STONE TAVERN, N.J. — At the start of the barrel racing series at the Horse Park Of New Jersey, Mary Diaz set a goal — to win the fancy buckle that goes to the rider that scores the most points in the series.

In the end she got not one, but two buckles. Diaz, 15, of Sandyston, N.J. won both the youth and open divisions.

Series organizer, Erica Friedman explains that to be eligible for the high point award riders had to compete in six of seven shows held over the winter. There are four different divisions in the open and three in youth based on a handicap format. The first division is the fastest time. The second division starts with the ride a half second slower than the first division, second division is a second off the overall fastest time, etc.

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In each division points are awarded through fourth place.   

Diaz won most of her points in the first division (1D). The winner of the open buckle came down to the last show as there were three riders who had a chance to win the buckle and after the race there was a tie between Diaz and Troy Roberto. The tie was broken by going back through the series times to see who ran the fastest time of the series. That was Diaz. 

In the youth series there was only one point separating Diaz and Abby Capiello. 

Diaz has three American Quarter Horses. She won the series on Jet Black Panama, 5, whom she has only had for about ninth months now, and just a few before the series started.

Diaz start competing when she was 8 years old, first in gymkhana, then junior high school rodeo, Now she just focuses on barrels and poles.

As for winning the buckle, Diaz said, “I feel so truly blessed. I was aiming for it from the first show.” Despite the short time they have been together, she said she and her horse have been bonding well.

As for the future, Diaz is aiming to complete in college rodeo. She is looking at California Polytechnic or Texas A&M, but she is only a sophomore so she is keeping her options open.

Diaz comes from a long line of horsemen. Her family runs Serene Horse Ranch which offer training for problem horses and also takes people trail riding.  

In the nearer future Diaz is looking forward to also competing her other horse, 5-year-old, DMZ Truffles Trace. Diaz started the mare in barrels two years ago but also uses her in pole bending.

She also still has Royal Hickory Jet, now 18, and the one who got her started in barrel racing. She and Royal Hickory Jet have won many buckles together and set a few arena records.

Aside from her success in the Horse Park series Diaz qualified in five slots for the National Barrel Horse Association world championships in the open division plus three in youth. She won in the open, 1D as well as the first three divisions in youth.

Barrel racing resumes at the Horse Park on May 27 with two more competitions set for Oct. 20 and 26. Both are Womens Professional Rodeo Association and National Barrel Horse Association approved.

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