URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – On any given day, you’re most likely to find Leah Warner in the barn with her horses, or in the arena competing. You see, Warner is involved in a unique sport.

“So all my horses are barrel horses. I rodeoed on her in high school. But other than that, it’s racing and stuff like that. But we have fun,” she said.

For the past several years she’s traveled all around the country. Competing against other riders who all want to be the best.

“I went down to Oklahoma at the beginning of summer there. Didn’t have much luck down there but we had fun and then I come back home for a few weeks and then I left for Georgia. I had really good luck down there,” Warner said. “She won me some money in both rounds, and we were two places off from the world title. So, I was kind of upset about that”

It’s not something you necessarily think of someone doing when they live in central Illinois. Warner said she loves it.

“For about four years, I’ve been riding since I was really, really little. And then I got into barrel racing and got her, and it kind of took off from there,” she said. “I grew up with cattle and so nobody in my family has ridden horses, had horses, done anything. And my nana signed me up for lessons when I was a little kid and I fell in love with it and just I’m here. I’m still here.”

It’s about technique and speed, but it’s also about where your head is at.

“It’s a huge mental game. So, if I’m upset or frustrated, they know that. And so they feed off of that. And if I’m in a bad mood, they’re in a bad mood. And if I’m not mentally ready, they’re not either. And so I have to be on my a-game, especially competing at a higher level like Georgia. It’s stressful and the first year I went down there, it was nerve-wracking,” she said.

She said a little-known fact, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of any rodeo event,

“I think a lot of people think that you can just jump on your horse and go to a barrel race or any show for that matter. That’s not what it is like. People don’t see behind the scenes and the work it takes during the week, keeping them in shape and keeping them happy and healthy, and physically and mentally sound. And it takes a toll on them, just like it takes a toll on us. And nobody realizes that,” she said.

She said she has a lot of good memories of barrel racing, and some tough ones too, but nothing is stopping her from getting back on the horse, literally

“When you get that and you get your name announced in the big arena, you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m really here. So, that’s one of my favorites. But the hard part is you realize how much hard work it is and it’s, and it’s rewarding. But then it’s like I still have to work. Even after I was successful doing this,” she said.

Leah said she tries to compete in as many local events as she can.