By Martha Josey and Ashley Schenck

Watching football, basketball and especially the Olympics has always been one of my favorite things to do outside of working horses. However, everyone watching the NFL or other sports network does not see half of what these athletes do. We do not watch the countless hours these athletes pour into their training, nutrition, technique and yes, critiques.

One of my favorite memories from my rodeo career was competing at the Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Being around so many talented athletes was a true reminder of how important it is to have a winning mentality. An Olympian spends their life working toward an Olympic gold medal. They do not just wake up one day thinking they will go win the gold. They spend hours practicing, critiquing and striving to better themselves. For the ones who return, they have spent four years dedicated to training to prepare for the next Olympics.  

As a barrel racer and a horseman, I held myself to these same mental standards. Training a horse takes time and effort. Not only do you need to have drive and determination, you need to find a winning mentality that works for you and your horse.

Where to Start

Nobody starts off as a world champion. Though I had grown up around horses, I did not know how to barrel race. As a high school student I went to Louisiana to watch a rodeo. Watching the barrel racers in the arena, I knew that I belonged down in the arena with them.

The next day, I hunted up my dad’s roping saddle, grabbed one horse that belonged to my dad and set up a single barrel in my grandmother’s hay pasture. Though I did not have the luxury of an arena or a trainer, I was determined to be a barrel racer.

In the beginning, set small goals for yourself so that you gain confidence as you progress toward your main objective. For a barrel racer just starting out, your first goal could be as simple as completing a successful exhibition. Though it does not seem like much, in the grand scheme of things this accomplishment can help propel you further.

Keep Setting Goals

Once you accomplish a few goals, it can be very easy to set them aside and just keep riding. Do not quit setting goals! Goals give us direction and something to strive for. As you and your horse progress, continue to set attainable goals that you can complete. For someone who is running at local jackpots, you might set your goals to cut down your time and move up through the divisions. If you are running in the 3D, become determined to run in the 2D. If you are winning in the 1D at smaller shows, make it your goal to place at bigger shows.

As my riding improved, my goals became bigger. They went from winning my hometown barrel race to traveling across the country to win a rodeo. When I set my goal to go to the National Finals Rodeo, I picked the rodeos I wanted to compete at that year. On the last go-round at the NFR, I was already looking ahead to see what rodeos I wanted to win the next year. Those individual victories took me to the NFR 11 times and four consecutive decades. The practice I had with my horses were strategic for how I wanted them to perform. Had I slacked in my training program and goal setting, I might not have been the winner I am.  

One of my goals was to always be on the look out for my next champion. You do not have to be the only one to set goals for yourself. R.E. Josey was always fantastic at spotting future champions. He has helped me find many of my great horses as you may have heard one of my many stories.

Your goals should be progressive, gradually becoming more challenging. As you and your horse work, refining your skills and fine tuning your runs, be prepared to chase your goals to a new extreme. Amidst the big hurdles, do not forget to celebrate the small victories. It is the hours in the practice pen that put you at the pay window.  


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