Charmayne talks about the importance of setting realistic expectations for yourself and your horse.

By Charmayne James with Bonnie Wheatley

Having realistic expectations of yourself and your horse is an important aspect of healthy goal setting. There are certain people whose physical talents are better suited for certain sports. Similarly, there are a lot of nice, very successful horses out there in divisional barrel racing that may not be suited, for a variety of reasons, to excel in a rodeo atmosphere.

When you’re out there looking for horses, you can spend a lot of money on prospects with the perfect pedigree for success in barrel racing, but at the same time it’s important to be realistic about the process. Just because a horse doesn’t make an elite rodeo horse does not mean he won’t make a winner at some level, or on an adjusted timeline. I notice a lot of different riders trying to make horses fit a mold that might be unrealistic for that individual’s mental and physical abilities.

We always say you never know the full depth of heart and try that can carry horses along through tough competition and challenging circumstances. After having Scamper all those years it helped me realize what makes a winner. He had the old slab fracture injury that we’d had removed, but even though he was very tough, he didn’t have chronic sore hocks or a problem like navicular; issues like that keep horses from being at the top for a very long period of time. He had the ability to be fast, to really go stop the clock. He also had the knack to live and thrive on the road and do well. He had the conformation, mentality and toughness to stay at the top.

You really have to know your horse to learn if they’re capable of meeting the unique demands that rodeoing full-time requires. You have to get out there and compete and go figure out what makes them work and how they handle different aspects of life on the road. Some need more warm-up time, some need less; some horses need to get in the arena prior to the event to get familiar with the surroundings. There are many little things that vary from horse to horse. Every rider has to figure out how their horse does the best and start assessing their goals accordingly.

Doing what you need to do according to your horse’s needs and assessing the horse’s capabilities are both big keys to your success, so it’s important to work hard and be objective about what’s working and what is not. It takes a balanced approach, and it’s very important along the way to believe in yourself that you can achieve success. You can learn along the way because even mistakes serve to help and guide you in the long run. Avoid becoming frustrated, because with every little failure comes a lesson of some sort, even if you don’t see it at that very moment.

It takes lots of time, meticulous care, and hard work to get horses seasoned to the point they become veteran barrel horses. Sometimes you can go spend a lot of money on a horse that still might need some consistency to be where he needs to be to win at the top level. This isn’t necessarily an article geared totally toward people wishing to buy rodeo horses, but if you are in that situation, make sure to consider all the factors with respect to the horse you’re interested in: how the previous owners were riding it, it’s win record, the care it was receiving, etc. In short, learn all that you can, and be realistic about what you may need to adapt to or change. In some cases you can get a horse to work better for you, but in other cases, some combinations are less ideal. For instance, a nervous horse and a nervous rider aren’t likely to complement each other. If a horse is represented as 1D, make sure it’s been running at that level on a consistent basis.

Also, check your own style of riding as a fit for the horse before making up your mind that you want a particular horse. It’s really important to know and trust the people you’re buying from. Know their history, and the horse’s history. For instance, some injections can mask certain problems at the end of a horse’s career, so you want to be well-informed of the veterinary history.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to training or buying the perfect rodeo horse, but be realistic and think your situation through because those really great horses don’t come along all that often, they’re hard to find. 

Article originally published in the June 2016 issue of BHN.


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