Maegan Reichert and Marvin

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Maegan Reichert takes the term "multi-tasking" to a new level.

The young Texan (she turns 22 on July 2) from Mount Pleasant nearly won Rookie of the Year honors in 2005 and went to her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo just two years later-all while going to college fulltime.

The health and kinesiology major maintained a 3.72 grade point average and aced her other finals-the National Finals-with 10 clean runs, but admitted it sometimes got tough to keep it all together. "When I'm at the airport I'm studying, and when I'm on the plane I'm either studying or sleeping," she said last fall.

Big Tex Trailers helped her with the juggling act by flying her on the company plane when she wasn't on a commercial flight (her mother, Denise, drove her horses). Reichert, who wants to work in physical therapy or cardiac rehabilitation, may continue on to graduate school after earning her bachelor's degree at the University of Texas in Tyler in 2009.

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No newcomer to the arena, Reichert was only

8 years old when she started running barrels at amateur rodeos and was a veteran by age 18. She eschewed college rodeos to go pro that year. And, in all her abounding spare time, Reichert trains colts, modeling her techniques in large part after clinician Ed Wright, who'd given schools at her place when she was a kid. Reichert's 13-year-old backup horse Toucha Trouble has been hers since he was 3; she's won a trailer among other loot on the former United Professional Rodeo Association Horse of the Year. She does some praying, too, and lists as one of her favorite verses: "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

Five years ago, Reichert's plans were rocket-launched in pro rodeo by a brown sparkplug named Andele Cowboy ("Marvin"). The little horse with the big personality is by Weekend Rodeo Cowboy (a double-bred grandson of Pa Jones) and out of a Tiny Charger-bred mare. Reichert bought the gelding, now 9, as a youngster from his trainer, Jackie Whitcher. Less than two years later, she'd won the prestigious Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up on him and nearly made the '05 NFR.

Reichert landed just out of the top 15 again in '06, but then nailed down her first qualification last year and was the youngest barrel racer at the Finals. After a wayward first run, Reichert and Marvin got down to business and, in rounds five through 10, never clocked slower than a 14.05. They raked in $53,941 for placing in five rounds and nabbed third in one of the toughest NFR average contests in years.

It takes a true horsewoman to stay with the hard-trying, four-wheel-drive Marvin, and Reichert can do it even in the tiny Thomas and Mack Center without using the saddle horn. The crowd loves the athletic Reichert's aggressive style, but they're even more nuts for Marvin. Fans surprised Reichert at her first Finals by naming Marvin the Fort Dodge/AQHA Barrel Horse of the NFR.

Reichert, sponsored by Big Tex Trailers, Charlie 1 Horse, Petrol and Preifert, hasn't let school slow her and Marvin down this spring, either. They'd already won a large handful of Texas circuit rodeos and were again sitting in the top 10 in the world by Memorial Day.

On the following pages, Reichert critiques her smoking run last season at Reno, Nev., her quickest time yet at the NFR, and the fast time this spring in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Check out Reichert's self-designed Web site at www.maeganreichert.net.

Winning Reno in 2007
Marvin was running really hard across the arena, and I was lifting my inside rein here to keep the turn tight. I ride Marvin in a Shallow Creek lifter bit. I'm also looking ahead to where my next step is going to be (I try never to look at the barrel).

When I ran the 16.92 to win the second round, Marvin had actually taken off hard to the right, so I was on the wrong side of the first barrel on the way there! That made me a little nervous, but it worked out. His style is that you can't touch him, but I was able to help Marvin more in the turns at Reno by lifting my rein more.

Marvin's one of those horses that you never know what he's going to do, but I like the challenge.

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Running a 13.87 for third in the NFR's 10th round
I have the bat in my outside hand because I was ready to use it as we were leaving the barrel. I had also used it around second in my first few runs, but then went to two hands on the reins to be safer and keep Marvin up so he wouldn't commit too early. I guess it's kind of wild, but I have to ride Marvin all the way into the turn.

Almost every picture I have from the NFR, Marvin is in the same position. He's close to the barrel with a slight arch and his body in motion. My outside rein is loose and I'm lifting my inside rein up slightly.

I was extremely proud of Marvin at the NFR. In the first round, he'd gone kind of long because we didn't hit the first turn very good and had some mistakes. But he had a great first NFR and steadily became more competitive with each run.

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Winning Corpus Christi in May
I knew the picture of this run was going to be interesting. I really had to ride hard at Corpus. At the second turn, I threw my weight forward in order to avoid hitting the barrel. That would be the reason I'm not sitting down in the saddle.

Marvin was really working well here, but was wanting to turn a little too much. In the end, we were able to leave them up, and it really paid off. I use back boots on him in order to avoid burning his heels because, as you can see, he really gets his butt in the ground.

Marvin has a very dominant, outgoing personality. We've grown together. When I first got him, he liked buildings and little pens, but he's matured and learned how to handle things better.