Why the right attitude and realistic expectations matter in barrel racing.

Like it is in anything you go after in life, the process of keeping a positive attitude is important to success in barrel racing. People need to start with realistic expectations from the get-go.

The No. 1 thing to remember is God made us all unique with different purposes for our lives. I interact with people who assume I only like to work with high-level riders. That’s really not the case. Yes, it’s fun to work with riders who are really into running barrels seriously at a high level, but the truth is I love to help people just as much who are involved for the fun of barrel racing. I like helping kids, novice riders and older people who may have raised a family and just want to get outside and enjoy riding again. I know from many years spent teaching clinics that you have to let people be who they are. People can be at any stage in their riding, but if they seriously want to learn and improve, it takes a positive and willing attitude.

Time and Effort
First, understand your level of commitment to barrel racing and how good you want to become. Identifying how much time you have in your schedule to realistically devote to riding, learning and competing is a crucial step.

If you’re a parent and you want to get your child started with riding, it’s going to be a different level of time and effort than if your kid wants to compete at the top. One youth rider might be motivated to just go out and have fun, whereas another might be looking at it with certain titles and goals in mind.

It’s important for someone who is intense about wanting to attain a lot of success in barrel racing to be willing to put in a lot of time and hold themselves more accountable than someone doing it purely for fun. If you have National Finals Rodeo goals, you’ve got to be prepared to spend more time riding, learning, watching others and training. You’ve got to learn all about traveling down the road and what it entails, how to keep horses sound and working under extreme demands and varying conditions. That’s a vastly different situation than jackpotting for enjoyment on the weekends. When you learn to be conscious about making good use of the time you invest in your horse, the hard work and dedication will cause you to improve.

Strike a Balance that Works
I don’t know that there’s a perfect definition for people with a good attitude, but to me it means striking a healthy balance of expectations and finding solutions. You can’t be so laidback about things that you become overly complacent, nor can you be so intense that when things don’t go perfectly you are instantly stressed out, aggravated and angry.

Watch and Learn
Watching and learning from the habits of people who’ve had long-term success is beneficial to developing a good attitude. People who’ve been at it a while and have learned from their own mistakes are often willing to offer positive words of encouragement to those eager to learn.

After you’ve put the work in, you’ve also got to roll the dice, go out and compete, then learn to fix things that weren’t perfect for the next run. Being objective without overdoing it is part of keeping your attitude right, because there’s a giant list of variables in barrel racing—shoeing, bits, saddles, nutrition, ground conditions, and more.

People sometimes watch others and want to do exactly what this person or that person does, but I’d caution you that it’s not a great idea to constantly compare yourself to others. Watch those whom you admire to pick things up that you might like to try and see what works for you, but learn who you are as a rider and how that affects your horse. Are you timid or aggressive? You’ll need to learn how the way you ride translates to your horse and determines its reactions.

To me, when working with young riders, I think many of them are super smart and oftentimes have a great feel. Kids also have a lot of energy and naturally want to take the wheel and go for it. When things don’t go quite right, it’s important as parents to offer support and help analyze situations to determine where kids can improve, consider what type of help will benefit them and stay engaged in their efforts.

Regardless of age or riding level, none of it’s easy and you can always count on ups and downs in barrel racing. One thing about it, though, is that the hard days make you appreciate the good stuff. You don’t always see people’s struggles, but remember that everyone has different hurdles to overcome. Be resilient and stay optimistic. One thing about my career is I always believed I could do it. Don’t ever count yourself out, and as parents, don’t count your kids out either. Stay positive and help one another develop the courage to go for it.

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of BHN.


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