Older rivals no match for Montana on way to world titles
RODEO: She might be the smallest competitor gunning for a buckle more often than not, but that doesn't stop young barrel racer Montana Dunn from leaving opponents trailing in her wake.
The 10-year-old barrel racer will head to the US in July to compete at the NBHA Youth World Championships after a stellar 2017 in which she outmanoeuvred rivals several years her senior.
She made the step up from pee-wee to under-18s competition after winning the under 10s title the previous year and instantly hit the ground running at the next level on her horse Candee.
The young rider won the under-18 Warwick Gold Buckle Series and then two weeks later, took home the 2017 NBHA Queensland State Championships junior crown to punch her ticket for the world titles.
The sport is in Montana's blood.
She inherited the passion for barrel racing from mum Martina Smith, who followed in her own mother's footsteps, and who qualified for the open World Championships but was never able to travel to the states to compete.
"I grew up in a rodeo family myself,” Martina said.
"My mum barrel races, so we're really lucky that we all have each other.
"Mum still competes as well so we can have three generations of barrel racers at a competition.
"My dad was Australian champion as well... my husband used to rodeo too.”
Her small stature might raise a few eyebrows as she steps up to compete at events - picking up the nicknames 'pocket rocket' and 'little girl on a big horse' - but her talent does all the talking.
"Montana was born with a gift,” Martin said said.
"She set her goal to qualify to the worlds, being her first year in the under 18s, that was her major goal.
"She sort of blew us all away and she really got in and worked her horse and really concentrated and she won two titles in the under-18s so she did really well.”
While it has yet to be confirmed, Montana's family believe she could be the youngest indigenous Australian to ever compete at the Youth World Championships.
"She is very proud of her heritage and will be representing both her country and her cultural heritage,” Martina said.
The family will head to Perry, Georgia a week-and-a-half before the event begins to get settled and take part in local competitions but Montana will have to do it without partner Candee, who will stay at home.
The Lake Clarendon student will again go head-to-head with older competitors in the under-18s division but this time she will be on a leased horse.
"(It could be tricky) because it will be a different horse than Candee,” Montana said.
"I do want to saddle and I want to get a buckle over there, because they're a bit different than the ones I've got.”
She is well aware of the dangers involved in barrel racing after watching her mum involved in a serious accident while competing a couple of years ago.
"Montana was there with me when I had the accident and it was a big accident,” Martina said.
"It was at a competition and I fractured my skull.
"Rodeo people don't generally wear helmets. I do now.
"She's well aware of what can happen and is very helmet conscious.
"She believes everyone should wear a helmet.”
The NBHA Coominya Barrel Race will be held at 91 Pensacola Parade, Coominya on March 11, starting from 9am in support of the youngster's achievement.
Montana will compete during the day and there will be raffles held to fundraise money for her trip.