If you have a dream or a vision that leads you, that’s stronger than any obstacle or adversity, if you are not easily knocked down by failure, and are driven to be the best and determined to succeed, and if YOU are interested in developing yourself and your horses in ways that achieve real, lasting, positive results, (and like to have fun while you’re at it), then we already have a lot in common!
I’m Heather Smith, and I’d like to share a little bit about where I started, where I’m at, where I’m going, and why.
One of my most memorable childhood experiences (if you could call it that) took place when I was six years old.
Except for my pony, Freckles, munching on grass a few yards away, I was alone.
And I was unconscious.
As a youngster, my need for speed was evident. It was all fun and games until my pony would randomly deliver that speed at inopportune times without regard to my wishes.
Another day, another runaway…
Then, the crash occurred… the one between my forehead and a tree that left me lying motionless in the long grass.
Perhaps something shook loose(er) in my brain.
Why else would a little girl whose childhood adventures resulted in fear, blood (Freckles often tried to rub me off on barbwire fences) and concussions, keep coming back for more?
Even before that incident, it was clear that I was different from others, not just because I was a feisty red head…
When people called my pony “stupid” for her dangerous antics, I wasn’t convinced. I actually believed she was smart, and I told them so.
In fact, to this day, I’ve never met another horse who could contrive such a variety of effective ways for removing a person from their back.
When Freckles was successful at dumping me, she was rewarded with some peace and grazing (until I regained consciousness anyway). Back then, we were each only concerned with meeting our own individual needs.
Freckles was highly intelligent, and I was fiercely determined, but her ideas and my ideas were not the same ideas.
Something had to change.
If Freckles could use her mind and body in a way that was in agreement with what I asked, rather than in opposition (I had every bit as much trouble getting her to “go,” as I did getting her to “whoa”), we’d be getting somewhere.
Ever since those early days, I’ve dedicated my life to figuring out what those ways are… and how horse and human could come together in mutual agreement and achieve great things (with speed, of course).
It hasn’t exactly been easy, but then, nothing worthwhile is.
At twelve years old, I finally transitioned from my pony to a “real horse” – a ten year old, green broke Appaloosa mare, that stood every bit of 13.2 hands. My mom bought her for $200 (and had to make payments).
I had BIG dreams – a grand vision of what we would accomplish together!
I wrote down a goal,
To become “a successful professional barrel racer.”
I was initially so excited to learn and test our skills, but Gypsy seemed to have every fear and problem a horse could possibly have. When I finally had wheels for transportation, I would experience even greater frustration with my horse, as well as embarrassment, once we were out in public.
Maybe you’ve also shed a few tears in the tack room of your trailer after a disappointing performance. And maybe you can also identify with facing obstacles and pushing forward anyway, with unrelenting tenacity to overcome them.
Despite the challenges I faced, I was on my way to creating the life I’d longed for, one that supported my dreams – a lifestyle that was more in alignment with who I really was.
At 20 years old, I sealed the deal on a new job in Sheridan, Wyoming. Without knowing a soul, without a place to live, I loaded my mare and two cats in my little truck and two-horse trailer, and with the fertile flatlands of eastern North Dakota in my rearview mirror, I headed west.
I broke down twice en route to the land of opportunity. When I finally arrived, I lived in a cheap motel for a week. To say it was “Like No Place on Earth,” was an understatement.
It was the best move I ever made.
Once in the Cowboy State, I embraced opportunities to learn from the best. I became a student of master horsemen like Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman, and spent quality time with top barrel racers like Marlene McRae and Lynn McKenzie.
I developed close relationships with amazing mentors who were as passionate about training, competing and developing their abilities with horses, as I was.
Feelings of frustration were slowly replaced with satisfaction and accomplishment. Not only did I end up winning reining competitions with my once pushy, and very out of control mare, but we were still winning barrel racing buckles well into her 20’s.
During that time, I took on challenging horses with less than ideal pasts – those who hadn’t had a great start in life, or as in the case of one gorgeous 16 hand, seven year old gelding I bought – hadn’t been started at all.
Finally, the time came in which I would buy a young, quality colt for myself. After creating success with troubled horses, I figured developing a royally bred two year old into a top notch barrel horse would be easy!
Surely the high level barrel racing achievements I’d always dreamed of were right around the corner…
The very first time I competed on Pistol we were in the 4D money. His five year old year, we entered several of the toughest barrel futurities in the upper midwest, and each time narrowly missed placing. Pistol was mentally and physically sound, we were consistent, we were correct, I had done a lot of things right… but we weren’t lighting the barrel racing world on fire.
Over the course of several more years of developing my abilities through competing, starting colts, training barrel horses, both my own and for others, I realized that as hard as I worked, and as committed as I was – the clock revealed the truth.
The clock told me – something was still missing.
So in my typical never give up fashion – I kept searching.
I continued to research, experiment, collect data, add to my knowledge, develop awareness, notice patterns, create breakthroughs, and peel back the layers. I started noticing connections. The “ah ha” moments were adding up and occurring more frequently.
Over the years I’ve jumped at opportunities to study with clinicians such as Ray Hunt, Les Vogt, Clinton Anderson, Gary Leffew, Pat Parelli, Ed Wright, Dave Ellis, Kristi Smith and top barrel racers like Lynn Kohr, Kay Blandford, George Williamson, Charmayne James, Jane Melby, Molly Powell, and Lisa Lockhart.
Even though I had been such a dedicated student of horsemanship, and experienced a fair amount of success in competition, I began to realize just how many critical pieces I had overlooked.
I began to see ways in which the “secrets” were being very well kept.
I found true success hidden in the tiniest details. I was amazed at how subtle shifts created radical changes. As I began to really understand horses, I looked at them with new eyes.
When I discovered and applied these “secrets” to my own barrel racing, things started to click – and Pistol started to clock.
Blocks that had been in the way of my success for years, dissolved.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you start, or where you want to end up – with an open mind, a commitment to self-development, and a focus on not just what you want to achieve, but HOW – you can not only make your wildest barrel racing dreams possible, but do so in a shorter amount of time, with more ease and enjoyment.
While traveling on this journey, I’ve learned how to give peace to troubled horses, how to create positive experiences for colts, to develop feather soft, lightening fast responsiveness in high level performance horses, and how to bring out the best in horses with varying tendencies, personality types and styles of moving, all while honoring their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Now, when I look back, I’m actually grateful for my horsemanship hardships because these powerful experiences have allowed me to help others achieve success much quicker and easier. I see now, that the hard road had a purpose.
Continuing to train, compete, develop myself and share my insights through my book series and BarrelRacingTips.com is it.
I am both humbled and grateful to share that in May of 2012, my book, “Secrets to Barrel Racing Success” achieved #1 Amazon Best-Seller status in it’s first week of release.
In 2013, I made yet another exciting geographical transition to central Texas where the environment (and climate especially), supports my passion for barrel racing even more.
YOUR path to barrel racing success doesn’t have to have the speed bumps and delays mine did – I’d love to show you how.
It’s been one heck of a ride so far and I invite you to join me.
I’m committed to bringing you THE BEST of what I’m living and learning.
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