The ONE Thing Good AND Bad Runs Must Have in Common for Continued Barrel Racing Success

The ONE Thing Good Runs and Bad Runs Must Have in Common for Continued Barrel Racing Success

When I made the second run back on my gelding Pistol several weeks ago, after a FIVE year break from competing (and SEVEN months of re-conditioning) due to an injury, the overwhelming feelings I experienced were ones I won’t soon forget.

While it wasn’t exactly an arena record, the run felt solid and we clocked at the top of the 3D against more than a couple hundred of the best barrel racers in Texas – not too shabby I figured, considering I wasn’t sure he’d return to running barrels AT ALL!

I was pretty excited, and as Pistol and caught our breath, I turned and locked eyes with my hubby (and videographer) who was walking toward us with the same excited and grateful smirk on his face.

It was really satisfying and rewarding to realize Pistol’s comeback wasn’t just a possibility, but was REAL – and I KNEW that a solid (near 2D) run was a starting place we could build on.

Well, fast forward to the weekend before last, when we were up in slack at a local pro rodeo. We’d made the most of our runs in between, and were MORE THAN ready. In fact, Pistol was SO ready that he sailed right on past the first barrel… WAY past.

Of course I was initially concerned (and a little shocked), thinking to myself – “Huh… Isn’t that interesting!?” But the best part is that when Craig and I met up and locked eyes again afterward – we both had THE SAME GRIN as when Pistol and I’d made a really nice run.

Now looking back, I can see there were several factors that contributed to us going “bye-bye” (there are REASONS these things happen – see links below!), but none of them that weren’t fixable!

In fact, having a horse that’s fresh and running hard (albeit in a way that was temporarily a little less mindful and connected) isn’t ALL bad – it’s just that tweaks must be made for balance to be restored.

Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimismsays “Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.”

The truth is – THAT rodeo was just one of many tests that provided feedback. Without valuable feedback, we don’t get the information we need to keep improving and getting better.

Unless you want to stay stuck just where you are and not grow, the “learning runs” are just as important as the “winning runs.”

In fact, with the right perspective – “learning runs” ARE “winning runs!”

Even the world’s best barrel racers tend to experience more “learning” than actual “winning,” so this is a wise attitude to adopt.

I shared our “winning run” on Instagram, so if you’re not already following along there, join me @barrelracertips.

I put the video to music with a clip from a song I found with the lyrics “Everything is awesome… everything is cool when you’re part of team! Everything is awesome… when you’re living out a dream.”

And OMG, that is SO fitting.

It IS awesome… every. single. bit. of the highs and lows and wins and challenges. (If YOU ever need to break out of a funk, click here to listen to this fun and silly song from the LEGO’s movie.)

The bottom line is that I’m in this for the long haul with my gelding Pistol, so although I DO put the very best preparation into our runs, having a healthy, balanced perspective means that I do NOT put ALL my hopes and dreams into ONE run or rodeo – it doesn’t define us, our talent, ability, future or potential.

I’ve had him since he was a two year old and even though he’s now a teenager, we’re still building a FUTURE together. How we handle this run and this moment, influences the next.

When you think about the BIG PICTURE, there is so much more… more rodeos, more success, more important things than our momentary and superficial struggles, etc. – it’s small stuff.

There will be more runs, and they will be better! We can CHOOSE to be encouraged by how CLOSE we are to our goals vs. how far away we are.

The question is – Which “GAP” will you focus on?

The meaning we give our results is totally up to us. As long as we’re using and applying what we LEARN, every mistake or “bad run” (if there IS such a thing!?) actually gets us closer – allowing us to “fail fast” and make our dreams come true even sooner.

The other option – having a negative emotional response, or choosing NOT to analyze and learn from a “poor performance,” or giving it a disempowering meaning, often leads to unfair treatment of our horses, snarky comments to loved ones, and a general ungrateful attitude at best, and essentially stagnation that does NOT facilitate the breakthroughs that truly get us where we want to go.

In today’s often cynical world, this may come across as “Pollyannish” and to that I say – HECK YEAH!

Robb Hilman said, “I don’t think Pollyanna was simple and naïve to reality. I think she was a badass who bent reality to her will. Optimism isn’t lazy, it’s a fierce battle of consciously choosing the perspective that best serves you.”

A run that didn’t go as planned is not the end of the world, it’s simply an indicator that an adjustment is necessary. It’s an arrow pointing us in the direction we need to go.

As we strategize and regroup, we don’t have to feel as though we HAVE to go back to the drawing board, but that we GET to… that in itself is really a gift, because with the right lens – the training and the journey is part of the fun, too.

Every mistake is one we never have to make again. So get EXCITED about those less than stellar runs – they are how we learn, and are a necessary part of our advancement!

Study them, embrace them, celebrate them, be grateful for them and the education they provide, then move on and use them to make changes, and look forward to the even better runs in your future that are coming as a result – THAT is how real, lasting success is EARNED and sustained in the long run.

Lastly, remember Robert Brault’s definition of an optimist “Someone that knows that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha.”

Sounds like something a certain barrel horse I know needs to do at the first barrel! ;)

While you’re here, check out the resources below for strengthening your emotional fitness AND nailing your first barrel:

Teachings from Tess – Eleven Life Lessons from My Best Four-Legged Friend

When I first got my Australian Shepherd Tess in 2002, I spent a ton of time teaching her things.
I read books about clicker training, we went to obedience class and she even passed special testing to become a Certified Therapy Dog.  

We did agility together, worked stock, and a good friend of mine (an expert dog handler) even showed Tess – bringing home many ribbons and prizes.  

It seemed to take Tess FOREVER to learn to balance on her hind legs for “trick dog” (sitting up) but learning “stay” (with a hand signal) was sooooo easy – I swear she could read my mind. 

