Nellie Miller explains her simple approach to a healthy horse and success on the road.

One of the most important things I have learned in the past few years is that details matter. If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. for “Sister” (Rafter W Minnie Reba) and I to have a good run, it is more about the small things leading up to the run than the run itself. It can be a challenge to keep horses performing at a peak level when you are hauling them across the country from rodeo to rodeo. Since health and nutrition is always a top concern for barrel horses, I decided to write a bit about how Sister and I stay healthy and strong while we are logging those miles on the road.

If you really want to get to know your horse, put them in the trailer and haul them for a month straight. Things happen and horses change while you are traveling, and it will really test the partnership and eventually make both of you stronger. Knowing your horse and what is normal for that horse is the most valuable information you can have in this sport, because a horse must feel good in order to run good. 

When I took Sister on the road for her first big tour, I expected to have some hurdles to cross before we got ourselves lined out. I see too often that girls get discouraged on their first big trip and go home too soon. If you can ride it out, the relationship between you and the horse will get much stronger, because you learn so much about each other. 

When I am trying to figure out what Sister needs in her diet, I lean on my veterinarian for consultation. Aside from myself, he knows her better than anyone else because he has been through the ups and downs with us. Together, we make decisions for Sister based on what she needs as an individual. I am interested in nutrition and know a little, but my vet is the professional who is qualified and more knowledgeable about nutrition than I am. It has been such an asset having him on-call to filter all the nutrition options for me. In the end, we make decisions based on what’s going on with Sister. When it comes time to choose a product, my vet puts all of his scientific knowledge into what supplement or treatment will be the right choice. With so many choices and options on the market, it is easy to get caught up in the new big thing. 

It can get overwhelming when deciding what is best for your horse because of all of the options and opinions out there. After we zero in on what Sister does well with, we try to keep it as consistent and simple as possible. 

My vet uses the term “cooking” when we mix up her feed, and he always tells me we don’t want to spend a lot of time “cooking.” Less is more, and consistency is important. We are very hesitant to try new things unless the benefits outweigh the risks. We don’t want any of her supplements to be counterproductive to our goal, so there is a lot of thought that goes into adding a new product to her diet. 

Traveling is equally hard on humans as it is on equines. The same theory goes for my own nutrition as well. I perform better when I feel good, and simple is better. It might seem more convenient to stop and grab fast food, but for myself I find it just as convenient to hop in the trailer and grab something from the fridge. I try to grocery shop whenever I get a chance, because having healthy, fresh options in the trailer is key to keeping myself on track. There are many unexpected variables while traveling, so whenever I get a chance to keep things consistent, I try to do so. There is less room for errors when everything is consistent. 

Since becoming a mom and rodeoing at the same time, I have adopted the policy that simplicity is usually the best way to go. This includes decisions for my horse and my family. When you start to confuse an issue with too many options, it makes it harder on everyone. As a mom I am constantly worrying about little things, so if I try to maintain a simple routine, I am a much happier person. If you have less things to worry about, the more you can focus on the important things. 

This article was first published in the May 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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