Sometimes, you just KNOW a champion when you see one. That’s how I felt when I met Michele McLeod.
Michele has an enthusiastic groundedness about her. She exuded genuine positivity and humble confidence – no doubt a huge part of what makes her a force to reckon with in the arena.
It just so happens that Charlie Cole of High Point Performance Horses has a very good eye for talent. Not only did he see it in Michele, but in special young black stallion that first turned his head at the 2012 AQHA World Show.
According to this article in Rodeo News, Charlie stated, “I texted my business partner and said I saw an amazing horse just run. The next day I watched the finals and the way he worked I just knew he was a special horse. He used himself well and had explosive power away from the barrels and accelerated his way to the next one. He kept his feet moving around the barrel.”
Long story short, this incredible horse, rider and owner trio joined forces and resulted in a fairy tale year for everyone – ultimately resulting in a #3 qualification spot for the National Finals Rodeo with $109,591 in earnings.
Although a hardworking and successful barrel horse trainer and jockey for many years, until recently, Michele McLeod wasn’t exactly a household name. Until this year, she has chosen to stick fairly close to home. However, when an incredible partnership (and an incredible horse) presented itself – it only made sense to jump (run) at the opportunity, and hit the road!
Michele had a great summer. In the same Rodeo News article, she was quoted as saying “When you’re winning like that how could you not,” she said. “Some of the all night drives we did were a little nerve wracking. It was so different for me – I’m used to working all day long, riding horses. For the summer I took three horses with me in addition to Slick, but sitting in the trailer waiting for the rodeo took a little adjusting.”
Her whirlwind of success required a whirlwind of traveling but resulted in winning Omaha, Nebraska, Hermiston, Oregon, Nampa, Idaho, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Belle Fourche, South Dakota, Guymon, Oklahoma, and also included wins in Montana, Wyoming, California as well as success at the American Quarter Horse Congress in Ohio.
When the WPRA covered her Justin Boots Championship win, Michele laughed and said “I’ve spent more time in the truck now than on the back of a horse. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. This year has been incredible and I’m really excited about going to the finals.”
Michele’s excitement is contagious, and I’m happy to share some of it with you in the video below.
I asked about what she learned while on the road this year, and we also discussed what makes her phenomenally talented and beautiful equine partner, Slick By Design, so special.
To follow Michele and Slick’s progress, as well as support her sponsors, check out the links below!
High Point Performance Horses – Slick By Design on Facebook
Michele McLeod Barrel Horses – McLeod Ranch on Facebook
Just A Little Western Web Site – On Facebook
Deuces Wild Tack Web Site – On Facebook
In today’s video (LIVE from the NFR!), I’ve shared a summary of tips the top 15 barrel racers shared when asked “How do you stay physically and mentally fit with all the difficulties of rodeo life?”
There were definitely some common threads in their answers, however I felt as though Shada and Sydni’s every word on this topic were also worth sharing in print…
SHADA BRAZILE: “Physically, I have pretty much been adapted to the rodeo lifestyle. I run every chance I get, I run bleachers. We spend a lot of emphasis on horses physical condition and it’s equally important for us to be in shape, and have a strong core to ride them the way we need to.
As far as mentally I thought I understood the mental pressure of competing watching Trevor, there are so many ups and downs I really didn’t understand how to compete when you had to win. I really don’t think you can understand it until you have been there. What really helps me is to go to the arena before I run and envision my run.”
SYDNI BLANCHARD: “I stay gluten free, which allows me to cut out wheat, barley and rye and allows me to eat more meat, vegetables and fruit. Physically, I work out every day; we have a gym at the home and I try and keep the same schedule on the road which gets hard. I make sure I do cardio every day, so I will either run stairs or run the bleachers at rodeos or I have a jump rope that I keep in my tack compartment, so every time I open my tack I will jump rope real quick. Just things like that you have to do, it’s hard, you are an athlete and you have to treat your body like you are one. You just have to ask yourself, how bad do you want it?”
There’s no doubt that high level barrel racing requires supreme balance and timing, as well as extreme physical and mental quickness. For many of us, achieving physical and mental fitness is a journey – one often inspired by experiences that lead us to realize that we need improvement in these areas, OR by an unrelenting desire to be the best at whatever we set out to do!
In my experience, one of the first steps toward following through with our physical and mental fitness goals is to realize how important fitness really is, and what a HUGE part our health plays in how we perform in every arena of life. Physical and mental/emotional fitness are very much connected – neglecting these areas dulls our edge, not just as competitors, but as humans! Lack of movement, lack of sleep, poor food choices, and poor thought patterns don’t just “slow us down” in competition, they negatively impact how we perform on all levels.
