And They’re Off!
Horse racing returns to Main Street of Wellfleet, Nebraska
A long-time tradition was brought back to Main Street of Wellfleet, Neb.
For the first time in more than ten years, horse races were part of the Fall Festival for the tiny town 25 miles south of North Platte.
They had begun in the 1960s on Main Street, which used to be blow sand, and continued till 2009.
This year,tThirteen horses raced on September 11, in four heats with a finals to determine a champion, with a $500 purse and a buckle to the winner.
The race, organized by long-time Wellfleet resident Mike Coder, was 1/5 of a mile or about 350 yards. According to him, Wellfleet is the only town in Nebraska with horse races down Main Street. “That’s what Wellfleet was known for, for a lot of years,” he said.
A cowgirl riding bareback with a hackamore won the overall contest.
Taylor Eberle of Curtis rode her barrel horse Easy for the win.
She’s been running barrels since she was three years old and has been riding bareback just as long.
“My grandma tells the story than when I was younger, I got in trouble racing horses bareback in the pasture,” she laughed.
“I thought (Easy) would run a little faster bareback, and it sure seemed to be the trick.”
The hackamore was also Easy’s preference.
“I’ve ran her in bits before, at rodeos, and she does this silly little head rattle,” Eberle said. It’s not her teeth; Eberle’s had them done. “She seems to work better without a bit. She listens and does just fine without it. She’s pretty dang broke.”
Eberle is the second generation in her family to win the Wellfleet Horse Races.
Her grandma, Mary McQuade, of Stapleton, Neb., won it several times in the past, she said.
And Eberle’s older daughter, Rowan, age five, was mad that her mother didn’t enter her in the race. “I told her maybe next year,” Eberle said.
In the preliminary heat, Eberle didn’t get a good start. After the starter dropped his hat, “the other three took off and we stood there for a good second,” she said. “It was a quarter of the way before we were passing people.
“I knew Easy had it in her.”
The mare is twenty years old, but she’s still going strong. Easy will be Rowan’s horse before long. “She’s really fond of her, so I think she’s stolen her from me now,” Eberle said.
Eberle and her husband Tanner; also have a three-year old daughter, River.
Third place went to Buck Richards, of Wellfleet.
His six-year-old son, Ryder, was the youngest jockey in the race.
Ryder had never seen a horse race, except for informal ones in the pasture, but when his dad said there would be one in Wellfleet, he said, “that sounds like a good idea.’ His mom was smiling when he said it,” Buck said.
Ryder was on a blue roan, in the same heat as his older cousin, sixteen-year-old Jhett Sellers, also on a blue roan.
He didn’t win his heat, but he had fun.
“He loves horses and he loves roping,” Richards said. “We were out the weekend before and roped our roping steers that got out, and he was pretty tickled about that. He was smiling from ear to ear.”
Later in the day, after the horse races, Ryder and his mom, Heather Richards, won third place in the team sorting.
“He’s no stranger to a saddle,” Buck said of his son. Buck and Heather have a second son, Tucker, who is four years old.
Buck’s mom and uncles used to run in the Wellfleet horse races years ago, he said, as did his wife’s family, the Sellers.
Before the race, someone was joking with Eberle.
“He said, ‘I hope you like to eat rocks,’” Eberle recalled. “When I saw him at the end, I asked, did you end up eating any rocks? He replied, ‘Oh, no, I was too far behind for that.’”
Second place went to twelve-year-old Lacie Benell, Maywood.
A few days before the races, a road grader was used to scrape the gravel on Main Street to the sides. Vehicles driving over it loosened it up for the race.
About 375 people were in attendance for the Fall Festival, which included stock dog trials, a sand volleyball tournament, ranch rodeo, beer garden, live music, food vendors, homemade ice cream, and more. A stick horse race for the little ones was held, with each child given a real stick horse, with a cut-out horse head on a handle.
Next year’s Fall Festival is slated for the second weekend in September.
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