By Charmayne James with Bonnie Wheatley, originally printed in the April 2016 issue of Barrel Horse News
Everyone has a time and place when they are experiencing great success. The best response is to have gratitude when it’s you and happiness for others even when it is not you. Ups and downs are definitely a part of barrel racing, and you can’t let your attitude be ruled by them. When someone is winning more compared to you, you have to know that no one wins all the time and it’s important to treat people well, regardless. An attitude of gratitude beats an attitude of jealousy every time. If it makes you feel less validated or become jealous when someone is beating you, take a look at your situation and make your mind up to do the best you can with what you’ve got. You might be experiencing a time in your life when you have a young family or a young horse and priorities are different. Everyone’s situation is different, so don’t become caught up in comparing yourself with others, because that really doesn’t matter.
For me, now that I’m older and wiser, I see things more clearly and understand that I’m not going to waste my time worrying about impressing other people. The important thing to me is constantly trying to learn and become better. Whether it’s working to be a better horseman, a better person, a better parent, or living a healthier lifestyle—just working and trying to do a better job is fulfilling in itself. Through those efforts, you learn a lot and oftentimes things get easier as a result.
Look at Lisa Lockhart, the way she treats other people and her love for her horses, her gratitude; she’s a great example. It’s very important to be a fair-minded competitor. Wanting to win the right way when you know you’ve worked hard and it’s paid off—that’s really cool.
Every barrel racer encounters bumps in the road along the way, so it’s important to learn to keep a positive attitude and wait those struggles out, keep working and learn from the challenges you face. That’s really the essence of the story of Scamper and me—never giving up. Scamper was that way—no one really wanted him and he was passed around a lot, but the idea that you keep trying against the odds—that was him. That’s what made him great, because no matter how hard it was or how the odds were not in our favor, we overcame them. When he came to me, just an optimistic kid with belief in him and the enthusiasm to try, it was like nothing could keep us down. A prime example is when one vet told us to get another horse because Scamper had ringbone and would never make it at the professional level. That was before I ever bought my Women’s Professional Rodeo Association card but just goes to prove if you try hard and fight and never give up, you never know what can be accomplished.
As a kid, I was so blessed to have parents who supported and believed in me. I didn’t have to struggle with a lot of negativity from my parents because they were behind me. With that said, I’ve seen a lot of people who have overcome incredible obstacles and made it despite bad circumstances. Sometimes it seems like people have that moment that can make or break them, and that’s what flips the switch for them. They overcome the negativity and the challenges to make good out of a bad situation.
You have to believe in yourself and your horse, be dedicated and gracious as a winner. You have to be humble and hardworking to be each one of those things, and through that good, positive attitude, it creates your own luck.
Being out rodeoing, I remember what it’s like to go a month without winning a check. You get down, broke and frustrated. Going through that at one point actually helped me seek out Scotty Wilson, an equine chiropractor, for Cruiser (2001 WPRA World Champion mount Cruisen On Six). I had vets tell me that was not the right approach and would never work, but I knew something wasn’t right and being at the bottom of the barrel helped me find an answer that got Cruiser back to working to the best of his potential. I tell people now, I’ve been to the school of rodeo and the university of hard knocks, and I’m happy those experiences can help other people with their horses.
Charmayne James is an 11-time WPRA World Champion Barrel Racer and contributes a monthly column to Barrel Horse News. Email comments on this article to [email protected].