- Paul Humphrey has been running barrels for three decades. His mother, Sue, had started young in the rodeo and was still participating after Paul was born. At ten she got him into barrel racing. He also was in 4-H and rodeo. Paul has spent the past three years in Italy training. During this time he has won every major event Italy has to offer. He notes: “I sold probably about twenty horses over there and when the horses went over I did all the competing on them along with clinics and stuff like that.”His early training came at Play Days and horse shows. But that didn’t prepare him for the vast difference he would discover in Italy. “Basically the sport’s the same but the conditions are very different. You wouldn’t believe some of the arenas you have to run in.”
In Italy the highways are wide, but once you leave them the streets are found to be quite narrow. The moving van type horse trucks cannot maneuver these. Fuel is much more expensive and you are required to pay to get back onto a highway.
Is it worth the trouble? Paul says, “They have all their fairs in the bigger cities, right down in the middle of them, and there is a lot of commotion and a lot of … well you wouldn’t believe it.”
The most important thing to remember if you think you want to run barrels in Italy is that the arenas are generally makeshift. “They’ll take a big warehouse building and set up the arena and stalls on the inside of it and there’s your arena! They’ll haul in dirt on the concrete floor and all that.” says Paul. “They don’t have any jackpots or anything like that – it’s just big fairs.”
He adds, “It’s nothing for them to have 2000 to 3000 spectators at each show. But the crowds are very supportive, I think a lot more supportive than the crowds we have here in the United States. It was an experience I will never forget.”
Bob, who interviewed Paul says, “I had a really good visit with Paul and he proved once again that barrel racers really are some of the nicest people.”