By Fallon Taylor with Danika Kent
One of the things I am asked most about is how to deal with pre-run anxiety. I figured something out after the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which, as I’ve talked about before, did not go anything like I had planned. At that time, my anxiety was, “Oh my gosh, I’m on TV and if I mess this up, what are people going to say?” and then, guess what? I messed it up.
You don’t realize what an influence your peers are on you and your way of thinking when it comes to making a run. As much as you try to fight it, for a lot of people, it’s in your subconscious. After the 2013 NFR, I had to train myself to change my focus. I read a lot of books, did a lot of studying, and the main thing I learned was to focus on the process instead of the outcome.
You have to train yourself to quit thinking about the outcome – “What happens if I lose? What if I win? What if I end up in the 3D?” If you take that out of it, you’re able to focus on the task at hand. Then, if the alley set-up is different, or so-and-so is there that you have to run against, it doesn’t affect your run. You are able to focus on the approach to the first, how you’re getting across the pen, the fault you may have to work on at the third, and so on. If you can focus on your run on your horse, you can train yourself to quit focusing on the outcome and really start to focus on the process.
Last month, we wrote down five goals for this new year. I hope you’ve been reading them daily and taking steps to make them a reality. Even if you’re improving by 1 percent every day, just think of where you will be 100 days from now! This month, write down four things to keep your focus on your horse and your run. Tear this sheet out and put it in your truck or trailer where you can read it when you get to the barrel race and keep it fresh in your mind. As an example, I’ll tell you how I break down my run and the things I focus on in the process:
- Leaving the alleyway, I focus on the spot I’m going to ask Babyflo to run to, where I want her front feet to be when I start to turn the first barrel. Maybe it’s a little dirt spot that’s darker than the rest that I can pick out and run to, or maybe there’s a banner on the wall I can line up with. Leaving the alley, that’s what I focus on and I don’t think about the rest of the run until I get to that spot.
- Leaving the first, I have to tell myself, “Don’t go too fast.” I need to focus on getting my horse right where she needs to be. That means sliding my hand down and picking her up and making sure she’s right there with me. Also, I focus on keeping my head down, because I have a tendency to look up too soon.
- Going to the third, my weakness is not picking her up and placing her. I get a little lazy, so I have to remind myself to wake up, slide my hand down, re-engage, look directly at the barrel – which I know is not something everybody does – and really focus on getting her up in there.
- Running out, my focus is on keeping my body as centered as possible so I can let her run harder, straighter. I try not to move around a lot, so I don’t kick too much or worry about my whip. Also, I focus on a spot 100 yards past the timer line so she doesn’t get short.
Now, break your own run down. What are some things you need to focus on with your horse? When you really think about it, it can feel overwhelming, so remember to take it one step at a time.
Danika Kent is managing editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments on this article to [email protected].