Woman, 77, celebrates birthday by barrel racing at San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo

Teddi Harllee of Floresville competed Wednesday at the Freeman Coliseum

SAN ANTONIO – It’s not her first rodeo, not by a long shot. But as Teddi Harllee motored around the cloverleaf barrel pattern on Wednesday, she proved that turning 77 years old is no reason to slow down.

On her birthday, the Floresville resident competed in the open barrel race competition at Freeman Coliseum, an added rodeo competition to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

“Deuce is his name. He’s 21 this year,” explained Harllee of the horse that brought her out of retirement from riding five years ago. He was hand-picked by her daughter, Melinda Harllee-Bell, to give her mom a safe, but competitive ride around the three barrels.

While Harllee does wear a helmet while competing, she doesn’t wear any other safety gear in this often fast-paced sport.

“I don’t give a lot of thought to my age, and as long as I can keep moving and not fall off, I think I’m a little ahead of the game,” she said while laughing.

The truth is that Harllee has been riding and excelling most of her life in high-level competitions such as cutting and western pleasure. Harllee retired about 30 years ago, but then had a change of heart after turning 70.

“About four and a half years ago. I asked my daughter if she’d let me barrel race — if she’d help me. And she said as long as I did what she said, and here we are,” Harllee explained.

That was when Harllee-Bell found Deuce for her mother, and the partnership began.

Harllee competes in open competitions and often wins what is called the 5D Division, a time category that is a few seconds slower than the top competitive times.

It’s a way to compete at almost any level, without needing a horse that can run a barrel pattern in 14 seconds. At this level, Harllee has won more than her share of buckle trophies, as well as a saddle.

Harllee-Bell said she still gets excited to see her mom run.

“I cry. I do. I will get emotional and tear up,” she said. “There are some videos on Facebook of me, like, dancing in the alleyway when she runs.”

Harllee-Bell is an equine therapist who also competes in rodeos in South Texas regularly.

The mother/daughter partnership is clearly treasured by both.

“We might bicker in the background a little bit, but if anybody’s got my back, it’s her. And if anybody has her back, it’s me. So it’s good,” said Harllee-Bell.

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Watch Teddi Harllee, 77, compete at Freeman Coliseum:

About the Author

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.

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