By Fallon Taylor with Danika Kent

A big part of courage is overcoming tragedy, and every single one of us has a story. We’ve all fallen off, been bucked off, or been in some kind of wreck, and most of the time it didn’t have anything to do with barrel racing. Dealing with that experience, from a psychological standpoint, takes courage. For me, that tragedy was getting bucked off. 

0415FallondashboardRobbyFreeman webThings don’t always go as planned, but persevering in spite of accidents makes success even sweeter. Photo by Robby Freeman, courtesy Fallon Taylor.

I was riding what I considered to be a very safe horse when boom! It happened. The wreck that nearly ended my career thankfully changed my life for the better. Every single failure can either consume us or give us amazing insight and ultimately lead to huge successes. Of course, success can mean different things to different people. Out on the road, I am going after a gold buckle. At home, I just want to lope a nice, collected circle on a colt and call it a day. At times, it’s hard to say which takes more courage.

Think about your biggest horse scare or something traumatic that has happened to you. In the past two issues, I’ve shared my standpoint on focus and preparation. Now, let’s talk about overcoming the tragedies that are keeping us from being our best. Here’s what I did: 

1. Re-establish your comfort zone. I’m sure most peoples’ fears are not based on running the pattern itself, and in many cases, working on your horsemanship can go great lengths to overcoming your fear. I took riding lessons for several months from World’s Greatest Horseman, Ron Ralls. He helped me deal with things. From him, I learned to sit in the middle of the horse better and where the buttons were, so if I were to get in a bad situation, just like a colt, I would have a foundation to go back to. I think we, as riders, need to work on our foundation just the same as a colt does. The faster you desire to go, the better foundation you need. 

2. Step outside of that comfort zone. I dedicated a lot of time to getting outside of my element, waking up at 4 a.m. every day, driving the miles and putting in the hours doing something I wasn’t used to doing. I was working with a cow horse guy, totally intimidated about what he would think about my riding and feeling like I shouldn’t be riding in front of him. It didn’t matter that I’d won half a million dollars; when you step into another discipline, you’re a nobody and at the bottom of the totem pole, gleaning completely from another person’s knowledge of a horse and how to operate one.  

3. Build your confidence. At the end of the day, we’re onboard animals that read energy, so we have to take accountability for our own anxiety and make sure our horses don’t feel insecure. When we pull up to a barrel race, horses know what they’re there for, but they still depend on us to be confident leaders. If we’re nervous and insecure, those emotions are bigger than ourselves. 

Confidence is 80 percent authentic and 20 percent fake it ‘til you make it. We tell our friends how nervous we are, but if you can refrain from talking about that and just take action, thinking about your horse’s reflection of you and how you can be a better leader for your animal, that will go a long way for your own confidence. We need to stop talking about how terrifying it is for us because we’re in charge of an animal that doesn’t get the option of whether they want to be there or not.

So, on that note, outline a plan of action to overcome your own fears.

What has been your biggest scare with a horse? 

Write down three things you can do to overcome your fears. Think about what makes you anxious and how you can improve that away from the pattern. Remember to keep the barrel pattern a happy place for both you and your horse. It might be as simple as turning circles in the middle of the pasture, working on the fundamentals. Later, you can apply that to the run, without the anxiety.

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