Watching Abby Gebert guide her horse Angel around a barrel racing course is like watching an artistic display of grace and efficiency. It's almost like the rider and horse are sharing thoughts as they glide through a competition.
Gebert, 15, has only been seriously competing two years, but she's already beating many adults and plans to compete in next year's national championships.
The Leo High School freshman comes from a volleyball family. Her father, Loren, was IPFW's first male All-American; her mother, Angie, played at Huntington and IPFW; her brother Evan played at Lourdes and McKendree and now coaches at the University of Northwestern Ohio; and her sister Kendyll played at Indiana Wesleyan before currently playing at Purdue Fort Wayne.
And Abby was starting libero on the Leo junior varsity and played defensive specialist on the varsity in her rookie campaign.
But she found her true love in riding horses, especially barrel racing.
“It was just the speed, that was an adrenaline rush that I liked,” she said.
She placed in the top 10 at the state show this summer among 250 riders in the adult division and finished second in her category among riders her age. She earned a spot at next year's national event in Perry, Georgia, after not placing in the barrels the last time the state show was held two years ago. Last year's event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did she get so good so quickly? Well, Abby studied everything she could watch on YouTube and read about online or in magazines about the sport. She's become something of a barrel racing encyclopedia and can rattle off stats and biographies of the nationally ranked competitors.
She also spent a month or two each of the last four summers training with her mother's friends and family in Montana. Now Abby says her main goals in life are to earn a scholarship to Montana State, compete professionally on the national level, train horses and riders and possibly even become a large-animal veterinarian. She might even be able to do all three things at the same time.
Part of her success is the relationship with Angel, a 15-year-old combination quarter-horse and thoroughbred the family bought two years ago in Montana. The family boards Angel at Ride with Faith equestrian facility just south of Auburn.
When she started competing at age 11, Abby was a little behind, but over the last two years she's consistently placing in the money. She can compete in this area at places such as Angola, Portland, Albion and sometimes at the Allen County Fairgrounds, in as many as 12 events during a season that runs from February through October.
There's prize money involved for most of the events, which Abby puts back into training and Angel's care. She also competes in Montana and neighboring states on her summer trips. Pulling Angel's trailer, it's a three-day ride to get there.
Abby also works at Empowered Sports Club.
It wasn't too hard to convince her folks that buying Angel was a solid future investment.
“I recognized her passion and commitment,” Loren Gebert said. “This girl wants this. She wants to be really good at this, and fortunately, we get to help provide that. She puts a lot of time and her own money into this.”
They recognized her commitment and work ethic, and, as Abby said with a grin, “They saw me try Angel out. I just kept telling them that I wanted her.”
Soon, Abby and Angel will begin competing in Indiana high school rodeo events in barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying.
“Angel was the perfect horse for Abby as she had the needed speed, but was only going to give Abby what she asked for,” Angie Gebert said. “As a parent, it was a no-brainer that Angel was the perfect horse for Abby to grow with other the next few years.”