Blogs —> What Do We Do Now?
By Blanche Schaefer, August 7, 2018
This summer has been exciting and challenging for me. I’ve started hauling 3-year-old Winchester to exhibition, and all in all, things have been going well. We’ve had the standard ups and downs—sometimes he works great and makes me proud of our accomplishments together, but sometimes it all falls apart and I get embarrassed and worry that people will think I don’t know what I’m doing. We usually have those types of exhibitions when all the NFR qualifiers and futurity trainers are there the same night with 3-year-olds clocking on pace with open horses. I come out of the pen wanting to hang a sign around Winchester’s neck that says, ‘I promise she knows how to ride, I know how to change leads, and I have in fact seen a barrel before in my life.’ Isn’t that how it always goes?
I also realized the first time I took Winchester to exhibition was also my first time to exhibition a colt. I knew it required a whole different game plan compared to cruising the open horse through before a race, but I’d never actually had the responsibility of figuring out that game plan before. It’s been trial-and-error of learning what Winchester needs in exhibitions to make it the best experience possible. However, I still sometimes fall short as his rider. I find myself doubting my abilities and wondering if I’m doing the right things, training the right way, doing enough to help him, picking at the wrong things, or fretting that he’s behind other futurity colts.
When I feel this way, I remember a few things:
- Anyone who’s ever trained or ridden a horse has been embarrassed in public. That’s what horses do—they humble us, and you just have to laugh about it, learn from it, and move on.
- As a rider and trainer, you know your horse better than anyone watching you does. Don’t concern yourself with others, even when things are going painfully wrong, and keep an even temper and ride your horse the way you know how. Your job as a trainer is to encourage progression in your horse at a rate comfortable for the individual animal and mold it into the best it can be. Just because someone else’s horse is ready to be pushed a little faster doesn’t mean yours is. Keep going on your own timetable—it’s alright if that schedule is a little behind others.
- It’s equally crucial to ask for help when you need it. Take a step back, go home and work on the fundamentals, maybe skip exhibitions that week, talk to a friend for advice, and go take a lesson with a professional trainer. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily routine that we don’t realize the issues compounding in our horse. A professional, objective eye is a game changer and will always advance our growth as horsemen. It’s okay to admit you’ve messed up and need help.
One of the biggest things that have helped me when I feel discouraged about myself is remembering that everyone started somewhere. Earlier this summer, managing editor Kailey Sullins and myself went out to Ashley Schafer’s place to shoot some videos for TrainingBarrelHorses.com. Ashley is so kind, welcoming, down-to-earth and obviously a very gifted trainer. I was surprised to learn in her bio video that Ashley started out with a pretty common background like most of us did as young barrel racers—bit by the bug and doing everything she could to learn and improve. I felt compelled to look back at the June 2011 issue of BHN, featuring a young Ashley and JL Dash Ta Heaven on the cover winning the BBR World Finals, and was struck by this quote:
“It was an awesome opportunity, becase [Jolene Montgomery] taught me so much about training barrel horses. I’d run a lot, but she taught me about the training part of it. I’m still green at that, but I’m working on it.”
I felt that. I’ve been riding and barrel racing my whole life, but I’ve never trained a horse from the ground up—I’m still green at it, too. It’s hard to imagine someone as accomplished as Ashley in these same shoes at some point, but that quote puts everything in perspective. Instead of doubting myself, I’m taking this as an opportunity to learn from someone more experienced and grow as a horseman and trainer instead. Even the greats were a little green in the beginning.
“What Do We Do Now?” is a blog series written by BHN‘s managing editor Kailey Sullins and associate editor Blanche Schaefer, where they discuss the struggles, joys, and rewards of training young barrel prospects as amateurs juggling full-time jobs, all from a real-life perspective. Read more at barrelhorsenews.com under the “Blogs” tab.
Blanche Schaefer is associate editor of Barrel Horse News. She joined the team in August 2016 after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a public relations degree and a business minor. She found herself right at home in Fort Worth, Texas, at the BHN office, combining her love of horses, journalism, rodeo and barrel racing.
A Texas native, Blanche was raised on a ranch in the small town of Vanderpool until she moved to Austin for college. She grew up riding and competing in 4-H and youth rodeos with her two geldings, Amigo and Petey, and then local amateur and open pro rodeos throughout high school and college with her now-retired mare, Angel Flipper (“Red Molly”). She also rode English for the Texas Equestrian Team in college, competing in equitation through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and in the hunters on the local show circuit in Austin. She is now focusing on her first futurity prospect, 2015 gelding Dashaway Ta Fame (Firewater Ta Fame x Dashawayawinner x Runaway Winner), the topic of her “What Do We Do Now?” blog series.
Outside of horses, Blanche is an avid college football fan and music aficionado. She can usually be found at the barn, on the road to a barrel race or rodeo, out on the town seeing live Texas music or in the stands at DKR watching Longhorn football.