As Associate Partner and Director of Sales for Wolfgang Puck Catering, Kimberly Gora has conducted everything from intimate affairs to extravagant galas for A-listers from every corner of the world. Whatever she sets her mind to, she accomplishes ten fold - in and out of the office. However, when Gora removes her heels and pulls on her boots, she’s a professional barrel racer. She talks to us about her passion and her equine partner, Sixx.
You grew up on the beach in Southern California?
As a young girl, I remember going to Santa Anita and Hollywood Park with my Grandfather for the horse races. I was always enamored with the horses and the jockeys. I wanted to be a race jockey. They would tell me I was going to be too tall and I would cry. As a beach girl, I never got to ride horses but always found them magical, there was something about them that called to me.
I didn’t even learn to ride a horse until I was 40. I had met a gal at an industry event and in conversation she mentioned horses. Well, I took a few private lessons and was hooked. So…I bought a horse! That first year I just learned how to ride. The second year was when I decided to get serious and learn barrel racing. I got my first finished barrel horse who knew the game (me not so much) but I was dedicated and determined. Sadly, my horse passed away from colic. I was devastated. A dear friend pushed me to keep going. On I went and got my next horse…then the next horse then super Sixx, my horse now. My unicorn. My blessing.
Tell us about Sixx?
Sixx, my amazing and very talented barrel racing partner, is a champion. He was honored as Montana’s Horse of the Year by the Northern Rodeo Association and is a true athlete. He loves his job and it shows in every run. When I first got him, I was told “if you want to see this horse come alive, take him to a rodeo.” The old saying the faster you cheer, the faster they run is Sixx. I can never repay this horse for what he has shown me.
How does it feel to compete?
It is the most exhilarating feeling as you’re waiting for that gate to open, sitting on top of a 1,200-lb animal with a trust that can only be felt - not explained, feeling his heart race a mile a minute underneath you, the adrenaline, that energy you feel between your horse and you is indescribable.
How do you find time for training?
Riding is my calm in the storm. I will go out to the barn late at night after work, early in the mornings, whatever it takes, especially on race or rodeo weeks. My horses give me their all. It would not be fair to just go out and ask them to run their guts out for me if I haven’t done my part of keeping them, and myself, exercised and in top shape for competition. There are so many things that factor into barrel racing. My motto for life is to always go into things 100% prepared, ready and give it your all no matter the outcome. I apply this to barrel racing as well. I spend hours in the saddle, training with top trainers, attend clinics, read articles, try to apply and adapt to a riding style that fits for me. It’s a feeling and a personal one.
What do you love most about barrel racing?
The relationship with my horse. The trust you build, the unconditional love for each other, seeing the team you become. You are trusting your life to a live, unpredictable animal that could kill you if they want. To know they trust you and you trust them, going mach 5 with your hair on fire around three barrels is the most intoxicating feeling ever! I have a ritual of talking to my horse before every run, loving on him and saying to him alright boy, let’s go do this I swear he is part human because he looks me in the eye every time like he’s saying it back let’s do this.
Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you wanted me to? If so, please answer the question!
When I first got into horses and was learning barrel racing, I was so worried on how I was going to be judged, by everyone. I wish I had the same confidence I have now back then, to not worry and throw that kind of negativity out the window. One of the best lessons I have learned through all of this is to follow your heart wherever it takes you. Horses have brought me more joy, happiness, amazing friends and wonderful memories that I will always treasure. We can all have the best of both worlds. Happy trails to everyone!