going to clinics, but first make certain that you are learning from a person with true credentials and abilities to help you reach your goals. You must have a solid foundation prior to adding speed.

Do you think barrel racing should be limited to women only? We have the Professional Rodeo organization of the WPRA for women to compete exclusively and this is good, in my opinion however, if a male or a female wants to compete in barrel racing there are many other choices to go to. It is a great family oriented sport at the jackpot level and with the organizations in play today everyone can enjoy the sport. The more entries the better.

Take care,

Marlene McRae