Fit Rider Interview with Barrel Racer and Author, Heather Smith

Fit Rider Interview with Barrel Racer and Best Selling Author, Heather Smith

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #37 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
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The interview below was featured in the Success in the Saddle Fit Rider Newsletter.
What prompted you to increase your fitness?
I’ve always been interested in fitness and nutrition but in the past few years I’d started learning more about how our riding can benefit from gaining core strength and how stability and balance in the saddle can be increased through specific exercise out of the saddle.

Being a dedicated student of horsemanship for many years has taught me that horses really are our mirrors. The way a horse behaves, moves and performs is often a reflection of their rider.

Heather & Pistol

I don’t think it’s fair to ask our horses to have a level of fitness that we’re not willing to achieve ourselves. So expecting them to give us their best in competition is a matter of giving them our best every day as well.

What is your fitness routine?
I’m not a person who’s ever been obsessive about exercising, but I am committed to maintaining my general health and have noticed differences in how I think and feel when I make movement a priority. Read more

Gain the Barrel Racing Confidence You Need to Succeed

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #34 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
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Today, I’d like to share some excerpts from The Confident Barrel Racer, starting with a section from the introduction…

I often hear from barrel racers from all over the world admitting they struggle with self-doubt. But I know, there are many more barrel racers that struggle with confidence issues that I never hear from. Of all the positive feedback I’ve received on Secrets to Barrel Racing Success, a fair amount of it has been regarding the Inner Game chapter. Barrel racers thank me for giving them the tools to boost their confidence. I wanted to go even deeper in the pages that follow.

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How to Kick Bad Habits and Build Confidence

How to Kick Bad Habits and Build Confidence

There’s no doubt a connection between our riding habits and our level of confidence. As barrel racers, our habits can seem responsible for either building it, or tearing it down. In this week’s Q&A video, Sara asked for help with establishing new riding habits, which she believed would help her stop tipping barrels, and thus start the process of building back confidence where it’s been lost.

The Confident Barrel RacerI made reference to a previous article titled “Kiss Bad Barrel Racing Habits Goodbye!” If you’ve ever experienced frustration when you needed to ride or even position your hand differently in a run, then kept falling back to your old ways, you’re not alone! There’s an explanation for this phenomenon, and it has everything to do with the way our minds and bodies work at speed. The great news is that it IS possible to change your ways, click here to find out how.

In the video below, I also go on to address the subject of confidence and share some unique tips for getting it reestablished in the particular circumstances that Sara has found herself in, which is SO important!

The truth is, you and your horse can have all the talent and skill in the world, but if you don’t have confidence, you’ve lost the barrel race before you even leave the driveway.

If confidence were “easy” to obtain, more of us would be brimming with it. So after many years of personal growth, I decided to share what I had learned and experienced with the goal of making a positive difference in your barrel racing, and your LIFE – in a way that only another barrel racer can. Read more

Get Connected to Shave Time Off the Clock

Get Connected to Shave Time Off the Clock

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #24 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.

“Experiencing true unity when racing through the pattern, without delays or hesitation, is the stuff winning runs are made of.” – pg. 34 of Secrets to Barrel Racing Success.

It’s not uncommon for riders to get a taste of true connection with horses, and then turn their desire for developing it further into a lifelong pursuit.

Many riders, even trainers and competitors are not physically and mentally connected with their horses. Even worse, is that they lack the awareness of their disconnection. Often times this sense of “being on the same page” comes and goes – it’s there sometimes, but not others. One thing for certain, “getting connected” more consistently will always improve your barrel racing!

Robot Horse

I don’t want you to make the mistake of thinking that if you aren’t “one” with your horse, that you won’t achieve some level of success with horses, because miraculously, you can.

It’s possible through using repetition, patterns, etc. to train your horse to develop habits and respond to cues. Like a perfect robotic “trick horse” your equine partner might make assumptions and obediently respond with enough consistency that it leaves you feeling like quite an accomplished team.

However this mechanical, trained responsiveness, although an important part of the equation for successful barrel racing, will only get you so far. Without being truly connected, the communication with your horse is, well – artificial.
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Life Lessons from 5 Clinics, 8 Articles, 106 Facebook Posts, 1,920 Miles, and 1 Best-Selling Book in 31 Days

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #22 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.

If you’ve been keeping up with the action here at, you’d know that we’ve been partying like rock stars to celebrate the release of Secrets to Barrel Racing Success!

In celebration of the occasion, I’ve been sharing an abundance of quality, original barrel racing articles, tips and inspiration – all developed to help YOU generate real results!

Below, I’ve shared four key lessons that I’ve taken away from my recent experiences (that may also prove helpful in your life), where yes, I actually traveled nearly 2,000 miles, attended five clinics, wrote eight articles, made 106 Facebook posts, and celebrated my book reaching best-seller status on Amazon!

#1. There is Great Value in Repetition and Learning How to do the Basics Better

A perfect circle is critical to barrel racing success!
A perfect circle is critical to barrel racing success!

After being a seriously dedicated student of barrel racing and horsemanship much of my life, I had developed some what of a distain for hearing the same things over and over. As my life responsibilities have increased over the years, and allowed what seems like even less time to spend sorting through and taking in educational resources, I’ve become even more selective in order to avoid “information overload,” and to make the most efficient use of my time.

