By Caroline Wigmore
NEW GERMANY, MN - Today, PJ Burger is no stranger to the roar of a huge crowd as she speeds around the rodeo arena, but it was on her parents’ New Germany farm that she first developed her skills and passion for horses.
Burger is the daughter of Mick and Sue Sondergard, though today she lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Joey, who is a rodeo man, himself.
She is off to an impressive start for the year, as she was recently named to be among the 2009 top 10 by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, and was named a world qualifier in American Quarter Horse Association, all of which are very prestigious awards in the rodeo world.
Her success is probably due to the early exposure she got to horses during her childhood on the farm, when she participated in horse shows, 4-H and high school rodeos.
“I started riding when I was 3 years old,” Burger said. “I rode ponies for as long as they would let me, and moved on to riding and training horses.”
Burger graduated from Watertown-Mayer High School in 1992, and later made the move to Oklahoma to get away from the cold.
“One day I was sick of the cold and decided I was moving south for the winter,” Burger said.
“I realized that some of the top horse trainers were from the south, and well, the rest is history. I love it down here,” she added.
Burger said that she is doing what she always wanted to do with her life. She is also building off of the legacy that her rodeo husband and in-laws have begun.
Her husband is a competitive team roper, which means he is part of a two person team, where one person ropes a stear by the horns, while the other person ropes the back legs.
Her mother-in-law, Mary Burger, is the 2006 women’s professional world champion in barrel racing, competed in rodeos all around the world and has won many other championships.
Burger’s father-in-law, Kerry, is a farrier, which means he is a specialist in hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of a horse’s hoof and the placing of shoes to the horse’s foot. Her brother-in-law Todd is a barrel horse trainer.
Burger has tried training all sorts of horses, but prefers barrel racing horses.
“I have always gone back to the barrel horses. They are the most fun to me,” she added.
Barrel racing is a rodeo event where a horse and rider attempt to complete a pattern around barrels which are preset. The winner completes the course in the fastest amount of time.
The event combines the horse’s athletic ability with the horsemanship skills of the rider.
Burger said that she has had her fair share of falls when her horse is making a sharp turn around a barrel, but that she has never gotten a serious injury.
Burger has been on the covers of several different horse racing magazines, and her racing information can be found on www.rubybarrelhorses.com.
A YouTube video of Burger doing horse training can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=efYb7Ot_KLw.