By Kailey Sullins
I have had trouble making the time to ride. I leave home in the dark, work all day, come home in the dark and then have to ride in the dark, and the time change has only made it worse—not to mention the cool snap that swept through. And, on the days I work until 7 p.m., the utter thought of doing anything other than crawling into bed when I get home exhausts me, but I have a 2-year-old and I can’t just crawl into bed and forget about my responsibilities…right?
I was getting frustrated, exhausted and discouraged, all because I had it in my mind that I have this looming deadline for my filly.
I thought, ‘She has to be ready to go by the time she’s 3.’
‘All the futurity riders already have their 2-year-olds riding way better than mine.’
‘She’ll never amount to anything if I don’t rider her every single day.’
‘There’s no way she’ll be as nice as Jordon Briggs’ horses.’
‘If I want to be half as good as Jolene Montgomery I have to ride her every second I have, and she has to progress with every ride.’
Then, naturally you can see why I was becoming discouraged. There were days I couldn’t ride because it rained, or I was just plain exhausted from my day at work. Then, there were days when I did ride that I had way too high of expectations. I thought Kitty needed to be loping perfectly collected circles and picking up her leads flawlessly. Simply having a bad day was not an option, for my horse or me.
Well folks, that’s complete rubbish.
Sometimes we have bad days and that’s OK—this includes our horses. Sometimes our horses just don’t understand what we are asking—especially 2-year-olds—and sometimes they just don’t want to do cardio that day. I get that, I don’t want signed-up-for cardio every day either.
I was getting so caught up in my own head examining what other people’s horses look like and how other people’s horses are progressing that I couldn’t compartmentalize the differences between theirs and mine. I couldn’t step back and look at the bigger picture. So naturally, when things didn’t go exactly as I planned or wanted, I would get discouraged because I felt like I was failing.
I finally got a little reminder that it’s not everyone else’s race I’m running, it’s only my own and the things that work for me and my horse aren’t going to be the same for everybody else—and that I’m doing just fine the way I am. I finally realized all this after a talk with my dad and with a little help from Jordon and Justin Briggs—although they didn’t even know they were helping me.
I was explaining my frustrations to my dad one night after riding Kitty and things just didn’t seem to click with us. She was getting frustrated and I was getting frustrated, and it was all going downhill. I couldn’t get anything to work. She didn’t want to trot or lope in circles, she completely forgot what leads were or what leg pressure meant and it was just a mess. So the only thing I could do was slow down, and go back to the basics—in this case the basics of basics: walking. If we were walking, she remembered everything I’d taught her and refused nothing. So that’s what we did: we just walked that day, and then I got off and ended the day on a good note. As I explained to my dad what happened, he said I did everything right and that it’s OK for my filly to have a bad day, and that as long as we ended on a positive note that’s all I needed to do that day and try again the next. I was a little relieved, but honestly I thought Dad was just telling me what I wanted to hear. Until I saw Jordon and Justin.
Bonnie Wheatley, Blanche Schaefer and myself went to Jordon and Justin’s place to work on a training feature on 2-year-olds, which was published in the December 2017 issue of BHN. While we were there, I was able to breath a little easier about my experiences. No. 1, because of the things they expect their 2-year-olds to be doing at this stage in the game and No. 2, because of how many days they said they ride their 2-year-olds in a year.
They don’t expect a lot from their colts at this stage; they want them doing all of the basics, which my filly is already doing—they don’t even get into leads yet. Kitty can travel in a straight line, and she knows what leg pressure means and she rates with my body language. She flexes at the poll, stops, backs up and we are even slowly learning how to pick up leads. That in and of itself sure made me relax about the progress of my horse. No, we might not pick up our leads every time, and it certainly isn’t flawless. We might not know how to lope perfectly correct circles yet, but we can walk and trot them. The point is Kitty is doing great for the number of days she’s been ridden. Which brings me to the most helpful point of the day.
I have been so concerned about riding my filly as much as possible and getting as many days as I can under saddle, because after Thanksgiving she begins her nearly two months off while I go home for the holidays, make the trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the National Finals Rodeo and then pick her back up early next year. So, when Justin said 90–120 days is plenty of riding for a 2-year-old—and it doesn’t even have to be consecutive days—I physically breathed a sigh of relief.
It’s hard sometimes, between work, life and Mother Nature to get a 2-year-old broke. I mean if it wasn’t hard work, then everybody would do it—isn’t that how the cliché goes?
Plus, I’m I really don’t have a deadline with her. If she gets to the point where she’s ready to go by her futurity year then great, if not I don’t have to enter her. I can take as much time as I need or want. Kitty has about 70 days, and sure, she could probably have more, but with only 70 rides and she’s already learning her leads, I think I’m doing just fine. There’s no need to get in a rush or get discouraged about our progress, because she’s doing just fine.
Stay focused, work hard, be realistic, don’t compare yourself to anybody else and do the best you can—that’s all anyone can hope for in this game. You do you, girl.
Kailey Sullins is the managing editor of Barrel Horse News. She joined the BHN team in 2014 and has enjoyed being apart of a team dedicated to not only the barrel racing industry, but the equine industry as a whole.
Kailey grew up in rural Oklahoma where her family owns and operates a cow-calf operation in the small town of Red Rock. Rodeo was a family affair around her place and as such her love of horses began at an early age. Growing up Kailey competed in junior, high school, college and amateur rodeo competing in barrel racing, pole bending, team roping and breakaway roping. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications with a double major in animal science, Kailey began pursuing her career in journalism.
Currently, Kailey lives in Texas with her 14-year-old mare, 2-year-old filly and a 2-year-old black-tri Australian Shepherd named Macy. When Kailey’s not on assignment for BHN or working in the Fort Worth office she can be found training her filly, spending time with Macy or competing in breakaway roping with her mare in professional and amateur rodeos in Texas.
“What Do We Do Now?” is a blog series written by BHN‘s associate editor Savannah Magoteaux, 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.