Charmayne James has learned from years in the barrel racing industry to seek out multiple sources of advice, go with her gut and consult professionals and fellow barrel racers alike.

I remember a lot of instances where people told me that Scamper was never going to last and that I needed to start looking for another horse. He had ringbone in a front foot, and I was only 12 or 13 at the time—before I ever turned pro.

I knew in my gut that giving up on him was not going to be the case. It really didn’t even faze me other than adjusting my priorities to working on Scamper to make sure I could keep him sound. The diagnosis pushed me more toward learning and figuring out how to manage it rather than getting discouraged and throwing in the towel. If this happens to you, I believe you should start by getting a second opinion and learning everything you can. I talked to vets, people in my circle and reached out to friends in the racehorse industry. The biggest thing I did was start learning and figuring out how to take care of him. I knew it was just part of the road and part of our journey.

When you’re trying to find good advice and figure out what works the best, you’re going to run into advice that will help you, and there’s a very high likelihood that you’re going to get some information that doesn’t help you. It’s all about discernment. Gather a collective amount of information from people you trust—your friend down the street, your horseshoer, another barrel racer or family member. Everyone has different opinions, and you have to sort through it. You may have to try multiple approaches until you see results and find what makes sense for your horse.

Charmayne James has learned from years in the industry to seek out multiple sources of information and consult professionals.
When looking for advice about issues with your horse, consult reputable veterinarians, farriers and professionals or friends who’ve found success and whom you trust and believe in. Photo by Abigail Boatwright

I think it’s important to keep an attitude of learning and overcoming rather than thinking it’s the end of the world. For example, let’s say your horse is diagnosed with EPM. Instead of falling apart, be the person who thinks critically and focuses on the solution — what’s EPM? I need to learn about it. Then you learn that as long as your horse isn’t too bad, they usually come back from it just fine. Try to be the person who responds to a diagnosis by saying, “Let me research this. Let’s see what I can do to make it better.”

Knowing your horse and going with your gut can be a difference maker in finding the solution to a mystery lameness problem. I think a big part of riding is having a good feel for the horse under you—that tells you a lot if they’re not stepping right or if you feel like they’re stiff or short.

We love our vets, and they’re necessary to the health and soundness of our horses. However, nobody knows your horse like you do. One vet says this, one vet says another thing, and one may say nothing is wrong, so now you’re at a loss. One of the biggest misconceptions I learned over the years is that just because one vet didn’t find anything wrong with your horse, but you feel it and you know it, a lot of times you are probably right. This is where second, third or even fourth opinions are crucial—if you stick after it and start searching out the right people, you’ll find the person to help you and get on the road to solving the issue.

When filtering through professionals to consult, personally, I try to find somebody who has a good reputation, whom multiple people like and have had success with, and who is trying to do the right thing and is a good person. I’ve had great success with the local vet or shoer down the road, because most of the time the local guy is truly trying to help you. It’s not always about the biggest and the best or most expensive vet clinics. I believe integrity is the greatest thing. It’s a matter of finding those people who love their jobs and are always trying to get better at their profession. The best professionals I ever ran into loved their jobs and were very nice people.

In the end, you’ve got to stay centered and grounded and not eaten up with fear and worry. I truly believe that keeping a positive mindset can lead you to the right people who can help you, even if you weren’t necessarily looking for them. This never seems to happen when you’re not in a good state of mind. Sometimes the right people come around when you least expect them.

I believe there’s a lot of power in prayer. I don’t believe we are just handed the answer our prayers—we still have to go on the journey to find it—but I think through those prayers you begin to find some clarity and hope.

This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue of Barrel Horse News.

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1 Comment

  1. Cindi Buckel Reply

    Great advice and one I’ve used often and referred others to do. As a lifelong equestrian I grew up on 200 acres in Florida. Horses were our livelihood. Boarding, horseback riding, horse shows. I began barrel racing at 9 and continued through my 40’s. Your advice is right on the mark! At 65 I still ride but haven’t barrel raced in a while. I have of couple of halflingers one of which is quite famous after he jumped into our partially sunken above ground pool. Google Zephryhills horse rescued from pool and you will see this actually made worldwide news! He’s been desensitized to everything as we are part of a search and rescue for missing children as well as The Mounted Sheriff’s Posse. Good Luck to you! Never stop doing what you love! 🐎🛢️☘️

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