World champion Nellie Miller discusses why a trusted team is key to a winning run.

When we think about barrel racing, we usually think about the relationship between horse and rider. While it’s definitely an important part of the equation, there are several more relationships essential to the success of a team that usually get forgotten or overlooked completely. A huge part of my success in the course of the past couple years is due to the people on my team.

In the past I have talked about how important it is to have help when you are on the road with your family. Having a horse on the road is the same; you need help in order to keep that horse happy, healthy and winning. On “Team Sister” we have a vet, farrier, coach and trainer, manager and jockey, to name a few. Everyone on the team functions at a very high level, which leads to the horse doing the same. In the barrel racing world, opinions are easy to come by and we all have our own, but I think it is a mistake to assume that one person can know how to do all of these jobs.

My job is to ride the horse. That is what I am good at doing, and that’s what I have the most experience doing. So the majority of knowledge in that department lands on me. My vet or my farrier wouldn’t know how to ride the horse the way I do, because it’s not what they are good at. So when it comes to a veterinary issue I don’t pretend I am a vet, because I am not. I didn’t go to vet school, and I don’t work on horses day in and day out like a vet does. If we have a problem with Sister, my vet has most of the knowledge for those decisions, because it’s his job. The same goes for our farrier and the rest of the people on our team. Everyone has something they are really good at, and I want to make sure they can do their jobs without holding them back, because that is what’s best for the horse and team.

In order for members of our team to have the freedom to do what they’re good at, we constantly communicate with each other. When there are decisions to be made for the horse, the whole team plays a part. We are always talking to each other to make the most educated decision. This is when it’s important to have the right people on your team, because communication and open-mindedness is key to any good team member.

Let’s face it, nobody likes a know-it-all and nobody likes to be told what to do. If you remember those two things, everyone on the team will be happy to play the game with you.

Choosing the right people is the hardest part. Finding people with the right attitude is a huge task that falls onto you as the horse owner. Luckily, I have my husband as my manager and my dad as my coach to lean on when I need to decide these things. Trusted people with a common goal are the people you need on your team. In order to achieve a trusted group, stick to the facts as best as you can and listen to the people who speak in facts rather than opinions. If in doubt, follow your instincts. If something or someone on your team doesn’t feel right, then it is time to make changes.

It is easy to assume a winning run is between horse and rider only. I think a lot of people believe it is just good luck, but I like to believe it is good teamwork. It took me a long time to realize exactly how much teamwork goes into a winning run. There are a lot of different aspects to control in this game.

I try my best not to be a control freak, because I don’t want to drive myself and everyone else crazy. I try to hand over the control whenever I can, whether it is to my vet, my farrier, my coach or my horse. For me it’s easy to do, because I trust everyone on my team. It’s a great feeling when everyone and everything comes together and you get to celebrate a big win. It is even better when you get to share that feeling with everyone on the team.

This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Barrel Horse News.


Nellie Miller is the 2017 WPRA World Champion and rode her home-raised and -trained 11-year-old mare Rafter W Minnie Reba (KS Cash N Fame x Espuela Roan x Blue Light Ike) - affectionately known as "Sister" - to the title. Miller has amassed $625,517 in Equi-Stat recording lifetime earnings. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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