Set riding resolutions that will help you make 2020 your most productive barrel racing season yet.
By Charmayne James with Bonnie Wheatley
Start off with a great attitude and a love for your sport and for your horse. I find that people who love their jobs and love what they’re doing can advance because they carry that passion through to keeping an open mind and a willingness to learn and improve. Remember, your horse will reap the benefits of your positive attitude.
Be diligent with your riding as far as maintaining consistency. Keep your horse in shape and prepared for getting out to events. Get out to barrel races and when you do, be thinking about things you need to do on that horse that will help make it easier on him to do his job to the best of his ability.
Pay attention to the health needs of your horses, from their dental work to shoeing, and be conscientious about any soreness issues that may crop up. Horse health is such a big piece of the puzzle. If a horse is sore or uncomfortable he’ll start getting into some bad habits to compensate. If you ignore it, those can be hard habits to change.
Make sure your tack and equipment is in good working order. I see bits on backwards, set too low, hung on the headstall upside down, or pinching when the rider picks up on the reins. Check your tack to make sure it fits correctly and comfortably. Make sure your saddle doesn’t pinch your horse’s withers. For the most part, I think the newer saddles fit pretty well, but make certain you’re not riding a saddle that pinches, has a broken tree or in any way causes soreness in your horse.
Correct Your Mistakes
If you are hitting a lot of barrels or running wide, take the time to honestly and objectively evaluate your riding. Keep an open mind to learn what you need to do in order to make penalty-free runs.
Don’t Worry About What Others Think
When you are entering barrel races do not worry about what other people think about you, or about what they may or may not be saying about you. You are rarely if ever going to please other people all the time, for the most part anyway. People tend to get shy or nervous because they think others are watching them or criticizing them and it’s a difficult pattern to overcome. Invest in yourself by working hard. Focus on your efforts and goals because as you see your hard work pay off, the less it’s going to matter what other people think of you—unless of course you are mistreating a horse, which leads right into my next point.
Don’t Mistreat Your Horse
Don’t ever lose your temper and mistreat your horse, especially out of frustration with your own bad riding. If you invest the time to become a better rider, not just around the barrels, but developing better horsemanship and a solid training program, you’ll save yourself and your horse a lot of frustration.
Confidence is not something people just have; it’s something that has to be earned. You gain confidence by working hard, attaining goals you set for you and your horse, and by helping your horse get better and be faster. For a horse that is not worried, it just kind of happens that they improve and meet expectations. As the rider you’re their leader so you want to build confidence in them through correct fundamentals.
Feeding quality feed is so important. Feeding quality hay on a consistent schedule and providing clean, fresh water all the time will help your horse stay healthy and happy. Don’t let them run out of water. Always hang your buckets at events so they can’t get tipped over causing your horse to go without water for any length of time.
What you eat and how you take care of yourself is the first of all disciplines. If you’ll eat nutritious foods and take good care of your own health, it helps achieve a disciplined approach to riding daily. Staying in good shape ties into how you ride and care for your horse, because you have the energy and attitude necessary to do the things you need to get done in order to be competitive. Everybody, no matter their body type, has a way they need to eat to take care of themselves right, so I urge you to do that.
This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of Barrel Horse News. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.