By Fallon Taylor with Danika Kent Tackling the mental game and surrounding yourself with positive influences is imperative to reaching the heights of our sport.Tackling the mental game and surrounding yourself with positive influences is imperative to reaching the heights of our sport. Photo by Kenneth Springer

            What a difference a year makes! We have all been through it – bad runs, hit barrels, equipment failure – but most of us don’t live it out on national television in front of rodeo’s biggest audience of the year. Well, in 2013, I did exactly that. It doesn’t make a failure at a local race feel any less humiliating, but boy it would’ve been nicer than on GAC or ESPN!

            So, my 2013 Wrangler National Finals didn’t go my way, but I think I learned more about barrel racing in that 10 days then I have in the last five years of my career.
            Everyone had a fix for my trouble at the NFR that year – drills, tactics, horse psychics, feeds – you name it, I heard about it. When we got home, I went to the practice pen to attack Babyflo and my issues and we tried everything you can find online or see on a trainer’s DVD set, everything that, traditionally, you would expect to work.

            After many failed attempts to fix our issues, I finally took three steps back and took a closer look at what happened over the course of those 10 runs, and I think figuring out what has worked for us might give you some insight on how to overcome your own barrel racing problems. After spending almost 45 days straight in the practice pen, I discovered so much about my horse and myself. All we wanted as a family was another shot at making 10 runs in the Thomas and Mack.

            In 2013, I allowed myself to be influenced by other people’s opinions. I thought I was tough enough to not let those things get to me, but when I got in that alleyway, I’d look at the camera in front of me and think about how many people were watching on TV, and the 19,000 people in the arena, and I knew no matter what I did when I passed the camera, immediately, the social media typing was going to start.

            This year, I focused on mentally going to a different place. I had someone else posting on social media for me. By taking that away, I could’ve made 30 more runs. I set aside 10-15 minutes each day to make bad runs in my mind. I would imagine the worst case scenario, which is the opposite of what most people do. What if Babyflo broadsides, how do I stay in the average or protect myself? If she crowds a spot, how would I fix it?

            Then, I would make another run in my head where I went back and fixed the problems that she and I both have. When you can master things like that, the nerves go away. Now, there’s no anxiety, no nervousness, no anything. Just total calm and focus. That’s not to say that it’s easy or uncomplicated, but you get to a place where you’ve got a task in front of you that you need to carry out, and that makes it a lot easier.

            You have to totally extricate yourself from the negativity. Only share your dreams with people that believe in them. In 2015, if you share a tidbit of your dream with someone and they start telling you everything that’s wrong with it, stay away from them.

            Instead, write down five of your goals and dreams for this year. Tear this page out and put it somewhere, like your bathroom mirror, where you see it every day.

  1. _____________________________________________
  2. _____________________________________________
  3. _____________________________________________
  4. _____________________________________________
  5. _____________________________________________

Like many of you, I have overcome tragedies large and small, ranging from

tipped barrels and bad runs to the loss of my best horses, the near-loss of my own life through a riding accident, and the fear of returning to competition at the highest level after a major injury. What I hope you can gain from my journey is the ability to understand your own, and how to better communicate with your horse in order to map the perfect path to success for you!

            Danika Kent is senior editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments on this article to [email protected].

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