Having the proper skills makes the sport far less frustrating, especially for young riders. The point of what I do as a clinician is to motivate people to become better, to learn all they can. This is especially important for young riders. You want to educate them well so they don’t mistreat the horse they have, so they know that not everything that happens in a run is always the horse’s fault. It’s so important for young riders to learn the importance of balance, a good seat, proper hand position and all the small adjustments that we talked about in last month’s column.
I don’t think it’s much different for a young person that wants to be a competitive golfer or swimmer or anything that you want to strive to be the best at—it takes dedication and constant learning.
Even Tiger Woods, arguably the best golfer ever, is committed to improving no matter what it takes. Tiger adapted in order to win, plain and simple. For Tiger that meant changing his swing, an approach many questioned. He overcame a slump because he changed the way he had played for 15 years and, amazingly, he did get better. What Tiger did went beyond the sport of golf to the idea that people can get better. He knew he could get by with the way he was golfing but he was quoted as saying that to guarantee the long term tournament victories that he needed in order to stay on top, he had to improve. That’s pretty inspiring.
Being a responsible horse owner requires a big investment of time, thought and hard work, but that’s something that will carrythrough in a young person’s life and help them be successful in their career and family later. Every decision comes back, and there’s nothing worse than seeing a person waste time or talent by not taking hold and learning all they can.
The Best Basics
The number one thing kids should learn when starting out is great horsemanship basics: leads, diagonals, position, how to stop, turn, good control. All those things are necessary before attempting to run fast through the barrel pattern and be competitive.
My advice would be to find one of the reputable and proven trainers out there that also has the ability to teach and explain things well. I think that’s an important job for parents—to help their kids find help.
Young people should also study other riders who are really great in the saddle and who are winning. Horsemanship by example is a great thing. After all, no teenager should be jerking on a horse ever. It just shouldn’t be allowed.
Look at LaTricia Duke or Troy Crumrine. These trainers are in great position when they compete. They are perfectly guiding their horses, and they’re training at home to get the correct responses. It doesn’t just happen for them automatically. Perfect timing comes with riding day in and day out, and it’s so important to get out and ride every day and be conscious about your hands, body position, balance, placing weight in your stirrups, sitting to stop, guiding and looking at the right points on the barrel pattern.
Learning to feel when the horse is taking his leads properly, driving the horse’s hind end and feeling when to release with your hands and feet is crucial. To ride well, a person needs to learn great timing and when to keep tension on the reins and when to release. That goes for any age rider. If it’s hard for you to feel the horse’s inside hind leg driving through a turn or to feel when to give the horse release from the bridle, there are trainers that can help you learn what makes your horse work better.
Another point to consider is that a great place to start for any novice rider would be with a reputable reining horse trainer. A reining trainer can help with correct hand and leg position as well as correct body position and control of the horse. A good teacher who is well-spoken and conveys ideas effectively can help eliminate a lot of roadblocks for you along the way, whether that person trains barrel horses or not.
Getting educated about riding correctly will really boost a young person’s confidence. Not only that, but gaining knowledge about good horse care—dentistry, shoeing, keeping your horse sound and feeling good—those things will make barrel racing far more enjoyable and give a young person lifelong knowledge they can use.
Learning and Earning
I think that when a child or teenager prioritizes it shows their parents that they’re dedicated to their horse instead of to Twitter or Facebook, or whatever the latest fad may be. Dedication to your horse shows your parents a level of responsibility and maturity. The simple act of riding each day and taking the time to work on getting better is good in so many ways. It shows your dedication and it keeps you and your horse in better shape too.
Barrel racing is something to learn and enjoy. And when you’re a teenager trying to find your way in life you can learn a lot and have fun at the same time. I think when parents see you putting forth the effort and willingness to improve they will reward that level of responsibility. Teenagers all want freedom right? Well, when you show that you’re responsible, your parents are more apt to give you more freedom if you earn it and don’t abuse it. And that’s a good thing, right?
With anything you undertake there’s always a challenge, so don’t get discouraged. Always keep trying. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and everyone has different challenges and a different path to travel.
No young person knows everything there is to know about riding, so I don’t think it’s a great idea to always compare yourself to others because everyone’s situation is different. You just do the best you can with what you have and set goals and be realistic about them.
Everyone has a different path and a different plan. I think making too many comparisons with others drives jealousy, and that’s not a good thing. For instance I don’t compare myself to another trainer and say, “I’m never going to get that good.” Watch people you admire and that you think have a good style of riding and training, but remember that everyone has a different set of circumstances.
Hard Work and Heart
We often talk about discipline and dedication, but what’s it look like? What’s it really mean to apply it to your situation each day?
Learn these things, because those are the factors that will truly set you apart. Learning to apply discipline and dedication sets you up for success, not only with your horses but also in your life. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “How can I leave the world a better place than I found it? How can I help someone else?” You might learn something on your barrel racing journey that will help you help someone else later.
Learning a new skill gives you something to be proud of that you will always have. Set attainable goals with your horses and just know that even on the down days you are going to accomplish a whole lot just through making the effort. If you’re trying and learning and staying positive you’re not failing.
We all know that some horses have more natural talent and ability than others, but sometimes you’ll have a great horse with all the natural talent in the world that lacks try.
Sometimes a horse with a little less talent but a big heart and a lot of try will take you further. A horse with both talent and try makes a great horse. People are like that too. Sometimes the person that puts in the hard work and has the great attitude will make up for what they might lack in natural ability or perfect circumstances.