PeelBack
Nellie Miller and Rafter W Minnie Reba at the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Photo by Ross Hecox

The older I get, the harder it is for me to remember how I was as a kid. Now that I have kids and interact with more children, I am remembering more and more of the things I used to do. When kids are growing up they have certain people they idolize, and I wasn’t any different. For me, it was Charmayne James. People ask me quite often what my advice would be to people who want to barrel race. There is a lot of advise floating around out there, but there is one thing I remember reading in a Charmayne James book as a kid that has stuck with me my entire career— consistency pays.

I was about 12 years old when I decided I wanted to barrel race. Before that, I honestly didn’t have much interest. The stars really lined up for me. My dad happened to be pretty good at training horses, and we had quality horses I could ride. I had an advantage compared to someone who was starting from scratch. At the time my dad never put much thought into barrel racing, but his approach on training was straight-forward and consistent. When I was learning to barrel race I didn’t have the fastest horse around, but I definitely had the most consistent. I realized you don’t necessarily need the fastest horse to win. After reading Charmayne’s book, I decided “consistency pays” would be my mantra. I never really let go of that.

My goal for all my horses is consistency to the point that when you go into the arena during a hailstorm, there won’t be any doubts about turning three barrels. Consistency builds amazing confidence for the rider and the horse. The hard part is getting to that point. I won’t lie; it takes a long time to develop the type of consistency I am talking about. I think people hope for a magical fix for their horse, but I have yet to figure that out. The fixes that work for us usually involve a lot of time in the saddle.

Young horses are like kids—they are constantly learning things, good and bad. They make mistakes and that is OK, the trick is teaching them how to do it right. If you want to have a consistent horse, you must have consistent actions. If you are sending mixed signals, it adds to the horse’s confusion and delays the learning process. I think a lot of people struggle because they get overwhelmed with advice and information. They aren’t sure what direction to go with their horse. There needs to be a clear end goal and the knowledge of how to achieve it. My personal goal is to have a perfect run with three perfect turns going at a high rate of speed. I am always striving for this, because of course I don’t have perfect runs every time. When I do, I know it’s because I worked toward my goal.

Consistency might not be the most glamorous way to win, but it gets the job done. We all want things to go perfectly every time, and we sometimes forget that perfect is usually unattainable. Don’t forget to be happy about small victories and know that the game isn’t over—there is always more to strive for. You may not make the fastest run of the rodeo, but you might win the most in the end.