Perhaps my favorite and her most unique trick, was to retrieve a Kleenex from a box when I sneezed – it was always a hit!  

You might also remember this special Holiday video from a few years back showing Tess doin’ a little groundwork with my gelding Pistol.

On Christmas morning she eagerly sat by Craig and I around the tree as usual, politely but anxiously waiting her turn to open presents. When given the OK, she always tore the wrapping paper off herself! 

Educating Tess and teaching her tricks was always fun and entertaining, and helped her become a well-adjusted canine citizen, but just like a really special horse – they end up teaching US so much more.  Read more… »

Making it BIG in Vegas – with NFR Barrel Racing Rookie, Cayla Melby Small

2016 NFR Barrel Racer Cayla Melby Small
Cayla and Gator pictured after their win in Innisfail, Alberta.

Cayla Melby Small may be an NFR Rookie, and the 2016 WPRA Rookie of the year, but she’s no newbie to barrel racing. As the daughter of 2-time NFR Qualifier Jane Melby, Cayla has been in the saddle competing with the goal to make the NFR at age 18 since she was just a toddler.

Rodeo is a family affair for Team Melby, and the family just got bigger when Cayla married Zac Small this October, who is also a 2016 NFR first timer on the heading side in the team roping (check out hashtag #TwoSmallsGoingBiginVegas). The insights Cayla shared below about her horses, her season, favorite products and more give us a fun sneak peek into the life and times of a “rookie” professional on rodeo road!

Tips for Going Pro (and More) with NFR Barrel Racer, Carley Richardson

NFR Barrel Racer Carley Richardson

Even if 80’s metal isn’t your favorite genre of music, and the band name ‘Autograph’ doesn’t ring a bell, you’re still likely to be familiar with the line, “Turn up the RADIO” that also bears the song’s namesake (click here to jog your memory.)

Judging by the lyrics, the rock ‘n roll lifestyle doesn’t seem so far off that of an NFR barrel racer: Read more… »

Fifteen Questions with No. 15 NFR Barrel Racer – Amberleigh Moore

She may have qualified in the fifteenth spot, but even as an NFR Rookie Amber Moore has every reason to be confident. Below she’s shared insights from her amazing 2016 season and offered valuable advice for those of us who’d love to follow in her boots as an NFR barrel racing qualifier! Read more… »

Viva Las Vegas! Meet the 2016 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

2016 NFR Barrel Racers

The top 15 WPRA barrel racing qualifiers have arrived in Las Vegas, and will soon be blasting down the alley at the Thomas & Mack. In anticipation of the rodeo action, I’m excited to share their reflection on at the 2016 season, and what we can expect to see in this years race to the gold buckle.

So before the gates open, let’s dive in and get to know these these amazing women and their horses (including pedigrees) who will entertain, educate and inspire us – at the 2016 NFR and beyond! Read more… »

What Every Aspiring NFR Barrel Racer Should Know – with 2016 PRCA Veterinarian of the Year, Dr. Marty Tanner

What Every Aspiring NFR Barrel Racer Should Know - with 2016 PRCA Veterinarian of the Year, Dr. Marty Tanner

After making the cross country move from northern Wyoming to central Texas in 2013, I had several quality options when it came to selecting a primary veterinarian in our area that would oversee our horse’s care.

I was familiar with Dr. Marty Tanner and knew he was the vet. of choice for several NFR barrel racers. As someone with BIG barrel racing goals, it didn’t take long to decide and get established with him and the team at Elgin Veterinary Hospital in Elgin, Texas.

Recently Dr. Tanner was named the 2016 Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year in recognition of his extraordinary dedication, commitment and service to the well-being of professional rodeo livestock.

Dot Com, Heather and Dr. Tanner
Dot Com, Heather and Dr. Tanner

An article by Matt Naber in the ProRodeo Sports News quoted PRCA World Champion Tie Down Roper Monty Lewis as saying, “He is one of the best performance horse veterinarians in North America, and we are very blessed that he gives the rodeo community so much attention. With his renowned facility and his progressive and innovative approach, he is very deserving of the ultimate recognition. The world standings are filled with competitors who owe a large portion of their success to him.”

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I am grateful to Dr. Tanner for lending his wisdom and experience in an interview I’m excited to share below that offers valuable horse health insights (and more) for equestrians in any discipline who want to deliver the very best care possible to their equine athletes. Read more… »

Good Vibrations – Why the EquiVibe Plate is so Beneficial for Barrel Horses

Good Vibrations - Why the EquiVibe Plate is so Beneficial for Barrel Horses

by Kathleen Rossi of Integrated Equine

Flipping through the pages of any equine catalog, you’ll notice a plethora of therapy products.

Liniments, wraps, boots, magnets, supplements, massagers, fairy dust, ice packs and hollow promises all suggesting THEIR product will help your performance horse.

How are you to chose: Brand endorsement? Color assortment? Newly improved? Horse-approved? It’s tiring to say the least. I know at one time or another I’ve found myself sarcastically asking, “which product should I waste my money on today?” I bet you can relate!

The EquiVibe plate however, stands alone. It’s a low profile platform run by electricity that vibrates at different speeds. When a horse stands on this platform he receives benefit from the vibration – stimulating bones, muscles and nerves, thus supporting performance, rehabilitation and helping to prevent injury.

My personal mission statement at is:
To teach relationship building between horse and human and to develop an intimate understanding of horse psychology and physiology through progressive horse keeping.

The reason I am passionate about sharing the benefits of EquiVibe whole body vibration specifically, is because it’s been a valuable and reliable form of therapeutic support, not only my own horses (and Heather’s), but the world’s most winningest horses, and can be for your equine partners as well! Read more… »