Dekkers' road to become 2007 Division Six World Barrel Racing Champion was filled with unexpected last minute problems.
After an unbelievable winning season, Diesel, Dekker's first division horse, sustained injuries that made him unable to run in the barrel racing finals in Waco, Texas, on Nov. 8-11.
After a quick call home, Anna drove to Canton, Texas, a week before the competition to give two horses some time to get settled in at Dekkers' farm. She brought her own entry and a 24-year-old mare named Moonshine for Dekkers to ride.
Dekkers rode Moonshine during her high school competition days, but it had been 12 years since the two competed together.
A family friend who was also going to the competition, Nancy Hopkins, brought Dekkers a younger horse named Mo. Although faster, Mo could be a handful at the gate.
Now, with two horses to choose from, Dekkers, her husband Deon and Anna (and their horses) left the farm and headed to compete in the third day of the finals.
The plan was to get to the arena fairly early and warm up both horses, paying special attention to how well Mo did, before choosing which one to ride. It would be a choice between a potentially slower, aging horse with experience and a younger, speedy horse with some jitters. But, the best-laid plans have a way of unraveling.
A flat tire on the way didn't allow much time for the group to warm up their horses before their part of the competition.
"We did make it there in time for me to warm up my horse, by my run was anything but impressive," Anna said about going into the arena first.
Dekkers was next, but there wasn't enough time for Mo to warm up. Moonshine would have to go into the arena. The rider/horse team ran a 17.248 time. (There were approximately 1,300 rider/horse teams that competed during the finals.)
"Not bad for a rider and horse that hadn't been together in 12 years," Anna said of her daughter's first-place time on the third day of finals.
Deon did well on his run in the fifth division, but not as well as his wife in her division.
Anna said Deon kept supporting Dekkers, telling her that everything was "meant to be."
The family knew that if Dekkers' time remained unchallenged by the remaining riders, she would be the 2007 Division Six World Barrel Racing Champion and win a new 2008 Dodge truck. Hopeful, but realistic, the family returned to Canton.
"We knew there was a chance she would get bumped out of first place if any of the remaining riders ran a faster time," Anna said.
As a way to unwind and enjoy some quality time together, the family planned to attend the Dallas Stampede and the Kelly Pickler concert after attending church services Sunday afternoon. But the suspense and anticipation was so much, that when Dekkers checked the official event website for her standing information, she couldn't help but yell.
"I was in the kitchen when Carri screamed, 'Mom, come here!' She was leading the sixth division," Anna said.
Knowing there was a chance she had won, and that the concert tickets could wait, Dekkers' called her husband and said, "Let's go pick up a truck!"
The two-hour drive to the arena seemed to take forever, with Anna and Dekkers making frequent phone calls to Deon's mother and brother to repeatedly check the internet and see if anyone had beat her time.
"The ride to Waco was one of the longest in our lives," Anna said. "We said we wouldn't believe it until she was sitting behind the wheel and driving that truck."
Officials were setting up the awards in the arena when they arrived, but Anna, Dekkers and Deon had to check the finals board one more time to make sure they weren't dreaming.
"And there it was, 'Carri Dekkers riding Moonshine Jetta … first place in the sixth division'," Anna said proudly of her daughter's win. "People just couldn't believe that Moon was 24-years-old and had that running time. Deon knew what he was talking about because Carri drove out that new Dodge diesel out of the Waco arena that night with a big smile on her face."
Anna said her family learned many lessons from the week they spent together at the competition.
"One of the biggest lessons for us was although we don't always understand why some things happen," she said. "We must trust that God really knows what's going on. We know that there will be more times that we have to remind ourselves of that, but it was so evident in all that took place that week in Waco."