Five Cold, Hard (not-so-obvious) TRUTHS Why You’re Not Winning

Five Cold, Hard (not-so-obvious) TRUTHS Why You're Not Winning

Andrea Otley knows exactly what type of specific challenges we often face on the road to better barrel racing!

In today’s post she’ll be sharing some lesser-known insights into understanding why the clock might not be stopping as you’d hope, as well what action steps are necessary to change that, AND make this your year to reach new heights (and speeds) on the pattern.


You’ve got the horse.

You’ve got the tack – the saddle, the pad, the bit, the training equipment.

The teeth are floated. The chiropractic work is done. The feeding program is top notch – only the best for your horse.

He’s well trained. He knows and loves his job.

He’s in the best shape of his life.

You’ve taken the lessons, read the articles, watched the DVDs and corrected any problems.

You’ve learned so much and practiced hard. You’re devoted, dedicated and determined. You want this so bad!

You fall asleep each night thinking of your approach to the first barrel, how awesome it feels as your horse runs home. You get butterflies just thinking about it.

You enter each barrel race with the same positive expectation you enter the alley with, but then your heart drops again as you hear your time.

WHY aren’t you WINNING??

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not any of that stuff. Maybe, just maybe, the answer lies somewhere in your own daily fitness habits – in what you do and don’t do, what you eat and don’t eat.

Maybe there’s a connection between how you clock on the pattern and how fit and healthy you are. Do any of the following ideas sound familiar?

#1. You believe riding your horse and doing your daily chores at the barn gives you enough exercise and you don’t think you need a specific fitness program. After all, you muck stalls, lift bales and bags of grain, you pitch hay every single day. That should be enough, right?

Although you may be very active and work harder than the average person, as a serious competitor it’s important that you use your muscles specifically during your daily routine. You need a purposeful fitness and exercise program beyond your regular riding and chores because those activities do not engage all the muscles in your body that fire during a competitive run.

By doing certain exercises consistently to tone, tighten and strengthen your core, build and strengthen the muscles in your legs and arms, you are setting yourself up to be able to react quicker and in better time with your horse. Normal day to day riding and chores are simply not enough.

#2. When your horse takes off for the first barrel or comes out of a turn, you feel intimidated by his sheer power so you compensate (often subconsciously) by not sending him confidently. You may even slow down and safety up a bit as you turn the other barrels as well, wasting valuable hundredths of seconds.

You may know that competitive barrel horses are strong. They’re like being strapped to a jet engine. The force is incredible. It takes a fit, strong person to stay in control, react fast, remain balanced and seated through the acceleration while also maintaining effective, yet subtle feel and communication.

In order to be competitive and win, you need to incorporate upper body strengthening into your weekly routine because horses outweigh us by over 1,000 lbs. We need to be in top notch physical shape to go to the horn, brace ourselves in the saddle, engage our core, and stay securely seated and in time with them as they take off.

Just as if you intended to ride a rocket ship destined for Mars, it would be shortsighted not to do everything in your power to strengthen your arms, legs and core to stay WITH (not just on) the powerful, beautiful beasts we climb aboard.

A strong, fit rider has the ability to ride stride for stride in the moment, vs. getting behind the tremendously powerful motion and subsequently slowing everything down.

#3. You find yourself shortening the amount of time, or number of horses you ride because you’re too tired and don’t have the energy. You flat don’t feel like it.

The fact is you’re busy, tired and overwhelmed with LIFE – kids, chores, bills, housework, yardwork, barn chores, hauling kids back and forth to basketball and rodeo and working your 9-5 day job so you’ll have the money to pay for all of this in the first place. You know you don’t have time OR the energy to ADD a work out.

If you consistently feel too tired to exercise, know that the act of exercising in and of itself can actually increase your energy levels. Your body becomes more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen to the brain and the rest of your body.

With regular exercise, you’ll increase your metabolism and your muscle mass. Your body becomes more disease resistant.

The key is to find workouts that you enjoy. The possibilities are endless. Making yourself do something you genuinely dislike (in any aspect of life), is setting yourself up for failure.

But consider giving exercise a chance, and even making it a priority. Find a FUN way to move your body and you’ll be feeling energized and craving more in no time.

#4. You hate the fact that you need to buy a bigger size pants and shirt this year because you gained an extra winter layer and never got rid of last year’s layer.

