One of the great things about Facebook is that I get tiny glimpses into others’ lives, regardless of where I happen to reside. A few years ago, I started seeing photos of a young girl winning barrel races while wearing a pink helmet, and I couldn’t help but wonder who that speed demon was. As it just so happens, her name is Isabell Heiken, and her horses are Mystic and Betty.
Like most ranch kids, Isabell began riding at a very early age, as witnessed here. Her dad, Bart, kept her afloat on one of the ranch’s stallions, and then she started to ride Savannah, that fuzzy buckskin with a big heart. Isabell and Savannah started running barrels and poles and a few rounds of goat tying and flag racing when she was six!
A few years later, having outgrown Savannah, Bart and Kelly found another mare for Isabell by the name of Mystic. Mystic may not be very big, but she has a ton of heart, and it is on Mystic that Isabell really started to come into her own. Together, they started to win buckles and move up the rankings in area rodeos and barrel races. They’ve done most of the youth rodeos in the area like the Tomorrow’s Rodeo Champions at the Miller’s Horse Palace, the Bridger Youth Rodeo, the July 4th rodeo in Ten Sleep, and the Cody Night Rodeo. This year, they’ve added Cottonwood Equestrian to their stops to run the Three-Can Tango, Midnight Run, Barrels of Gold, the Shamrock Challenge, the Cruel Girl Challenge, as well as races up in Livingston and Great Falls. Thanks to her parents, Bart and Kelly, Isabell and Mystic do quite a bit of traveling.
Isabell works hard to become a better rider and barrel racer. She practices at least four times every week, riding barrel patterns to improve her turns as well as loping lots of circles to help with balance and conditioning. She and her dad make frequent runs to Cottonwood and to Miller’s Horse Palace during the week for open riding. It’s easy to see why both Mystic and Betty–and sometimes even Sam!–stop in to see Dr. Tori for an acupuncture session.
Last September, Bart and Isabell added one of Bart’s mares, Betty, to their barrel-racing string. They were a bit worried that at 21, Mystic might be slowing down, but thankfully that isn’t the case. She’s turning in some of her fastest times yet, so now Isabell rides two horses. Her hard work and practice have advanced her from the 4D section all the way up to 1D, and they’re doing very well!
When Isabell is not out with Mystic or Betty or putting Sam through his front-yard paces, she can be found in the sixth-grade class at Bridger Elementary. Her favorite subject is English, and her favorite book is Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington. (Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me in the least.) She also helps out a lot at home, feeding horses and cleaning stalls. Her mom reports that she is a big help when moving mares and babies to different pastures.
Not long ago, Isabell received a postcard in the mail that invited her to the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships this summer in Georgia. She won’t be able to make it this year, but I’m betting that before too long, we’ll get word that Isabell and Mystic will be making longer, more distant trips and coming home with big wins. And we couldn’t be happier for them!