At the College National Finals Rodeo this week, athletes from all over the country are in Casper competing their hearts out for the chance at a national collegiate title. Perhaps equally important to the success of the contestant is the athlete wearing the saddle- the horse.

Listen here:

Elizabeth Combs from Sam Houston State University lights up when talking about the horse that she brought to the CNFR. The bond between Combs and her barrel horse, Skeeter is beyond measure.

Combs raised Skeeter from a colt and trained him how to barrel race herself. The 8-year-old horse has only been competing for a year, but was bringing success for Combs and put her in the number one spot for her region in the fall. But a phone call over Christmas break regarding Skeeter's eye quickly cast doubt on his ability to perform the rest of the season.

"I ended up flying home 10 days early from Christmas break to take care of him and I didn't realize it was going to be as bad as it was," said Combs. "He couldn't open his eye at all. He couldn't see out of it, couldn't open it."

The veterinarian told Combs that Skeeter had a fungal infection in his right eye and if the medication did not work, her horse would lose his eye.

Combs injected medication into her Skeeter's eye every two hours, day and night, the first week she arrived home. Then, for the next few months she continued to give him medication at different intervals.

Her dedication and love for her horse paid off. Skeeter is in town competing with her this week and even though he still has no vision in part of his right eye, after the slack round on Tuesday, Combs was leading the average in the barrels.
Combs is happy about her performance so far and says she has been looking forward to coming back to Casper for the CNFR.

"Everybody wants to make it to Casper to go to the college finals," Combs said. "It is a really fun time."

Performances begin at 7PM tonight through Saturday. Combs and Skeeter will compete again on Thursday night.