Kim Manley is relegated to watching the NBHA World Championships from an arena seat. The small scar that runs across her throat backs up her words about doctor's orders preventing her from riding this year.
So she will do the next best thing. She will live her barrel racing dreams vicariously through her husband, Van, and her daughter, Katie.
"I'm the worrywort," Kim Manley said. "Van is very laid back. Katie's very laid back, too."
The Manleys of Davidsonville, Md., are one of the first families of the NBHA. The two generations of riders seem to know everyone in the stands and everyone circling the barrels.
Everyone seems to know them, too.
Van Manley is one of three NBHA regional executives who oversees state, district and regional directors. Katie Manley is a 10-year-old up-and-comer in the sport. Kim Manley is a successful barrel racer who's taking a break after undergoing neck surgery in the summer.
Kim and Van work together in her parents' construction business. Along with Katie, the two spend time at about 30 shows along the East Coast and Southern region.
Van, a barrel racer for 30 years, is the NBHA's point man for developing the sport along the East and West coasts. He became a regional director in 1992 and this year earned his new position. He now manages the Western region (11 states, including Wyoming, Arizona and California) and the Colonial region, which stretches from Virginia to Maine.
Katie Manley took home a $1,000 paycheck last year after finishing fifth in the NBHA Wolrd Championships Open third division. She got her first taste of winning in August. On her mom's gelding, Katie rode to the Youth 1D Colonial National title in Lexington, Va.
"It was exciting," Katie said.
Kim Manley rode pleasure horses when she met Van at a rodeo in 1986. A year later, the two were married. Soon after, Van persuaded her to try barrel racing.
"Once you do, it's addictive," she said. "Like a junkie, you have to go back for more."
For 13 years she's gone back for more. And why not? She's won the Maryland district 12 times.
But Kim Manley, who's made the finals in the NBHA World Championships every year but last year, could not give it a go this time.
Not after neck surgery during the summer. She said she hopes it is her final surgery, especially after becoming all too familiar with Johns Hopkins, the renowned medical institution in Baltimore.
Kim sought treatment after enduring dizzy spells at barrel races. It got so bad, she'd have to lie down for an hour to alleviate the pain.
Doctors later discovered she wasn't receiving enough spinal fluid around her brain. She went under the knife twice in the past four years to correct the problem.
"I hope that's it forever," she said.
Kim plans to resume riding next year. She may or may not get back her 17-year-old horse, Sexy Classy Moon. For now, he's Katie's ride.
"I trust him," Kim said. "When I send him in there I tell him to take care of Katie."
Katie, who's been around horses since she was six months old, is nothing less than your typical fifth-grader.
At times, she makes faces and rolls her eyes and works her way through boredom.
If she weren't racing this week, she'd be with her friends in school.
Van Manley said his daughter has the tools to be a champion barrel racer.
It all will depend on if he can find her a quality horse.
"She's kind of like a natural," he said. "She's like a quarterback who can go out on the football field and throw it left-handed or right-handed. She's gifted."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.
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