By Danielle Morin
While the rest of us were unwrapping our favorite Barbie doll or maybe even that coveted puppy we begged for on Christmas morning, Nora Walters, at only 8months old, entered her grandmother’s living room to find a miniature pony under the tree.
Nora points out it was her aunt Patti Walters, owner/operator of WF Stables, who gifted her that very first pony and started teaching her the art of horseback riding. To say that Nora was destined to ride horses since before she could walk is an understatement. She recalls, “They set me on it in the middle of the living room,” and the rest is history.
At a young age, Nora started testing the waters in different equestrian sports – pole jumping, goat tying, and English riding shows to mention a few. But by the time she was 8 years old, she soon learned that all she wanted to do was run. “I love to go fast,” she says, and it was that need for speed that opened the door for her into the world of barrel racing.
Nora explains that barrel racing consists of running a single lap in a cloverleaf pattern around a set of three barrels. The goal? Go fast. Winning in barrel racing is all about who can maneuver the barrels the fastest.
But it’s no easy feat, Nora points out. Years of training are put into the horses to perfect the required sharp turns needed to complete the race. She explains they must get used to moving fast and steering tight turns all at once if they ever hope to place in competition.
“If you go slow, you’re last,” Nora says, “and I’m not last.”
Her racing experience certainly backs up her claim. By fifth grade, she qualified for State and Nationals in the International Barrel Racing Association (IBRA). She explains that it all comes down to a point system, and if you have the points, you make the cut. One hundred points to be exact, a target that seems to be an easy one for Nora who has consistently qualified for the state championship over the past several years and claimed the title of 2017 Youth 1D State Champion.
Speed isn’t the only factor that ultimately pushed Nora towards barrel racing. She also noticed that winning a horse show is based on judges’ opinions of your performance, and that wasn’t really for her. “If I win, then I win,” she explains, “I don’t want someone else deciding if I should win or not.”
And Nora certainly knows how to win. Now at 17 years old, she has an impressive trophy collection from over the years – five saddles, some cash payouts, and too many belt buckles to recall. And she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Between her eight horses, she is always pushing for the next big competition to leave her mark in the IBRA.
But there is so much more to Nora’s story than her barrel racing. A junior at David Crockett High School, Nora has an endless list of responsibilities on her plate – from basketball and volleyball, to schoolwork, to working on her family farm, not to mention the countless hours spent riding and training her horses.
If you’re wondering how she manages it all, you’re not alone. “Do what you love first,” she says. “I love playing sports and I love horses.” Nora says it’s also about learning your limitations and being able to adapt. She’s had to learn to fit in her studies, even if that means doing schoolwork on the road to her next big competition.
But with all the stress and responsibilities Nora balances, she says she wouldn’t trade it for the world. “I love to work,” she says. “That’s just it, I love to work.”
Although Nora works endlessly on teaching her horses the barrel pattern and how to move their bodies to circle them quickly and successfully, she doesn’t train horses for the public – or at least not yet. Right now, she says she wants to focus on training horses for her own use, but, ideally, she could see herself entering the world of horse training and selling when her high school years are behind her.
But with so many possibilities, she’s not entirely sure if that’s the path she will end up on. Either way, she says, whatever her future holds, it will always involve horses. “I just don’t know what I could do without [them].”