Tight turns and loose dirt halt Rodeo Alaska barrel racing

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Dana Hall and her son were at Rodeo Alaska when the barrel racing took a turn for the worse Friday night.

“The barrel racing was one of the last events for the night, and so it was a really fun rodeo up until then," Hall said. “Multiple people fell, I believe it was four actually, and they were nearly consecutive."

That's when race officials said 'woah.'

Rodeo Alaska Owner Frank Koloski said some of the challenges with the track are inherent to the venue.

“We got a concrete floor in here, it was a hockey arena," Koloski said. “There's eight inches of dirt in here right now."

According to Koloski, the combination of a high volume of horse traffic and the air density in the arena drying the soil out caused the soil pack to start to break down.

"For the safety of that, after having a couple horses slip, we decided it would be best just to halt the event," Koloski said.

Now that the event is underway, track maintenance is more difficult.

“One one-hundredth of a second is what we're racing against a lot of the time,” said Barrel Racer Tonya Brewerand. “So, if you have something off, or your ground is different, you're not giving all of your people the same opportunity."

Fortunately, barrel racing isn't the only event.

“We'll have bull riding, we have team roping, steer riding, ribbon roping, double mugging," Koloski says.

And knowing the horses are safe lets the Halls breathe a little easier.

“It really gives me great peace of mind,” Hall said. “I mean, this is a family event. I had my son and his friends there. It was a first responders tribute. All of that is wonderful."

Koloski also said this was a learning experience, and they're already looking at how to better compact the dirt for next year.

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