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She has her foes over a barrel

Nina Binder of Eagle Pointis ranked 12th on the world earnings list for barrel racers.

EAGLE POINT ­ To most 31-year-old women, spending weeks driving aroundthe country alone towing ­ and living in ­ a 25-foot horse trailermight not sound too appealing.

But as long as there's a rodeo somewhere down the road, it doesn't soundtoo bad to barrel racer Nina Binder.

Binder, whose permanent home is in Eagle Point with her husband of sixyears, Greg, leaves Wednesday on a month-and-half-long trip to rodeos throughoutthe Northwest and Canada.

In the month of July, I'll hit Calgary (Alberta), Cheyenne, Wyoming,and everywhere in between, she says.

Although Binder is a Women's Pro Rodeo Association rookie, she practicallygrew up on horseback and has been competing in barrel racing for most ofher life.

I've been riding and running barrels since I was 6 and I startedriding when I was 2, she says.

As a senior at Crater High in 1984, she made the state rodeo finals inpole bending, and she competed in college rodeo while attending CentralOregon Community College in Bend.

Although she hasn't stopped competing, it wasn't until last year thatshe decided to move beyond local rodeos and fulfill a longtime desire toturn professional.

Last year, I did well in some local rodeos and placed at severalbig pro rodeos, so I decided to do it, she says.

Finding the right horse also played heavily in Binder's decision. Untiltwo years ago, she couldn't find one she felt she could win on.

I'd been just waiting for the right horse, she recalls. Thishorse came along, and I said this is the one.

Two years ago, she bought a quarterhorse mare named Nick.After eight months of training Nick, she spent a year competing in barrelracing events for younger horses before returning to stiffer competitionlast year.

Making her pro debut when the rodeo season began in November, she placedthird in the average time portion of barrel racing at a pro rodeo in KansasCity, Mo.

Since then, she's risen to 12th in the world money leader standings ­winning $18,977. She's also leading the Columbia River Pro Rodeo Circuitin barrel racing and has won more money than any other CRPRC rookie, accordingto the latest standings.

I'm making money but I'm not getting rich, she says.

Although she'd like to do well within the CRPRC, Binder has her sitesset higher: on the National Finals Rodeo. The top 15 Professional RodeoCowboys Association money winners in each event qualify for the NFR, whichis held in Las Vegas each December.

To meet that goal, she's hitting the road to compete in as many rodeosas possible ­ including three this weekend. On Thursday, she'll ridein the St. Paul Rodeo. That night she plans to ride in the Eugene Pro Rodeobefore heading off to compete in the Calgary Stampede.

Unlike some competitors who fly from rodeo to rodeo, Binder and mostother barrel racers drive from place to place, towing their trusty steedsin trailers behind them. Binder also has living quarters in her horse trailer,which she purchased with the help of a sponsor.

While most pro competitors rely heavily on sponsors, Binder has had topay her own way for the most part, counting on prize money from one rodeoto pay for the next one.

Most people going down the road have money behind them, shesays. I don't really have any except what I've got in my pocket andwhat I win.

Binder does most of her travelling with other barrel racers but is headingout solo on this trek because she couldn't find anyone else who wanted tobe gone so long.

It's doesn't bother me, she says of traveling alone. I'mnot looking forward to it because it's going to be boring with no one totalk to while I'm driving. It's really hard on my husband because he staysbehind and works and pays the bills and takes care of the house. If it wasn'tfor him, I couldn't do it.

Such is life sometimes in rodeo. And it's a life Binder doesn't expectto leave anytime soon.

I'll do it until I can't do it no more, she says. I'verodeoed all my life. I've never done it this intensely, but I'm enjoyingit.

She has her foes over a barrel