Horsemanship Before Sportsmanship – Eight Priorities that Pay Off

Horsemanship Before Sportsmanship - Eight Priorities that Pay Off

A couple weeks ago we had fun highlighting the “Four Barrel Racing Personality Types.”

To roll out today’s new article, I’d like to break that down into an even more basic TWO types.

Even though my husband isn’t a barrel racer, his personality serves as a good example of Type B, while I’m Type A. When I appreciate our differences, I can’t help but think of the classic quote by Zig Ziglar – “You cannot make it as a wandering generality. You must become a meaningful specific.”

Craig’s a laid back, roll with the punches kind of guy. While he’s appreciating each moment, I can be found spinning in Tazmanian Devil-like swirls of mental activity and physical productivity. You can imagine why he’s actually a great match for his sensitive gelding, Dot Com (and ME). Craig operates with steady eddy-style energy that provides a lot of peace and reassurance for him.

It’s great when everyone’s feeling relaxed and content, but the warm fuzzies tend to fade when we’re not progressive. That’s where my specialty comes in, which is crushing goals, blasting through obstacles and chasing dreams – full-steam ahead! My succeed or else style can be pretty intense, no doubt. In fact over the years I’ve had to learn to tone it down. And as you might expect, Craig has learned to liven up!

I have a tendency to latch on to ideas like a dog on a bone, where Craig is slow to put a stake in any one belief. When it comes to caring for our horses and doing everything we can to bring out their best and achieve our barrel racing goals with them, I don’t think we can afford to sway too far either direction.

It doesn’t matter what “style” WE are – we’ve GOT to do our homework to find our own “north star.” But having balance and perspective means we must be willing to let it burn out and focus on another guiding light instead, when appropriate.

Below I’ve shared what I consider to be a set of eight powerful principles to guide you through life, horse training, competing and more. Read more

Form, Function & Communication with Barrel Horse Bitting Expert, Dave Elliott

Form, Function & Communication with Barrel Horse Bitting Expert, Dave Elliott

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #97 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn or Spotify.

This month at we’ll be diving into the subject “horsemanship for barrel racing.” Because quality horsemanship requires quality communication – quality horsemanship depends on quality tools! One of the most important being the bits we use to develop our barrel horses.

It was easy for me to decide who I’d invite as a guest contributor on this topic. Dave Elliott, owner of Elliott Bit and Spur hails from Alberta, Canada and is a household name in the barrel racing industry. Although Dave himself rodeoed in the past, because his wife Louise is a barrel racer, it’s the discipline they’ve primarily focused on serving.

Dave started out using horses on the ranch where he grew up, while his mother and sister rode english. Out of school he became involved in horseshoeing and did that professionally for 20 years. When business was slow in the winter time his interest turned to bit making, which he’s been doing on a full-time basis now for 25 years.

Elliott Bit and Spur
Look for the “Elliott” stamp of authenticity
on a bits inside, bottom right shank.

One of the things that clearly sets Elliott bits apart is the years of education and study behind them. Dave said “My search for bitting information led me to studying anatomy. I’ve hosted equine dissection classes and got involved with an equine Osteopath to learn more about motion, neurological systems and cardiovascular systems.”

He went on to explain that “Most of the information on bitting is based on the bit, not the reason why we use certain bits, which is largely anatomical based. When you read old European military manuals you’ll find that most of their bitting and riding was based on anatomical structures.”

I especially appreciated Dave mentioning how important it is to have a clear goal in mind when it comes to exactly what you hope to accomplish. “You have to have a plan as to how you want the horse to move before you select a bit to get it done. I find now days in all disciplines, that people often don’t have a plan.”

He shared that when people call to express certain needs or ideas in regards to which bit to order, “It usually ends up being more of an anatomical answer instead of a bit answer. For example ‘My horse won’t rate for the first barrel.’ I have to understand what their idea of what rate is, whether they’re looking for a short term fix or a long term fix, and if they understand what needs to happen in the horse’s body in order to rate.” Read more

Conditioning for Quickness – Build Strength and Understanding to Unleash Your Barrel Horse’s Potential

Conditioning for Quickness – Build Strength and Understanding to Unleash Your Barrel Horse's Potential

You may have figured out by now that barrel racing isn’t quite as simple as it looks.
Speed especially, will throw us (and our horses) for a loop if we’re not careful.

Ensuring they’re adequately prepared to perform their best on the pattern starts with understanding the elements of SPEED (which I went into great depth on here).

It’s our responsibility as trainers and jockeys to not only be aware of our individual horses strengths and weaknesses but to embrace and take responsibility for enhancing their innate talents, as well as strengthening the weaker links.

Because of Dot Com’s extreme sensitivity for example, sometimes the communication between my body, Dot Com’s brain, and his feet gets a little “kink” in it you could say – that’s one of his “weaknesses.”

This doesn’t have so much to do with his physical ability, but his mental development – which is something I’m responsible for strengthening.

You see, we have to be aware and advanced enough to realize that what WE might consider “sensitive,” could more accurately be described as REACTIVE, AND most importantly, could be turned into RESPONSIVE, IF we take the correct steps!

While building strength IS an important and necessary part in developing quickness, if the channels of communication are not open and flowing, even the most beefed up barrel horse is going to leave us high and dry. Our horses must be STRONG, but they must also be confident, mentally connected, thinking, and willing to respond in a tiny fraction of a second, together WITH us, both body AND mind. Read more

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 (or 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 the video below, 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. 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 realized by embracing new challenges, it’s that there are SO MANY eye-opening, humbling and growth inducing lessons to learn by doing so.

It’s not uncommon to get complacent with where we’re at and the skills we 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. Read more

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! Read more

Strip Away Constraints to Deepen Communication and Heighten Barrel Racing Success

Strip Away Constraints to Deepen Communication and Heighten Barrel Racing Success

The taller a building, the more sturdy the foundation must be.

The more tension on a fence, the deeper the post holes must be.

Ever wonder why the vertical part of a cross is longer than the horizontal part?

Because it must go deep to stand strong.

If you’re serious about achieving big time barrel racing success like I am – you’ve gotta be willing to go deeper than most people go.

This year, I challenge you to go further than you’ve ever gone before. Read more

Patterns for Precision – Follow the Path to Greater Accuracy and SPEED!

Patterns for Precision – Follow the Path to Greater Accuracy and SPEED!

Whether you call them patterns, exercises, or drills, there’s no denying they’re an important part of any barrel racers program.

And it’s no wonder – high degrees of speed and precision are required to beat the clock, and our horses must not only understand their responsibilities for staying on track around the barrels, but also use their bodies in specific ways that put the odds most in our favor for efficiency and speed.

In The First 51 Barrel Racing Exercises to Develop a Champion, I went into great depth explaining the power of patterns and WHY they are so important based on how our horse’s minds are wired.

I also included the specific ways we can use patterns to achieve even more positive results. The truth is, we can perform drills until we (and our horses) are blue in the face, but if we don’t use psychology as we apply them, we won’t get nearly as far.
Read more