By Jolee Lautaret
Logan, Utah — The temperatures across Utah this summer may have been a bit cooler than normal but the competition across the Wilderness Circuit's barrel racing certainly has been blistering hot.
While the young guns of the sport have grabbed headlines with their speed, winning rodeos with super fast times, one wily veteran broke through to best them all during the Cache County Fair and Rodeo held in Logan, Utah on August 6-8.
Facing an impressive mark of 17.01 seconds set during the slack by perennial Wilderness Circuit finalist Terri Wood-Gates, Mary Aller readied to make her run in the first performance on Thursday night aboard her gelding Chilly.
"We ran at Jerome on Tuesday and he didn't make a good run at all," explains Aller. "We went home and took him to a different arena than ours and made a run. I didn't really tune on him but we worked on getting his mind on different things."
The reminder seemed to be just what was needed. Chilly ran a tight pattern, keeping close to every corner and ate up the ground with his big, long stride. The time came in at 16.99 seconds on the full WPRA standard pattern.
"I hoped it would be that fast!" laughed Aller, when asked if she knew her horse had cut off the clock so well. "It was such a smooth run . . . I felt I had made a nice run but I wasn't sure where it would be. I figure we had to have a pretty decent run to stay with Terri (Wood-Gates)."
Aller is a Gold card member of the WPRA and has been running barrels and rodeoing for most of her life. She grew up in Anaconda, Mont., where her father, a member of the then-Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA), instilled his love of rodeo and horses into both Aller and her sister, Terri Kaye Kirkland.
Aller moved south to Pocatello, Idaho, when she married her husband Bill, a tie down roper and steer wrestler when he still actively competed.
"We were around horses all our lives and when I married Bill, we just carried on with it," says Aller. Today, the pair still trains the horses that Aller competes on, including Chilly.
"We bought him at Dan and Sandy Eddleman's sale in Montana and it was just colder than cold up there so we decided to call him Chilly," Aller says of the now 11-year-old gelding who is The Signature bred on the top with Leo breeding on the dam's side. He is registered The Car Wrangler and has been with Aller since 2009.
"He was broke [when we got him]. We got him in the fall, so he was a late six year old," Aller remembers. "Bill rides them for me and gets them going and then I take them from there."
"He's a real spooky horse," says Aller of Chilly. "It has taken up to this year for him to start getting over that. It took a lot of patience. We knew what was there but we just had to wait for it."
A veteran of more circuit finals rodeo than she can remember, Aller won the Wilderness Circuit Championship in 1999, qualifying to compete in the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, held in her hometown back then. After losing her good horse, she missed about a decade worth of circuit finals before qualifying again in 2013.
"I qualified on another horse but he got hurt so I ran Chilly at the circuit finals," says Aller. If things continue as they have so far, she'll be looking to run the gelding for a third time in 2015 at the Wasatch County Events Center in Heber City, Utah, in October. She is currently ninth in the Wilderness Circuit standings after the $1,244 she picked up in Logan. She also won Nephi, Utah earlier this summer and has placed at Grace (ID) and Coalville, Delta, Herriman and Lehi, Utah.
Though Bill no longer competes ("he is my main driver and water hauler," says Aller), the duo continue to rodeo together across the Wilderness Circuit in the summer time with an occasion trip north to Montana.
"Our daughter lives up there so we go for a visit and go to a few rodeos," says Aller. The Aller's have two daughters, one in Montana and one in Pocatello, that enjoy barrel racing when they can. With the Wilderness Circuit having a break from rodeos this week, the Allers are headed north for Billings before returning to finish out the rodeo season in their home circuit.
For more information on the Cache County Fair and Rodeo, which celebrated 136 years of the fair in 2015, visit them on-line at www.cachecounty.org.