Think back over the last five to 10 years of barrel racing history in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. What names come to mind as the most consistently dominant riders in that time period? Troy Crumrine, Brad Shirey, Laura Lee Thomas, and… Kathy “Bert” Thompson. Bert and her trailer load of top horses are a force to be reckoned with in not just local but national barrel racing action, from futurities to derbies to open races. She’s worked hard to become the top talent she is today, and over the next three days we’ll all get to know this great hand and her horses a little bit better.
How did you get into barrel racing to begin with, and who taught you to ride?
I was born into barrel racing. My mom, Autumn Thompson, is a barrel racer so, it was only natural that I had a passion for it.
I was able to learn how to ride from my mom, Kelly Meeks, and a pony named “Charlie Brown” that belonged to Kelly. They threw me on him and I never looked back!
Tell us about your first great horse. What was its name and what did you win with it?
My first great horse was named “Baby.” She was a step-up horse that went on to win open and youth shows for me. I won the Talmadge Green Clinic, the Ohio State Fair, and fair championships with her.
Walk us through your youth career. What were some of your biggest wins?
During my youth years we followed NBHA shows. I did well in the standings and won it a couple of years. I placed in the top 5 of the state shows, won the Talmadge Green Clinic, the All American Youth twice, and the state fair a few times.
When did you start to ride young horses?
I had to begin to ride young horses at an early age. My mom and dad believed in the “work-your-way-to-the-top theory.” I had to train and work at it. That didn’t always work so well, but I learned to have respect for horses, what worked and didn’t work for me, and I watched other people and asked questions.
What have been the biggest wins of your career so far?
I have won the Congress and the Congress reserve title, along with multiple top ten finishes, and I’ve been a Sweepstakes finalist. I won Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio’s IBRA state finals. I’ve made the OKC World Derby and Futurity Finals on multiple horses. I won the 1st go of the OKC World Futurity which was a special accomplishment for me. I’ve made the NBHA state top 5’s in the Finals on different horses; I have a lot of futurity placings, and I won the WV sweepstakes championship twice.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career as a barrel racer?
I have had so many influences. Starting with my mom and dad George and Autumn Thompson for hauling me and allowing me to have horses to start with, watching Cody Bauserman and Kevin Henning as a kid and their willingness to answer my questions, to friends I turn to for questions – Jeff Michael, Roger “Mouse” Gibson, Terri Willey, Tom and Jhonda Cox, Jeanie Bowersock or Chuck Tolbert. You never stop learning. Ask questions, take advice, apply it. It doesn’t matter how old you are something will always amaze you!
When you need advice on training or competing, whom do you turn to?
I turn to Jeff a lot of times. He is always honest about the situation and isn’t afraid to tell me the truth, good or bad. I tend to bounce things off of Terri Willey and Mouse Gibson. It’s good to get others opinions and to get solid advice.