Mental Prep with Hailey Kinsel

Have you ever wanted to dive into some of the knowledge of the professionals to know what they’re thinking in certain situations or over a certain subject? This blog is specifically designed for that. A few times a month, I will be interviewing the professionals to find out their tips, tricks and approach to specific topis, such as mental preparation, entering shows, horse health, balancing barrel racing and life and more.

Being mentally strong is a common struggle for a lot of us in the barrel racing industry. So, for our first “Pointers from the Pros” blog post, I wanted to tackle this topic head on. Who could be better than 2017 RFD-TV’s The American Barrel Racing Champion, Hailey Kinsel?

Hailey’s had a lot of success in her career, but most people probably recognize her as The American champion, and now most recently, as the College National Finals Rodeo Barrel Racing Champion. It doesn’t matter if she is at the local jackpot with 20 entries or if she is about to make a run at the biggest paying one-day rodeo for a chance to split $1 million dollars; she knows how to stay cool, calm and collected. I was able to grab her for a quick Q&A over this topic to see how she does it so well. 

Mental negativity has been one of Hailey’s hardest challenges she’s faced, but she’s been able to overcome it with a few simple tasks.

“It’s not just about being positive 5 minutes before your run. It’s a day-to-day thing,” Hailey said, adding that her preparation is a daily routine. When she goes to the gym to work out, she has the same mental positivity and determination as when she goes to a barrel race. “Every day you have to work on training your mind to think in a positive manner.” 

One way she trains herself to become prepared for runs like The American is instead of thinking the usual “treat it like it’s just another local jackpot,” she says she “treats every run like I’m running for $1 million, so that way when I do get to the big stage I am already prepared for it.” 

HaileyKinsel American web
Hailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday at RFD-TV’s The American on Feb. 19, 2017. Photo by Kailey Sullins

A few weeks before the semifinals, she went to a jackpot at the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, where The American Semifnals was held. Hailey took the opportunity to use it as a preparation race for the semifinals. 

“I told myself ‘treat this like it’s the semifinals’ and I even made myself nervous before that run, but it worked because when I was back in Fort Worth for the semifinals, I wasn’t nervous,’” Hailey said.

Another thing Hailey says helps her is that she knows whatever happens, she’ll be fine—it’s OK to lose at times. 

“Even when I wasn’t winning checks I had to train myself to be happy, and once I did, everything started turning around,” Hailey said. “The results are already set by God, so there’s no need to get nervous. Just enjoy it.” 

When asked if she was nervous the day of The American, Hailey said, “Yes, but I was mainly tired and just wanted to stop for a second.” 

So that’s exactly what she did. She went to the trailer, sat down, and simply thought about how amazing the opportunity had been, as well as thinking it was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so she focused on taking in the experience. 

“I just had to enjoy it,” Hailey said. 

When Hailey was walking her mare, DM Sissy Hayday, down the alley before the start of the barrel racing, she heard fellow competitor Chris Martin yell “Breathe!” Hailey says she didn’t know she wasn’t breathing, but Martin shared a few words of encouragement, which helped calm her nerves. Then she knew she was ready. After she walked out of the alley, she found the quietest place in AT&T Stadium, prayed, and got ready for her winning run. 

This article was written by Shelby McCamey. McCamey is an avid barrel racer and senior at Tarleton State University. Photos by Kailey Sullins. 


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  1. Linda Kaye Serinaldi Reply

    What saddle brand did Hailey Kinsel ride during the 2020 NFR?

    • Blanche Schaefer Reply

      Hi Linda, Hailey rides a Martin Stingray.
      -Blanche, BHN

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