As we segue into the year, we thought it would be fun to focus on a few simple resolutions that can powerfully impact your riding.
Start off with a great attitude and a love for your sport and for your horse. I find that people who love their jobs and love what they’re doing can advance because they carry that passion through to keeping an open mind and a willingness to learn and improve. And remember, your horse is going to reap the benefits of your positive attitude, too.
Be diligent in your riding as far as being consistent, keeping your horse in shape and prepared when getting out to events. Get out to events and when you do, be thinking about things you need to do on that horse that will help make it easier on him to do his job better.
Pay attention to the health needs of your horses, from their dental work to shoeing, and be conscientious about any soreness issues that crop up. Horse health is such a big piece of the puzzle. If a horse is sore or uncomfortable he’ll start getting into some bad habits to compensate and if you let it go those can be hard habits to change.
4. Equipment check.
Make sure that your tack and equipment is in good working order. I see bits on backwards, set too low, hung on the headstall upside down, or pinching when the rider picks up on the reins. Check your tack to make sure it fits correctly and comfortably. Make sure your saddle doesn’t pinch your horse’s withers. For the most part, I think the newer saddles fit pretty well, but make certain you’re not riding a saddle that pinches, has a broken tree or in any way creates soreness in your horse.
5. Correct your mistakes.
If you are hitting a lot of barrels or running wide, more than likely it’s not due to a bit issue. Take the time to honestly and objectively evaluate your riding and keep an open mind to learn what you need to do in order to make penalty-free runs. (We talked a lot about this topic in the December column in case you may have missed it.)
6. Don’t worry about what others think.
When you are going out to barrel races, do not worry about what other people think about you or about what they may be saying about you. You are rarely, if ever, going to please other people all the time, for the most part anyway. People tend to get shy or nervous because they think others are watching them or criticizing them, and it’s a difficult pattern to overcome. The more you work hard and focus on your efforts and goals, the less it’s going to matter what other people think of you—unless you are mistreating a horse, which leads right into my next point.
7. Don’t mistreat your horse.
Don’t ever mistreat your horse because of your own bad riding. If you invest time in riding, not just around the barrels, but getting horses good and broke and in horsemanship and a good, solid training program, you will avoid unnecessary abuse to a horse.
Confidence is not something people just have, it’s something that has to be earned. You gain confidence by working hard, attaining goals you set for you and your horse and by helping your horse get better and be faster. For a horse that is not worried, it just kind of happens that they improve and meet expectations. As the rider you’re their leader so you want to build confidence in them through correct fundamentals.
Feeding good, quality feed is so important. Feeding quality hay on a consistent schedule and providing clean, fresh water all the time will help your horse stay healthy and happy. Don’t let them run out of water. Always hang your buckets at events so they can’t get tipped over causing your horse to go without water for any length of time.
10. Take care of yourself.
What you eat and how you take care of yourself is the first of all disciplines. If you’ll eat nutritious foods and take good care of your own health it leads to a disciplined approach of riding daily and not acting out in anger when things go wrong. Staying in good shape ties into how you ride and care for your horse because you have the energy necessary to do the things you need to get done in order to be competitive. Everybody, no matter their body type, has a way they need to eat to take care of themselves right, so I urge you to do that.
For more information on Charmayne James and her books, videos and clinics, visit charmaynejames.com.
This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of Barrel Horse News.