A second step on this journey comes in experimentation. Often we don’t know how poor we feel until we’ve committed to making better choices – otherwise we have nothing to compare to. Start with making commitment to taking really great care of yourself – even temporarily if you find it hard to commit and follow through at first. After a couple weeks or even a few days, you’ll most likely experience a difference powerful enough to motivate you to keep it up. Don’t feel pressured to do it ALL at once – slow steps are better than no steps.
It’s my belief that another huge factor when it comes to staying on track, has to do with the relationship with ourselves. Staying physically and mentally fit is very much connected to our own self-worth – it’s a representation of how much we value ourselves, AND how much we value our passions and purpose! We were each only given one mind & body, taking excellent care of ourselves is a reflection of gratitude for them.
Although working out when you don’t feel like it, making good food choices, and staying on track mentally IS hard at times, when you understand how huge of an impact physical and mental fitness plays in how you show up in the world, and when you personally FEEL the difference it makes, AND you truly value yourself, it becomes much easier.
So there you have a little of my two cents on the subject of physical and mental fitness. Now, enjoy the video below for more tips from the TOP 15 NFR barrel racing qualifiers!
Do YOU think physical and mental fitness is important for barrel racers? What are YOUR tips for staying healthy when traveling? Let’s hear it in the comments below!
For even more insight in the area of physical fitness, check out “Will You Be Sore Tomorrow, or Sorry?”
To kick start the new year with a strong mental foundation, you’ll enjoy “Gain the Barrel Racing Confidence You Need to Succeed.”
To learn more about becoming a professional barrel racer as a member of the oldest women’s sports association in the world, visit www.wpra.com.
Do you ever just wish you could have coffee with an NFR barrel racer? You know, pick their brain a bit… ask them what it’s REALLY like – the check-in, the parties, the meetings, grand entry practice, barrel practice, waiting in the alley, navigating all the excitement and obligations that come along with being a barrel racing super star!?
If you’re obsessed with horse power, today’s post not only allows you to get up close and personal with rodeo’s leading ladies as they arrive in Las Vegas and prepare for the National Finals Rodeo, but includes links to pedigrees of the horses you’ll see racing down the tunnel each night.
No matter where your specific interests lie, there’s no doubt about it – getting the low down from all 15 of the 2013 NFR barrel racers is not only a great learning opportunity, it’s just plain fascinating!
So I won’t hold you back any longer, in the #1 earnings position heading into the prestigious ten day event is none other than three time world champion and SIXTEEN time NFR qualifier…
Tell us about the horse(s) you will be riding at the 2013 NFR?
I will be taking MP Meter My Hay, aka Stingray, an 11 year old and MP A Man With Roses, George a 10 year old; both horses are by PC Frenchman Hayday.
How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?
Stingray never stops moving all the way around the barrels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big pen or a little pen she runs the same.
What are you looking forward to most when you get to Las Vegas?
Hopefully winning lots of money!
What is an average day for you at the NFR?
After I get my Starbucks, whatever sponsorship obligations I have, I fulfill them and then get ready for the rodeo! I am not much of a nightlife person so I don’t stay at a casino hotel, I stay at a hotel that is real quiet. Read more… »
It’s what every little barrel racing girl dreams of – blasting down the alley of the Thomas & Mack, laying down record setting runs with thousands of fans screaming, then standing on the stage and taking home the gold.
The truth is, what qualifying for the NFR might look like from the outside, and what’s really necessary to make that dream reality, are two very different things. If you’ve ever been to the NFR to watch in person, it may have even fanned the flames of your burning desire to be competing there one day even more. It’s no wonder, a prestigious event like the National Finals Rodeo adds even more glamour and excitement to a sport so many of us are already smitten with.
If you haven’t already embarked down the pro rodeo trail, then what you don’t see or experience are the hardships and challenges – the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows, the many miles, the sleep deprivation, the horse, parking, weather, and vehicle problems, etc., etc. It all makes the actual barrel racing part look easy, BUT you already know that part is indeed NOT easy either.
I can’t say that I’ve made my own NFR dreams come true (yet), but I’ve had the opportunity again this year to share special input from 15 women who have. Rodeo’s leading ladies were asked “What quality do you feel barrel racers need most in order to make the dream of qualifying for the NFR a reality?”
Below I’ve included their answers, as well as a deeper look at what I personally feel is necessary to make a trip down the alley at the Thomas & Mack. Again, not that I can speak from actual experience, although I’ve been fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time competing with, riding with and learning from numerous World Champions and NFR qualifiers, and one can’t help but connect a few dots and draw some conclusions in the process.
So let’s get started diving into “What it takes to make NFR Barrel Racing Dreams Come True.”
Read more… »
When a person really dives into, studies and understands the principles of natural horsemanship, deciding to put the ideas into practice becomes somewhat of a no brainer. It just makes sense – especially to the horse, which is why it’s so valuable to us, as humans. In my mind, there isn’t a group of equestrian disciplines that the principles of natural horsemanship apply to better, than those of timed speed events.
