COLUMBIA — When Lillie Raasch came to Columbia from Kansas City three years ago, she did not plan to start barrel racing horses, despite growing up on a farm and coming to study at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.
But now, Raasch, 21, spends many weekends participating in barrel racing events such as the one at the Boone County Fairgrounds on Wednesday evening.
"I just played enough sports in high school and needed another hobby in college," said Raasch, who was one of many riders taking advantage of the open competition.
The barrel racing competition was held as a fundraiser to open the Missouri High School Rodeo State Finals, which begin on Thursday. Wednesday's competition was not limited to those competing in the high school rodeo.
The fundraiser, which normally raises money for end of the year awards, raised money for victims of the Joplin tornado. Riders young and old competed with more than 100 different horses entered in the competition.
Raasch said she met a lot of friends who competed in rodeos and decided to get her own horse and try it.
"I was bored in college, so I just taught myself how to ride and how to barrel race," she said.
Raasch's friends, who all met about a year ago through barrel racing, agreed that it was great to get to ride in an event so close to home even though they do not compete in the high school rodeo.
Heather Fenton, 36, who moved to Columbia three years ago and travels nearly every weekend to different rodeos, said the location and Joplin fundraiser drew her to the event.
"This isn't far from home, so it's really nice," Fenton said. "I was kind of busy, but really wanted to come because of that (fundraiser)."
Mandy Aholt, 28, has traveled as far as Georgia for different barrel racing competitions
"The big thing for me is that it's in the backyard," Aholt said. "It definitely helped that it's a Joplin benefit."
Two Hickman High School seniors also took advantage of the open competition.
Megan Wehmeyer and Jenahlyn Felten compete in different barrel racing competitions but do not compete in the Missouri High School Rodeo. Both are interested in competing as seniors and used Wednesday's competition to see what it would be like.
Wehmeyer said she would like to try more rodeo events during her senior year.
"Well for my last year, I thought I might do it for the fun of it, for the experience," Wehmeyer said. "It's an adrenaline rush."
"It's close to home, and I like seeing the high school rodeo girls," Felten said. "Just seeing what it would be like if I run high school rodeo."
Felten, who had friends effected in Joplin, also said she liked the fundraiser.
"It's good to know that some of the money I'm putting out for this is going to help them."