This makes you feel self-conscious so when you’re on your horse at a barrel race or rodeo, the little devil on your shoulder constantly whispers in your ear how you aren’t good enough to be here. This prevents you from being in the frame of mind necessary to win and causes you to ride less boldly and aggressively, again wasting valuable hundredths of seconds and even robbing joy from doing what you love.

When you lose weight and inches, get in better shape physically and eat right, you have more confidence in yourself which heightens your ability to focus only on that which is most important and directly related to your run, naturally allowing you to ride better.

Is this your year?

Then commit now to find a fitness and exercise plan that will help you to naturally and healthily lose the weight and inches. Be patient with yourself. You didn’t gain the weight overnight and it won’t come off over night. But you CAN change. You can be the size you want to be and you can look and feel the way you want to feel. You deserve it.

#5. Your balance and timing are “off” during your run and you can’t figure out why. Your slow work is spot on and even when you lope through, things feel great. But when you add speed, you notice unnecessary or excessive movement, OR not enough movement – your legs are weak, your core is soft, and sometimes your back hurts after a run. As a result, the clock is disappointing you time after time.

As you know, barrel racing is won or lost by a hundredth of a second, less time than it takes to blink. By having a fitness and exercise routine that focuses on strengthening the core and legs and improves balance and timing you will develop that winning edge in the saddle.

With spring just around the corner and another season of rodeo and barrel racing competition getting underway, it’s not too late to start a fitness and nutrition program to get you in top notch physical shape.

We expect our horses to be in the best shape of their lives, why not expect the same from ourselves?

Here are some tips for choosing and sticking to a fitness program:

  • Make sure it will actively engage and strengthen your core, work your legs, arms, shoulders, chest and back.
  • Choose one that’s fun and that you’ll stick with.
  • Know how much time you can spend each day and schedule it in (there are extremely effective programs that offer 30 minute workouts).
  • Find a workout partner or group in person or online – commit to each other and get started!



Andrea is a horse-crazy wife and mom of two boys and a baby girl. She lives on a cattle ranch with her family. Not only does she ride to get the work done on the ranch, she also enjoys training horses and competing in rodeo and reined cow horse events.

With over ten years in experience in creating and finding fitness and nutrition programs that work, she has made it her business and priority to coach others to meet their health and fitness goals. To receive a free fitness and nutrition consultation, go to

For fitness tips, motivation and inspiration, follow Andrea on Facebook at


Are YOU ready to build strength and improve balance & timing to shave precious tenths off the clock?

Let me know in the comments!

Then follow the links below for more resources on fitness and nutrition for barrel racers:

The Backbone of Barrel Racing Success – A Checklist for Training an Educated Body and Willing Mind

The Backbone of Barrel Racing Success - A Checklist for Training an Educated Body and Willing Mind

I believe preschool teachers and colt starters should be among the highest trained and paid professionals in the world.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the future, not just the future of the horses and children they teach, but the future of the entire planet depends on quality early education.

The human brain is thought to be most malleable between ages two and five. It’s not that you can’t teach an old dog (horse OR human) new tricks, but life is going to be a lot easier, safer and more successful and productive for everyone when youngsters of any species have positive learning experiences from the get go.

In today’s post, I’ve gone through the critical foundational elements I believe are necessary to set a barrel horse up for outrageous and lasting success in life as a high end performance horse, and beyond.

Because really, what they need in addition to discipline specific training is mental and emotional development, maturity and general life skills.

Whether you’re working with youngsters or have an old campaigner, there are endless benefits to be gained through not only further refining your ability to influence a horse’s body effectively, but most importantly, their minds.

How well your horse can adapt to the stress of life on the road – whether he can stay calm and relaxed as you get that high degree of physical responsiveness in intense environments no less, ultimately determines the outcome of our performance – it’s ALL connected.

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A Simple (and FAST) Four-Part Formula for Troubleshooting Your Barrel Racing Foundation

A Simple (and FAST) Four-Part Formula for Troubleshooting Your Barrel Racing Foundation
All photos by Kevan Sheppard.

by Kathleen Rossi with Integrated Equine

What is annoying to you, as a barrel racer in regards to your horse?

Knocking down barrels? Alley drama? Pawing a hole to China when tied up? Not listening when you go full throttle? Warming up like a spaz?