I’ve learned though, that even when we think we’re advanced, or even if we feel like there is a limit to how much information we can take in, it can still be immensely valuable to hear the same things described in different, unique ways, from a variety of sources.

When a pattern is recognized, it really helps drive a point home – we no longer have to think of certain concepts as being semi-important, when we’ve heard them stressed multiple times by a variety of horseman that we respect. In addition, there’s a firmer level of confidence developed when you learn that you already resonate deeply with certain high achieving professionals, it’s a feeling of confirmation that you are on the right track.

The foundation of confidence in my own knowledge base is so much more firm than it was five clinics ago! That new level of confidence is valuable, and it was only gained for me recently, when I was willing to put myself out there in a way that would possibly risk hearing “things I already knew.”

What I’ve also realized lately, Read more

See Jane Walk, See Jane WIN! Around the Pattern with NFR Barrel Racer, Jane Melby

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #9 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.

Jane Melby
3X Gold Buckle Winner, Jane Melby

It wasn’t surprising to see a top barrel racer coach new students by taking them on a trip around the barrel pattern afoot.  What would have been surprising, would have been to see how much the arena glowed, had the light bulbs above the students heads been real.  This was no average trip around the pattern.

What was different, was that each individual student received instruction on how to walk the pattern properly, one approach, turn and exit at a time.  Next, they did just that (repeatedly), while NFR barrel racer Jane Melby, and her husband Ryan critiqued and made corrections to the way they RODE the pattern based on how they WALKED it.

I was aware of the way in which our horses tend to mirror our own bodies when we ride them.  Until I had an opportunity to walk the pattern with Jane, however, I was NOT aware of the numerous, subtle ways in which my body was out of position in a run, and how that became obvious by how I walked.

The realization that I stepped into turns with my inside hip leading, made total sense of why my horse sometimes struggled at the first barrel.  If his body mirrored mine – how could he be in good position for an easy turn?  On the second barrel, the way in which I started turning my own body too soon, totally correlated with how my horse also starts the turn there a bit too soon.  And that funky little move my gelding tends to make on the back of the third barrel?  YEP.  ME – Guilty!

Like any other time I’ve had a major AHA moment on my barrel racing and horsemanship journey, I couldn’t help but do a little “happy dance” inside, as I just KNEW I had made a HUGE step in my awareness that would translate into even greater success in competition.  There may not have actually been a light bulb shining above my head, but trust me – I was glowing.
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Peel Back the Layers and Get REAL

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #14 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.

In all areas of my life, “peeling back the layers” is something that has changed it for the better, so it seemed like a subject more than worthy of sharing.  Like the contents of my book, “Secrets to Barrel Racing Success,” this web site provides technical information, but is unique in that it goes even deeper to uncover “the REAL secrets,” the things that matter, but aren’t always addressed through mainstream educational resources for barrel racers.

Resist temptation to bang your head.
Resist temptation to bang your head.

I’ve experienced it myself, and know many other barrel racers have as well… We set out to sharpen up our barrel horse, troubleshoot an issue on the pattern, get that elusive last ½ second…  We flounder around, some light bulbs go off, we get excited, then hit a wall, redirect again, repeat….

Eventually we go back to the drawing board, and proclaim (either out loud or to ourselves), “I AM doing THIS and THIS, I have done ALL THIS, and my horse STILL isn’t ( fill in the blank )!!!” It’s like we try hard, we study up, we put the time in, we feel like we’re doing EVERYTHING.  Things improve a bit, we get our hopes up, but eventually realize that it’s STILL not enough!  Ugh.  Some of us, shaking our head, confess, “I just don’t think HE (the horse) has IT,” (the speed, athleticism, mind, etc.). We think “If only HE would just do this ____________!” or say “Well, ya know, he’s just so front endy, sore, not fast enough, or too sensitive…” it goes on and on.

Read more

Will You Be Sore Tomorrow, or Sorry?

Will You Be Sore Tomorrow, or Sorry?

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #13 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.

“Sore, or Sorry.” Ugh, the words of a fitness buff. I used to cringe a little at the thought.

Don’t get me wrong – by no means have I ever had a habit of spending much time sitting around on my keister, but for many years, I just wasn’t so inclined to participate (on a consistent basis) in the kind of physical activity that didn’t leave me in the end with cleaned pens, hay bales moved, or horse’s ridden.

If I’m exhausted from a killer workout, I might as well also be enjoying the sight of a barn full of neatly stacked hay.

Taking our barrel racing to the highest level though, calls for some new awareness, and a shift in perspective.

It’s great that we, as horse people, tend to get our fair share of physical activity in. But there’s something special, something different, we gain from specifically targeting why and how we exercise.

In our sport, the majority of the focus is placed on the horse. The truth is however, that we, as barrel racers are also athletes. So many of us miss the boat when it comes to realizing just what a huge difference strength and fitness can make.

Ask rodeo great Ty Murray, or NFR barrel racers Shada Brazile, Charmayne James, or Sydni Blandchard what role being physically fit has played in their success, and they’ll say – it’s everything.


Because gaining strength in your body, makes you stronger (and quicker) all-around. Read more