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Pittsburgh teen rodeo champ heading to world finals in Vegas

Kristine Sorensen
December05/ 2019

The World Rodeo Finals are in Las Vegas Dec. 10th through the 14th, and a local girl is competing in the junior division for barrel racing.  Scarlett Wilder is a senior at Chartiers-Houston High School, but she’s also one of the top 160 barrel racers in the world.  She’s mature beyond her years, which is probably one reason she’s so good.

Wilder and her horse, Rollin’ with the Stars, or just Rollin, understand each other.  “He’s kind of like my child,” she says.  “I’m always out here (at the stables).  I’m always taking care of him, whatever he needs.”   Rollin returns the love by winning for Scarlett.  Together, they qualified for the Junior World Finals Barrel Race, or the KK Run for Vegas.

It’s something Scarlett’s wanted since she would pretend barrel race as a toddler.  When she was about 4, she says, “one of my Mom’s friends actually had an old barrel horse that she let me sit on, and from that point on, I just knew I wanted to go fast.”

And fast she goes. They practice by sprinting across the fields behind their home at speeds of 20 to 30 miles an hour.  “You just you move your hands or you move your legs, and he knows exactly what you want.  He’s going to do it,” Scarlett explains.

One of the biggest challenges of barrel racing is the changing conditions.  They’ve competed in races with temperatures as cold as 18 degrees and as hot as 107.  “The hardest one I’ve probably been to is Memphis.  I’ve never been to the arena.  We showed up, and it was 107 with 80% humidity.  We were spraying him off five times a day just to keep him comfortable,” Scarlett says.

Traveling and training are a huge commitment.  Scarlett starts her day at 5:30 in the morning by cleaning the stalls and feeding and brushing Rollin.  Then she goes to high school and returns to ride him in the afternoons.

“It’s a lot to juggle at night. … Once I’m done out here (at the barn), I’ll go in, I’ll eat dinner, do my homework and shower and go to bed,” she says of her routine.

Scarlett and her Mom, Heather, know barrel racing is a dangerous sport.  “You don’t have to fall off a horse to get hurt,” Scarlett says.  “I broke my tailbone twice.”   But riding horses is in her blood.  Scarlett has been on a horse since before she was born.  Her Mom rode while she was pregnant, and her Dad is a harness racing driver based at the Meadows with more than 8-thousand wins.

Scarlett says she loves the sport and her horse, and they’re racing to the top together.

After the rodeo and high shool graduation, she wants to be a nurse, in part because she wants a work schedule that will allow for her to ride several days a week.

Kristine Sorensen

I am proud to work at KDKA-TV -- anchoring the news, hosting Pittsburgh Today Live and doing special reports. I am married to KDKA reporter Marty Griffin and we have 3 children. I first moved to Pittsburgh in 1999 but I’ve lived in Dallas, Johnson City, Tenn., Chicago, Williamsburg, Va., Milwaukee and Winter Park, Fla. Pittsburgh is now the place I call home.

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