Use these three pieces of advice from world champion Hailey Kinsel to help navigate your barrel racing career. 

By Hailey Kinsel

If I could go back and tell myself a few good things about horses, competing and life, boy, would I jump at the chance. I would save myself some heartbreak, some lessons and some precious time. Now, I wouldn’t change how things went for me, because the blood, sweat and tears that could have been avoided made me who I am today. With that said, there are some hoops I maybe didn’t have to jump through to get here. I would like to give the young, aspiring barrel racer a few words of advice coming from someone who has been there. Here are three key things to remember on your wonderful journey through youth barrel racing

1. Say “thank you” to the pole setters. 

Seriously, setting up poles had to have been one of the worst volunteer jobs in youth rodeo. We hit them left and right and took for granted they were set up in perfect position by someone’s mom or dad for the next one of us to try not to hit some more of them. I remember my mom always setting poles, and it wasn’t because she liked it, but my mom is the type who doesn’t need a pat on the back to do what is necessary—she just does it out of love and support for us kids. She and many other pole-setting parents I watched were a special kind of folks. The type of person I can see more clearly now—the gate man at the rodeo, the woman picking up trash in the parking lot, the group of ladies in hospitality trying to make enough burger patties for everyone. By noticing and thanking the “pole setters” in your life now, you will develop a habit of recognizing those people who do the thankless jobs. That sensitivity you learn will help make others feel important, and that is something we all—no matter what age—have the power to do. 

2. Right now is not your only chance. 

I remember at the high school finals my senior year, I hit a barrel to win the second round and make nationals. I bawled my eyes out! My horse was 16 and winding down her competitive years, and I thought going to nationals was the highest honor I would ever see in barrel racing, because that was as far as I could see at the time. Sounds silly now, right? But high school me was devastated. I thought I let my horse down. As it turns out, “Josey” still doesn’t know we missed out on anything. She made the runs she had left, was retired at 17 and has given us three beautiful colts we are now riding and loving. She is enjoying her pasture life, and I have gone on to more opportunities on other horses she taught me to ride. 

3. Be willing to work, and work hard. 

You may or may not get that once-in-a-lifetime horse anytime soon, so set some goals and make some plans of what you will do in the meantime. When I was in college, I hit a gap. I had just retired Josey and was riding my mom’s horse at the college rodeos. I didn’t have a horse I could win on anymore, and trying to find that horse was mentally and emotionally taxing. It was my spring semester of freshman year at Texas A&M University where I was taking 16 hours in a major I ended up changing. All I could see in my near future was papers and scantrons. I made a promise to myself in my dorm room to work my way up the ladder. I would work small jobs throughout college to pay my entry fees at the jackpots on our colts. If I didn’t have a winner by the time I graduated, I would get a part-time job or one with online access within my degree and work for a futurity trainer cleaning stalls, saddling, mowing their yard, whatever I could do, so I could watch and learn. Within those four years, before I could do all that, “TJ” entered my life, and then “Sister.” But first, before those blessings could come, I had to keep my chin down and commit to work with whatever I had. Had we not found those two great horses, I would bet you could find me today two years out of college cleaning someone else’s stalls, working my way up. 

I hope these three small pieces of advice can help you become a better and more gracious competitor. Whether you continue with rodeo after junior high or high school or move on to another field, I hope you can take these kernels of wisdom with you. I believe they can help you learn the easier way some lessons I learned the hard way. Regardless of how you learn those lessons, savor each blessing and learning experience that comes your way during the summer rodeos. Good luck!

Until next time, Hailey Kinsel

Article by Hailey Kinsel originally published in the July 2019 issue of Barrel Horse News. 


Hailey Kinsel is a two-time WPRA World Champion barrel racer with more than $1 million in lifetime reported earnings. Each month she shares her tips, advice and expertise with Barrel Horse News readers in "World Champion Reflections" found each month in the magazine and online. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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