Horses have always been a huge part of Jen Atkinson's life, having been put on a horse before she could walk. Jen's early years were spent riding with her family on the farm. "As a three-year-old, I would go out mustering with Dad – perched in front of him on a piece of foam," says Jen. "I can still remember riding in a western saddle that was way too big for me....I couldn’t even reach the stirrups!".
Jen dabbled in show hunter and A & P events but her real passion was barrel racing. Bought up in a Rodeo mad family, she was going along to support her brother Dave at just 5 years old – Dave won 15 NZRCA Saddle Bronc Titles, as well as a Steer Wrestling title and Jen says she always remembers asking him for one of his buckles to wear. He told me that he would lend me one of his Aggregate buckles but if I wanted the real McCoy I would have to win that myself, says Jen. And so her barrel racing journey began!
Jen started her barrel racing career on Carmel Wright’s horse Rio and was runner up Rookie in 1990 as well as making The NFR in that same year. When she won her first title on Casey in 1994 it gave her great pleasure to give my brother Dave back his buckle! Jen has since won 6 NZRCA Barrel Racing Titles and 3 Barrel Racing Horse of the Year Awards on 3 different horses.
Being able to bring the best out in my horses and develop them to their full potential is one of my passions. In fact with Pep I was told on more than one occasion “that this horse didn’t seem to have what it takes to make it in the Barrel Racing World.” But I knew deep down that I did have a good horse under me. Well we did prove the critics wrong – we developed a great bond and took out the NZ Barrel Racing Title in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006. As well as Pep being awarded the AQHA Barrel Racing Horse of the Year in 2001 and 2004.