ELKO - After more than 50 years racing on horseback, Karen Goemmer is still at the top of her game.

At the top of the game actually - Goemmer is at the top of the world standings for 60 Ladies Barrel Racing.

This week she is competing in Elko at the Senior Pro Rodeo.

Goemmer, a Willard, N.M., resident has ridden horses since she was 2 and it shows.

"I grew up on a ranch, and I always lived on a ranch," she said of riding horses. "It was never a conscious thing."

At age 10, she began barrel racing, practicing in the ring and on the range.

She said she likes competing in Elko because the town is so hospitable. Of course the fact that one of her sons, Shawn, daughter-in-law Mindy and grandchildren live in Battle Mountain doesn't hurt.

Rodeo is a family thing, she said - three generations of her family compete. Her husband Lowell competes, as do her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, the youngest is learning to ride at 2 just as her grandmother did.

She said she'd encourage anyone who wants to compete in barrel racing - whether 10 or 50 - to buy the best broke horse she can afford. It's not necessary to have a horse that is professionally trained to barrel race, but the horse should be rideable.

"You're never too old to start," she said.

Those who can should learn from a professional. Those who don't develop bad habits at first won't have bad habits to break, she said.

And then, it's a matter of riding. A lot. Like anything, it takes practice, she said.

Like many who compete, Goemmer is a lifelong rancher. She was born in Wyoming and moved to a ranch in Colorado after she married. She recently moved to New Mexico to take advantage of the better weather.

Wade Durham, rodeo secretary, said this year's rodeo has 120 participants, about even with last year. Competitors include former world champions.

The rodeo is open to those older than 40.

The rodeo continues through Friday at the Elko County Fairgrounds.

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