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After facing one a life’s biggest challenges, Barbara takes Reserve Champion at Washington Horse Expo IMTCA Challenge in March on Chunky Monkey

by P. Tyrone Smith

Barbara H. Callihan and Chunky Monkey win Reserve Champion at WA Expo IMTA Challenge with Mark and Lee Bolender. Photo by Hal Cook of Washington State

In December Barbara received a diagnosis that threatened to disrupt her big plans to compete in an International Mountain Trail (IMTCA) Challenge at the Washington Horse Expo in March. The diagnosis was possible lung cancer. After considering all her options, Barbara made a the difficult choice to have lung surgery to remove the small spot. Based on calculations, if everything went right, she could be ready to compete in March. In order to give herself enough time to prepare to compete, Barbara set a personal goal to be back in saddle six weeks after her major surgery.

Six weeks of intense rehabilitation work to rebuild strength and stamina paid off, and against all odds Barbara receive the doctor’s permission to begin riding on February 2nd. On February 13 she departed from happy hoof beats with Ears, Chunky Monkey, a loaded trailer, and high hopes as she darted towards Bolender Horse Park between huge rain storms. She arrived on February 18 excited and ready to continue her IMTCA studies under discipline founder Mark Bolender.

Two weeks later on March 1, she arrived onsite at the Washington Expo Fair Grounds water-logged, cold, and weary. Team HHB Members, Maja Hinkle, Karen Vowell, and her son P Tyrone Smith joined her for the entire weekend, providing Chunky with feeding, grooming needs, and support, as well as encouragement and hot drinks to Barbara. Her sister Noreen, always her fierce supporter, braved the cold and rain to witness Barbara’s new found passion. Her daughter Donna — the 2016 Introductory National champion in Western Equitation (WE) — and her granddaughter Amber braved numb hands and feet and cheered Barbara on as they discovered this exciting new discipline that is fueling her new passion. Brenda Fleming, a past riding student and good friend, braved the harsh road conditions from Salem to support her past coach, and visit with her close Las Vegas friends. And finally, Linda, a lesson client that has developed into a deep friendship, surprised Barbara with her supportive presence for the weekend and through her perseverance enjoyed the many clinics/clinicians at the EXPO.

The IMTCA competition took place over two days, Saturday and Sunday. Approximately 30 horses were registered for the three levels of competition. Barbara and Chunky Monkey were registered into level three, the most challenging of the three, requiring them to complete the challenging trail obstacle course utilizing all three gaits, against 13 other riders. Saturday featured the preliminary rounds for all riders at all levels and determined which top five riders in each level would compete in the championship round on Sunday. Barbara and Chunky Monkey had an incredible preliminary round performance and earned a spot as one of the five finalists in the championship round on Sunday. The champion round was tough competition, featuring some incredible riders and a grueling 21 obstacle trail course. Barbara and Chunky Monkey had another good performance putting them in contention. In the end Jean Chaney had the better performance earning her the Championship, with Barbara and Chunky Monkey receiving Reserve Champion, and Talea Morgan-Metivier receiving third place.

Barbara and Team HHB share their deep appreciation for Lee and Mark Bolender, and the numerous staff and volunteers of the Washington Expo crew for making this a meaningful and exciting experience. A special Thank you to Lee and Mark Bolender, Tonya Diggs, Bolender’s Barn Manager, Candy and Elizabeth for their physical and emotional support on those days that the recovery from surgery, bitter wet cold was taking its toll threatening to stop her and Chunky’s journey.

Enjoy photos from Barbara's journey

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