Rodeo City Girl

Barrel racer Jillian Zaun stands with her mare, Flashin. The Minneapolis cowgirl will compete in the barrel racing at the Hamel Rodeo, held July 8-11 at the Corcoran (Minn.) Lions Park.

Hamel, Minn. – July 5, 2021 – There’s a cowgirl living in downtown Minneapolis.

Jillian Zaun, a barrel racer and horse lover, splits her time between her mother’s place in Minneapolis with her horses in Somerset, Wisconsin.

She grew up doing the jumper/hunter disciplines on a Welsh/Quarter Horse pony mix, boarding the horse at a local barn. But when she saw barrel racing, which requires speed, she changed her mind.

“I decided I wanted to go fast,” she said. “I trained my pony for the barrels and the rest is history.”

A 2019 high school graduate, Zaun spent her senior year of high school taking classes online as she lived in Colorado, spending her spare time competing at rodeos across the west, in Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon.

In Hamel, she’ll compete on an eight-year-old mare whose registered name is C4 Dark Flashin, but who Zaun calls “Flashin”. The mare, a sorrel with a dun stripe, four white socks and a white blaze, is flashy looking but can be a “dragon,” she said. Zaun provides her with a companion pony, so she doesn’t get lonely, and makes sure she is well cared for.

Zaun’s mother, Lesley Zaun, and Lesley’s four sisters, competed as barrel racers when they were kids. Two of them still have horses, but only one continues to run barrels. Lesley helps her daughter with exercising horses and keeping them in shape.

Her city friends don’t always realize she’s a cowgirl. “I’ve kept my horses to myself,” she said. “In the city, if someone asks, it’s like, ‘oh, you ride horses.’ That’s as deep as it gets.”

She and her mom’s neighbors don’t always understand, either. “Our neighbors probably think we’re weird,” she laughed. “I’ll park my truck and horse trailer with living quarters on the street.”

Zaun loves having her feet in two different worlds.

Barrel racing “is definitely out of place but I couldn’t ask for more. I do love the city and the atmosphere, but I love hopping in my car and driving to my horses.”

She jokes about turning the backyard into a horse pen. “It’s a big backyard,” she said. “I could probably fit twenty stalls back there. One of these days, I’m going to come back and set up pens.”

She will be a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall, competing on the collegiate rodeo team and working on a meteorology and climatology degree.

Zaun will compete during barrel racing slack, the extra competition that doesn’t fit into the performances, on Sunday, July 11 at 9 am.

The Hamel Rodeo takes place July 8-11 and will feature over 350 cowboys and cowgirls, competing in seven different events.

Tickets range in price from $18-$24 and can be purchased online at All seating is general admission.

For more information, visit the website or call 763.478.6611.