ORANGE PARK – The Clay Maverick’s is one the oldest Barrel Racing Clubs in the Jacksonville area. It has been around since 1964 and offers children a chance to learn to ride and to compete in …
ORANGE PARK – The Clay Maverick’s is one the oldest Barrel Racing Clubs in the Jacksonville area. It has been around since 1964 and offers children a chance to learn to ride and to compete in barrel racing and rodeo. It touts world championship qualifiers and a world champion among its ranks.
“It’s a very family-oriented, Christian-oriented, barrel racing club,” said Rayford Leverette, president of the club. Leverette became involved with the club in 1967 after being discharged from the Navy. He began as a rider and eventually rose to hold the club’s position of president twice.
“Kid’s can learn to ride and compete. They go on, and some of them become professional rodeo riders, and some of them become NBHA [National Barrel Horse Association] riders,” Leverett said.
Those who ride at the club on Tanglewood Boulevard must bring their own horse. Races are held almost every Saturday evening. In addition to the races, games such as Cloverleaf, Arena Race, Pole Bendin, and Texas Barrel Weave are also played.
Members pay $5, and non-members pay $10, which is a relatively low price for the opportunity to ride, learn, and engage in competition.
Leverette also believes that riding teaches kids responsibility, honesty, integrity and has a very positive bearing on kids. Riding and caring for the animals, in addition to being involved with others and engaging in camaraderie and competition, are some of the activities that help foster those qualities Leverette espouses.
Among the most talented riders of the Maverick’s is Gracyn Blakney. She competed and won an NBHA Youth World Championship at the age of 13, competing in Perry, Georgia.
“In the horse community, we’re very popular,” said Gilbert Yrigollen. “As far as word of mouth, and within the horse community, we have the best arena. It’s just a really great arena. The surrounding community, they know about us. They know about the arena. Sometimes on a Saturday night, depending on the weather, of course, you can find a lot of them walking up to the arena and just sitting in the bleachers [watching the riders].”
Some of the riders drive from as Georgia with their horses. Some of the riders come from multiple generation families.
Leverette has seen many of the riders grow up and bring their own children and sometimes grandchildren to carry on the tradition as Clay Maverick’s.
“The old saying is: give a girl a horse and she stays away from boys and drugs,” Leverette said.