What natural horsemanship offers, is an opportunity to develop ourselves – both what we must understand in a mental sense and in the habits we must acquire physically, so we can really understand, and then optimize our horses. When we’re able to bring out their best potential in this way, we’re essentially putting the odds more in our favor to be successful in competition!
We must learn to do our part to inspire the horse to stay with us mentally and physically, take responsibility for moving with quality without being micromanaged, and even responsibility for managing their own emotions (at high speeds and under the stress of hauling and competition, no less). Sound too good to be true? It’s not!
Horsemanship instructor and clinician, Matthew Bohman helped a handful of students and I do just that recently. Although I stepped in as a part-time teacher at the “Principles for Performance” clinic, my dedication to never-ending self-development had me also playing the role of student. In this article, I’ll be sharing five of my personal takeaways from the event, in hopes that you might learn or benefit from the insights, until YOU have an opportunity to ride with Matthew and/or I yourself! Read more… »
Before I dive into an effective exercise for flexing and elevating our horse’s ribs, it’s critical to understand the reasons WHY achieving this roundness through a horse’s midsection – both latitudinally and longitudinally, is so important.
To start with, a horse that is dropped or concave down its topline will tend to be elevated and strung out at the front and back ends, meaning higher head positions and hind legs that trail out behind rather than reaching powerfully under the body.
A horse that drops their midsection laterally to the inside of a circle is not in an athletic position either. It’s not uncommon to see horses with this positioning habit tip barrels, prepare for the turn too soon, and even fall down. This unbalanced and off center “inside out” shape makes any athletic maneuver more difficult, awkward and therefore, SLOW.
When a horse truly lifts their back and rounds their body, space is created for the hind legs to more easily reach under, which more effectively supports a horse’s bodyweight for ultimate propulsion. At the same time, as the ribs both elevate upward and flex to the outside of a circle, a horse will tend to naturally bring their head set lower, tip their nose to the inside and really engage that inside hind leg. Read more… »
Have you ever experienced RSPA?
It’s a very common condition among barrel racers, known as “Rate/Shape Point Anxiety.” It happens most commonly before the first barrel turn, but is known to take place before the second and third barrel as well.
Symptoms include confusion, stress, nervousness, stutter stepping, second guessing, hesitation, and even fear, worry, as well as extreme hand and leg movements.
It doesn’t have to happen to you, help is here…
In today’s new video post here on Barrel Racing Tips.com, I’ve outlined a simple system for problem solving, troubleshooting and tuning that brings clarity to a very grey, anxiety filled area (OR any area on the pattern, actually).
You may even relate to and receive insight from the example problem described and shown in the video below.
Although I expect the steps I’ve explained to relieve your symptoms of RSPA, keep in mind that completely recovering from it is a process that takes time, experience, and…. LESSONS (in my book, a “mistake” is a LESSON, IF you learn something from it). Read more… »
When it comes to barrel racing, it’s more often a matter of WHEN our horses will get HOT vs. IF. Even with careful development and maintenance, it’s likely that at some point we’ll be challenged to have perfectly clear communication and emotional fitness from our horse when we need it most under high pressure circumstances.
Speed and anxiety seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. To the barrel racer, however, it’s not a very enjoyable combination.
Before we can REALLY help resolve our horse’s tendency to become tense, anxious and impulsive, let’s take a close look into WHY this happens to begin with. Consider the horse in nature – usually he doesn’t run full speed UNLESS he believes he is in serious danger, or must outright flee to save his own life. When a horse’s feet really get moving, things start to change within their body biochemically, including the release of adrenalin.
Some horses, due to their innate characteristics, tend to be more concerned with their safety than others, and these horses are likely to unravel emotionally more quickly, more deeply, AND take longer to become “level headed” again. This doesn’t necessarily make them less any desirable as barrel horses (it’s largely a personal preference). In fact, in my book, this mental/emotional sensitivity often translates into a naturally heightened physical sensitivity as well, which to me, IS desirable. Whichever type of horse we end up with or choose, it’s our job to find a balance that brings out each individuals greatest potential.
Speaking of level headed, have you also ever wondered why so many horses raise their head with they get emotional? This also has everything to do with safety. In addition to the fact that horses raise their heads higher in order to see more clearly through the lower portion of the lens in their eye, a horse with his head low to the ground is in a vulnerable position – a perfect target for a predator (or a perceived predator).
Does this mean that your aged rodeo campaigner is scared for his life when he’s all jazzed up? Not necessarily. However, these behavior characteristics that are based in fear can become learned behaviors, brought on by triggers. Horses catch on to patterns quickly. When you start saddling up at a competition, it doesn’t take long for them to understand what happens, before what happens, happens! Read more… »