We have all seen a horse that has these tendencies, and we have all pretended it wasn’t our horse! Believe me that you are in safe company when it comes to complaints about barrel horses.

At my first high school rodeo I remember my barely green gelding (hunting/pack horse) completely lost his marbles when a student sung the National Anthem over the microphone. The echo reverberated off the arena walls, into his ear canal to his tiny little pea brain, and down to his feet which turned him into a dancing fool. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what his problem was! Read more… »

Four Steps to Strengthen Your Barrel Racing Foundation with Flying Lead Changes

Four Steps to Strengthen Your Barrel Racing Foundation with Flying Lead Changes!

In today’s video, I’ve challenged AND shown you how to think (and RIDE) outside the barrel racing box in order to achieve more success IN the barrel racing box (and on the pattern, specifically).

“If you want something in your life you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something, you’ve never done.” – J.D. Houston

If there’s one thing I’ve learned by putting myself out there and embracing new challenges, it’s that we often get complacent with where we’re at and the skills we have (and our horses have). We tend to stay within our individual comfort zones and inadvertently think that “knowing about” something is equivalent to doing it.

BUT it’s not.

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Operation Thawing Frosty: Melting Long-Standing Resistance for a New Lease on Life

Operation Thawing Frosty: How to Melt Long-Standing Resistance for a New Lease on Life

A couple months ago I shared Frosty’s story in In It for the Long Haul – Advice from Your Future Self on Keeping Barrel Horses Sound, Healthy & Happy.

It was then that I mentioned that the “living legend” in our pasture represented something really special. When he was retired early due to ring bone, Craig couldn’t bare to part with him. His family raised Frosty, and sound or not, he was with us to stay.

His presence was an everyday reminder to take care of and appreciate what you have – because good horses don’t last forever.

Well now, only TWO months later Frosty is a shining example of a completely different life lesson (and many others).

In that same post, I mentioned that Craig had been blessed with not only one, but two truly “one in a million” horses. The kind of talented athletes that some professional competitors may never even know in a lifetime.

I mentioned that having Dot Com was like a second chance to get things right, to do better.

But now, that’s all changed!

Free, Easy and FAST – How to Support Joint Health and Function with Nutrition

Free, Easy and FAST – How to Support Joint Health and Function with Nutrition

It is said that “nutrition is the foundation of health,” and I couldn’t agree more. When we, OR our horses have lost some element of health, it’s the first place we must look.

Unfortunately however, sometimes it’s the last. And often, the health issue exists because we didn’t pay close enough attention to diet to begin with.

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is right, medicine is of no need.” – Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

Take the case of my previous horse,

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Eat Like An Athlete (Even On the Road) – Nutrition Tips for Barrel Racers

Eat Like An Athlete (Even On the Road) - Nutrition Tips for Barrel Racers

I’m not the only one with a passion for horsemanship, horse health and barrel racing! Today’s article is another special guest post from someone who knows how to WIN – Kathleen Rossi of Integrated Equine.
Ahhh, the smell of Mexican food after a barrel race! Fewer things are more satisfying. You order with enthusiasm, “Yes please, waiter – I’ll have the steak carnitas and a corona light porfavor!”

Then you pause and think to yourself, “$#!^% my flour tortillas are full of gluten, the beef probably wasn’t grass fed, and the sugar content in the alcohol is sure to be a deadly mix with all the GMO corn ingredients!!!” Read more… »

Feed for SPEED – How to Fuel Fast-Twitch Muscles for Faster Times!

Feed for SPEED - How to Fuel Fast-Twitch Muscles for Faster Times!

If you enjoyed last weeks post about feeding based on the Glycemic Index, but immediately thought “Oh that’s all find and dandy, but can a low GI feeding program REALLY fuel a timed-speed event athlete?” then you’re in good company.

I once had the same concerns.

Like you, I don’t just want to run barrels, I want to WIN! Today more than ever, it takes a very special animal to do that consistently – and diet is a HUGE part of that.

There are so many bases to cover and it can be overwhelming to be our horse’s equine nutritionist on top of everything else. It can be especially confusing once you actually start doing your homework and crunching the numbers.

There’s also a lot of misguided, contradictory, and outdated advice and information out there when it comes to fueling the equine athlete.

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