Barrel racer Jenna Mergl with her horse Winnie. BERNIE PUCHALSKI

Fonthill barrel racer wins overall Ontario crown

Jenna Mergl was going to have a hard time matching the success she had barrel racing in 2018.

That year, the Grade 10 student at E. L. Crossley Secondary School won the Ontario Barrel Racing Association youth championship, and the reserve youth championship of the National Barrel Horse Association. She also won her class and became a congress champion at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio.

Competing with her horse Winnie in the 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, Mergl managed to build on her achievements in 2018.

The 15-year-old defended her the OBRA youth championship but took it to another level by capturing the overall open (all ages) OBRA title by accumulating the most points over a dozen shows.

“It was close and towards the end at the last show, it could have gone either way, but I had it in the bag before the last run,” she said. “No one could have touched me even if I didn’t have a good run.”

Finding out she was the open champion was an amazing moment for the teen.

“I didn’t really know until they actually posted it and confirmed it,” she said. “It blew my mind that I was against 200 people and they all have good horses. It just shows that I am one of those good people out there.”

She had a possible explanation for her success.

“I don’t really know but it was hard work and dedication, going out to the barn every day and spending time with my horse,” she said.

The importance of the horse/rider relationship cannot be understated.

“The closer you are with your horse, I feel that they will try harder for you because you have a relationship with them and they want to do well for you,” Mergl said. “You are pushing them and they are pushing you and that gets you somewhere.”

She also achieved her goal in her return trip to the All-American Quarter Horse Congress show.

“I did get top five again like I wanted, and I wanted to achieve a faster time,” she said. “I did achieve close to the same time, but my runs were way better than 2018, so I was happy with that.”

She also qualified to attend the Best of the Best show in Springfield, Ohio.

“You have to be really good to qualify and I did.”

She ended up placing second in the Second Division.

“It wasn’t too bad, but it was a lot harder competition there.”

Mergl and Winnie are currently in their off-season.

“We let them have November, December, January and February off and then we start back in March and go until October,” she said. “I do miss it but it is a good break to clear our minds and everything.”

She has set her goals high again for 2020.

“I am going to try and go get that [open championship] again and maybe go to harder shows for harder competition.”

She also recently acquired a three-year-old male horse named Spartan and has started to train him. She is hoping to compete with him in 2021 in “futurity” competitions, events for horses that are four or five years old.

“In the future, I might want to be a trainer so this is may be a way to get my career started.”

She is planning to compete with Winnie in 2020 and both horses the following year.

“It might be difficult because different horses need different things, but I am going to try and teach this horse the same things I have taught Winnie,” she said.

Mergl 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.


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