Reigning world champion Jordon Briggs shares insight on how to make the best out of your first venture into professional rodeo.

The way I’ve always transitioned horses into rodeo is by their derby year, I’ll season them in amateur rodeos for about a year. My goal is to make the amateur finals and get my horses seasoned to performances with crowds and loud music.

The other thing this helps you do is get your horse used to the ground. Do research into the amateur rodeo associations in your region and find out what the reputation for ground is before you take a young, unseasoned horse to a rodeo that might have bad ground.

This is how I seasoned Frenchmans Jester, Famous Lil Jet (“Rollo”) and several others. It allows you to get your feet wet with rodeo. Then, you’re ready to go to the rodeos where you’re traveling farther away from home. It’s discouraging to drive five to eight hours and have a bad run. I get discouraged fast, and the seasoning process is hard no matter the horse. Not all of them start off winning at the rodeos. Sometimes it takes six months to a year. I don’t get as discouraged if it wasn’t as long of a drive.

Also, getting your horses in different setups is crucial. Some of the rodeos the barrels are close to the fence, more so than they are at jackpots. There are some rodeos where the barrels are way off the fence. Getting used to all those different setups and how to handle them for your personal style and abilities is important.

What I’m learning now is even though Rollo went to the National Finals Rodeo last year, this is our first year to go to the big building rodeos like the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo, San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo and at Rodeo Houston. Houston is very intimidating. When I went to practice yesterday morning, I was like, ‘Holy cow, I hope he sees the first barrel.’ San Antonio was also intimidating. It was loud, very bright, and the crowd is almost eye-level with your horse. Rollo had a couple runs in San Antonio where he was look-y. But that’s part of rodeo and horsemanship—learning what your horse likes and how to handle situations to give your horse his best chance.

*Editor’s note: After this interview at press time, Briggs and Rollo won the first round of Super Series 1 at Rodeo Houston.

One thing I’ve learned is there’s no safetying up in pro rodeo. You might be able to safety up if the ground’s bad or a first run somewhere to get confidence for the next one. I’m a very average-minded person. I want to keep advancing, keep making checks. I’ve had to learn in rodeo if your attitude is, “I’m going to make a nice, smooth run and get to the next round,” you’re going to get your butt kicked every time. Once you get past the seasoning stage and building your confidence as a team, when you make the plunge to pro rodeo full time, you have to go for it. You need confidence in yourself, and you have to go for blood every run to compete with the top girls and horses.

I also believe a consistent horse that wants to do his job every time is vital. We call them “bad boyfriends”—the horse gives you a couple runs to make you think they’re the greatest thing in the world, and then they screw you over for a few runs. I would rather have a solid 2D horse that gives me the same run every time, then one that blows everybody’s doors off one run and then makes four crappy runs in a row. That messes with your confidence and your ability to be a competitor, and being a good competitor is a huge part of rodeo.

You also season yourself as a competitor and strengthen your mental game. With everything in life, focus on the positives. Anything your horse did better than the last run, think about that.

Then, make sure to get rest. Rest is important so your brain can give you the best chance at being a strong competitor. Don’t have stress in your life—focus on your job and your horse. Know your limits and what needs to be right in your world to be your best competitor.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of Barrel Horse News.