When you're just 13 years old and have the opportunity to win two world barrel horse world titles in the same year, you have the right to be nervous.
That's been Jody Nelson's problem so far this week in the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships.
Nelson, of Ocala, Fla., is seeking to be the first rider in show history to win both the Youth and the Open divisions in the same calendar year. She won the Youth last August in Memphis, Tenn., beating out 714 other riders. The Youth is open to riders through age 20.
Nelson's case of nerves first reared its head Monday night in the one-shot, Sweepstakes division. Riding Chain of Events, the horse she won the Youth title on, Nelson knocked over a barrel and had to take the mandatory "no time" for that infraction.
The following night, in her first run in the Open division, Nelson stopped the clock at 15.495 seconds.
Since it will take at least a 15.100 to be among the top 40 times to make Saturday's 1D Open finals, the pressure is on Nelson in her second and final qualifying run today at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
"I'm always nervous, but I got really nervous the first night (Monday)," Nelson said. "I wasn't as bad on Tuesday night. Monday night was probably the worst I'd ever been. I just couldn't ride very good that day."
"Monday was the worst I'd ever seen her," said Jody's mother, Kappie Nelson. "Her lips were blue she was so petrified. When she won at Memphis, we didn't know what to expect. Here, with all the big buildup and everything, everybody is watching her."
Kappie Nelson said her daughter "was better Tuesday night but I hope she'll be better on the next one."
When Jody Nelson is noticeably nervous, it affects the 6-year-old Chain of Events, a speedy black stallion.
"He can tell," Kappie Nelson said. "If she's not relaxed, he's not relaxed and it just follows on through."
As a result, in the first round Open run, Chain of Events was too eager to get around the first barrel. When he went wide, the timing of the run was thrown off.
"He ran in there real fast and I guess I didn't set him hard enough on the first barrel," Jody Nelson said. "He'll be allright. I'll have to set him harder the next time."
Jody Nelson has been around barrel racing her entire life.
"When she was a baby, I was hauling for the National Finals Rodeo for two years and she was with me," Kappie Nelson said. "She was indoctrinated at a very young age. Her goal in life is to be like her mama. It was no accident that she was a world champion. This has been planned since conception. Every mother's dream is to have their kid excel at something. Being that's what I do, I wanted her to be good at it too. I didn't think it would happen quite this soon. But we eat, live, breath, walk and talk barrrel racing. That's all we do, just her and I."
"I just want want to do the best I can and make him (Chain of Events) work good," Jody Nelson said.
Kappie Nelson still runs barrels, but did not qualify for the World Championships this year.
"I ride colts (young horses)," Kappie Nelson said. "My motto is give the kids the best and ride the rest. Whatever's left, I ride."
The Nelsons hold Chain of Events in such high regard that they've named their farm after him. It's called Mane Event.
Kappie Nelson bought Chain of Events from her friend Jocelyn McKathan of Reddick, Fla., about a year ago.
"We've loved him since he was a foal," Kappie Nelson said. "I told Jocelyn, `if you ever want to sell him, you have to call me first. I can't afford him, but call me anyway.' It turned out we were able to buy him with the help of the bank."
"He's like the sweetest horse," Jody Nelson said. "I always wanted to ride him. He's really fast and he can turn pretty good when he wants to."
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