Health problems can’t keep woman away from barrel racing


When you love something, you do anything you can to get back to it even in the face of adversity. Marsha Gilmore started riding as a kid, growing up in Riviera Beach and North Palm Beach when it was ranches and farms. She started barrel racing in the ’70s, and her affinity for the intense sport kept Gilmore going when she was faced with serious injuries.

In September, the Lake Park 65-year-old had one of her shoulders replaced. She was back on her horse, Sonny Boy, within a month. This year, she will have another shoulder replacement surgery. She credits barrel racing and her unwavering love for her horse for helping her heal so quickly.

Health problems can’t keep woman away from barrel racing photo

Marsha Gilmore and her barrel horse, Sonny Boy. Gilmore recently had her shoulder replaced, and she was back on her horse in 30 days. When she has the other shoulder replaced this year, Gilmore hopes to recover just as quickly. PHOTO PROVIDED

“In 2012, I started competing at the posse grounds,” Gilmore said. “I got better and better with each show. I was riding in the 20 and over division. I was in first place by the end. I won the senior championship for the year in 2012. I was so excited. I was 62 at the time. We were neck and neck with a 23 year-old guy. At the very last show, I beat him by three points. He brought in a professional horse at the end, whereas I rode my same horse all year. That was one of the happiest days of my life. I won my first saddle.”

Even in 2012, Gilmore was dealing with serious pain. She won that senior championship and saddle in spite of several maladies.

“I rode that show in 2012 with two bad shoulders and bad arthritis,” Gilmore said. “I still did it. I have two fingers that look like they’re broken from the arthritis, but they have the advantage that they go the way the reins do, so I can still hold on. I’m going in a week to have my right knee fixed. My doctor couldn’t believe how fast I healed. I told him it was all for the love of horses.”

The kid that started riding in sixth grade on a friend’s horse named Bread grew into the woman who refused to give up the sport she loved, against all odds. She came close when her other beloved Palomino, Kenny Rogers, passed away. The loss hit Gilmore hard.

“When his life ended in 2007, mine almost did too,” she said. “I ended up in the hospital with a mental breakdown because it hurt me so bad to have him put down. I got Sunny Boy in 2007, two months after I lost Kenny Rogers.”

Gilmore hopes to ride in a few barrel races with Sonny Boy before her next shoulder replacement. She isn’t ready to give up the high of barrel racing yet.

“Sonny Boy has been my savior,” she said. “He takes care of me in the arena. He’ll be 13 this year, so he has many years to go. I want to keep going and keep improving and have a good time. It keeps me feeling young. As Toby Keith says, ‘I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.’”

Amy Bower Doucette writes about the equestrian communities for Neighborhood Post. Send mail to 2751 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Call 561-820-4763, fax 561-837-8320.