LLANO, Texas — If you ask the people who live in Llano, they'll tell you every weekend has something different going on. But some think barrel racing is something they do better than anyone in the state.
They say it's not just a sport but a belief.
"Barrel racing to me is fellowship and friendship," J.J. Thompson said. "Just knowing you're on a 1,200-pound animal and it's doing exactly what you taught it to do is powerful. It's exhilarating."
For those who don't know, barrel racing is a sport where a horse and rider run through a course around three barrels. They can't touch the barrels and they have to round all three before running back to stop the timer.
"When you're going through, it feels like you're in a tank. But the tank is going a million miles an hour and it goes by super fast," Worth Evans said.
It is a sport many may not know, a sport that the people in Llano have grown to love.
"Oh, for sure, we have a barrel race at least once a week," Tiffany Latta said.
"We got world-class athletes that ride here, as well as beginners," Ray Craig said.
It's a sport they love so much that they're trying to get some recognition for it from the State.
"We have several things I think we have made Llano famous for, and I would definitely like to add barrel racing to our criteria," Mayor Gail Lang said. "We're talking about making Llano, Texas, the 'Barrel Racing Capital of Texas.' This is a real art of horse control."
Craig runs the John L. Kuykendall Arena & Events Center (JLK). He's also the person who originally wrote the resolution, HCR 23. He said they deserve this because of the people and the culture they've created.
"An arena has to have a heart, and without that, it's just a building," he said. "The heart is barrel racing."
For the riders who call JLK their home arena, they couldn't imagine that title going to anyone else.
"It is absolutely fitting. There is not a single facility in this whole state that holds as many barrel racing activities as we do," said Thompson, who rides there with her daughter. "At least twice a week and every single day there's something going on here."
"You get to know the people, you get to make the friends with new people from all over the state," Latta said.
It's a community that bridges generations, with older riders helping out the youngest riders. Thompson is one of the riders but also has lessons where she trains younger riders.
"Getting to watch them all grow and go fast and set their personal best records, it's a really fun experience," Latta said.
In Llano, barrel racing is more than just a sport; it's their heart.
"This arena has been the place where we gather," Thompson said. "And this arena has been the source of many many life-long friendships."
The House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee heard testimony for HCR 23. It was left pending in committee.
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