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Clay Mavericks back in the saddle again

Worthington dream resets

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 5/4/23

ORANGE PARK - Back in 1964, Donald Worthington wanted to make something that families could bring their families to every weekend no matter what.

“My dad was an adopted child and his dad was …

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Clay Mavericks back in the saddle again

Worthington dream resets


Posted

ORANGE PARK - Back in 1964, Donald Worthington wanted to make something that families could bring their families to every weekend no matter what.

“My dad was an adopted child and his dad was very busy salesman that lived out of hotel rooms and hardly spent time with the family,” said Cathy Wrouble, Worthington’s daughter and part of a four-generation span of dedicated family members that have been, in some part, the driving force of the recently revitatilized Clay Mavericks Saddle Club and it’s Orange Park-based arena just off Blanding Blvd near Ridgeview High School. “It was very important to my dad that every weekend, he had family time with his family and the horses and the arena became our destination every Saturday night. His legacy has kept that tradition through four generations.”

The arena was closed for nearly a year after the COVID pandemic.

On Saturday, with nearly 150 horse trailers parked in and about the Tanglewood area Clay Mavericks arena, fans of barrel racing got to see some of the best flying horsemanship in north Florida with the Clay Mavericks hosting a district NBHA (North Florida Barrel Horse Association) qualifying event. Riders from around north Florida and beyond were timed in a triangular course; start straight, 90 degree turn left or right to a barrel for a 180 degree pivot, sprint across the arena to a second barrel for a second pivot; this time 270 degrees to head to a third barrel at the end of the arena for a final 180 pivot and final sprint home. Most of the times for the riders were in the 15-17 second range with ages from six to 60.

“The barrel racing is traditionally a female-oriented event because there is no roping or calf-chasing involved and it is pure speed, agility and horsemanship,” said Maverick Russell Daum, who watched his daughter, Emree, and son, Easton, both compete on Saturday. “Most of the young riders can get on a horse pretty early, our boy; Easton was on a horse at 16 months, and it takes lots of tries to get the horse and rider on the same page for the racing like we do here.”

For Daum, whose son Easton, a Tynes Elementary School recently-crowned Math champion, the elements of the barrel racing involve a lot of tactical skill as well as command of the horse’s personalty.

“Every horse is different just like every rider is different on top of the horse,” said Daum, who had one of his five champion belt buckles on during the Maverick’s event. “It takes a lot of riding just around a ranch to get the horse ready to do racing, then we come to small events to test them out, then we are ready to actually race. Takes about a year to get it all right.”

Wrouble encouraged local high school athletes that find the sport interesting to visit the arena on a Saturday and see the athleticism involved in the sport.

“They can visit our Facebook page; Clay Mavericks, get some info and schedules of upcoming events,” said Wrouble, who said she has been coming to the arena since she was two years old. “It’s not as easy as it looks and involved a lot balance, strength and, more importantly, communication with the horse. Some people think you buy a fast horse and that’s it, but one horse may not psync up with one rider, but can actually do well with a different rider.”

Wrouble noted that Ryan Worthington, a former football player in the area, is one of the noted riders that developed into a formidable national rider.

“This event is a district qualifier for the World event in July in Perry, Georgia, which is massive,” said Russell Daum, whose wife, Buffy, is also a rider in the family. “The races are so tight that the differences between first and fifth in the categories is seconds between 14 and 17 seconds. You see our clock is to three digits deep; 14.567. That’s how close it is.”