LEBANON, TN (WSMV) - The Orr family lives in Wilson County and they spend most of their days riding, roping and honing their rodeo skills.
On a warm fall evening, all of the horses were saddled in the arena and ready when we arrived.
The youngest rider is a spunky 9-year-old named Landry. Despite her young age, it’s clear that Landry is also an experienced barrel racer. She’s been riding horses since she was only three years old. Today, Landry is totally in control of her 1,100-pound horse.
"He's 14 years old, named Seeker and I love him so much. I grew into it, because my family grew up doing it, so I grew up doing it too,” said Landry.
What does Landry like best about barrel racing?
“Getting to spend time with your horse,” she said enthusiastically.
Troy Orr is Landry's dad. He’s a champion steer wrestler with nerves of steel. His nickname on the rodeo circuit is T-Roy. His quest for rodeo greatness includes a series of broken bones, bruises and several other close calls. Troy watched intently as his little girl practiced her turns around several blue barrels and then sprinted away on her horse.
"It can be a little hairy sometimes,” said Troy.
Like many fathers, he has a soft spot for his daughter. I ask if watching Landry practice is more nerve-wracking than the thought of her first date.
“Yeah. I'm not gonna do good with that probably,” Troy said with a chuckle and smile.
The Orr family is a lot of fun to see in action. But, make no mistake. Troy's wife is a serious barrel racer and competitor. Misty Orr is also a breast cancer survivor. She talked about the tremendous support she received from the barrel racing community while she battled cancer and recovered from a double mastectomy.
"It's just a passion that I cannot explain. It's an adrenaline rush, and I guess we're all adrenaline junkies, you know? It's that competitive spirit. Also, it's like a family. These people are like my family. They really showed up when I was sick. I'll never forget that,” said Misty.
The key to barrel racing is to be faster than anyone else around the arena course without knocking any barrels over. Keep in mind, the races only last a few seconds. The first two barrels must be a minimum of 15 feet off the side fence; a minimum of 30 feet between the third barrel and the back fence; a minimum of 30 feet between the time line and the first barrel; and finally, the ground conditions within the arena must remain consistent throughout the event.
Barrel racers like Misty Orr say it's all about practice. That’s something her 15-year-old son Teigan knows well. He has impressive roping skills and hopes to get a rodeo scholarship to college. Teigan demonstrated a series of rope throws on a set of stationary steer horns. He said he can’t think of anything better than spending time riding, roping and being around his animals.
"Probably my favorite thing to do just because I love animals. Animals are really what I like to be around. I've got dogs, cows. I've got horses. And I just like that aspect of it,” said Teigan.
His mom says the time her family gets to spend together would be far more difficult if her son wasn’t so involved.
"Thank goodness for Teigan, who gets out of school, comes home every day, and cleans stalls every day. He feeds horses and exercises horses,” said Misty.
The Orr family rides and practices for hours at a time, even at sunset - doing what they love as a family. The backdrop of fading daylight and a slight breeze in the air was just about picture perfect, as Teigan’s lasso found home again with authority.
Misty Orr seemed at peace watching her family.
"It just gets in your blood, and you can't not love it,” said Misty.
There's also a lot of prize money at stake in barrel racing. In fact, Misty is already qualified for the semifinals of The American Barrel Races in Arlington, TX, next year. The top prize is $1 million.
After spending an evening observing all of this, I wouldn’t bet against Misty or her amazing family.