How to TEACH and Prepare Your Horse to Handle Challenging Ground Conditions

How to TEACH and Prepare Your Horse to Handle Challenging Ground Conditions

The barrel racing world has been abuzz lately on the important topic of ground conditions and what must be done to improve them, especially at the super bowl of rodeo and most prestigious event of the year – the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

As individual barrel racers with gold buckle dreams and valuable equine athletes that are both part of our livelihood and families, our hope for change comes in part through believing there is power in numbers, and that our voices and concerns are more likely to be heard when we join forces and take a stand together to #raisethebarforrodeo, as is being attempted through this petition.

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions surrounding the issue – after all, there’s not just a lot of money at stake each night, but one single slip can be career ending for a beloved barrel horse, and the safety of the world’s top jockey’s is at stake as well. It’s no doubt serious business and an issue that can’t be taken lightly at any level.

In times like this, with social media at our fingertips it’s easy to hop on the finger-pointing and complaining bandwagon. When so many others are on board, it can be tempting to follow suit.

So while I do believe there is power in numbers, and am an advocate for safe ground conditions, I’m also a BIG believer that we must each take personal responsibility for our own safety and that of our horses, and that’s what I intend to help you do today. In any circumstance when we haven’t done everything in our own power through preparation, then a one-sided blame game isn’t quite a fair one to play.

Especially when a public message from WPRA headquarters enlightened us to the legitimate limitations in the influence and control barrel racers have over the ground conditions, situations like the WNFR especially require us to take matters into our own hands in addition to joining forces, and each do our part – which may include reaching out to local rodeo committees, but especially TEACHING and preparing ourselves and our horses, starting with the steps we take in our own home arenas – to increase the odds for safe and successful runs no matter what kind of challenging circumstances come our way.

In the pro members post below, I’ve shared TEN ways to do just that! Read more

Road Warriors – Life as a Professional Barrel Racer with the Top 15 NFR Qualifiers

Road Warriors – Life as a Professional Barrel Racer with the Top 15 NFR Qualifiers

Life on rodeo road isn’t for the faint of heart. The 15 ladies below toughed it out in 2015 and earned their spot under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Read on as they reflect on the highs and lows (AND how they got through them), plus share insights on the transition from amateur to professional, entry strategies, and more!

Callie duPerier
Callie duPerier

Did you have strategy for entering rodeos this season? I looked to the rodeos that added the most money and those that I thought would best fit my horses. Luckily, over the 4th of July I got to travel with Sherry Cervi. I just told her you enter and “I’ll go where you go.” She is experienced at knowing the best ones to get to.

Which rodeo resulted in your biggest accomplishment? Biggest accomplishment was Calgary. It was my first time there and I ended up second behind Lisa Lockhart and Louie. Lisa and Louie are so awesome so I felt happy doing so well there.

Which proved to be your biggest disappointment? Why? My biggest disappointment was at one of the Champions Challenges I hit the third barrel on Arson to win it.

Who did you travel with majority of the season? My dad and Whiplash, our driver who used to drive for Cody Ohl, so everyone knows him. And then Sherry during the 4th of July.

What do you think is the key to transitioning from amateur barrel racer to professional? Being able to stay on the road is a big transition. I am a homebody so being on the road was a big change for me. Also the rodeos are different when you get on the road competing with such tough competition at them all. Read more

Viva Las Vegas! Warm Up with the 2015 NFR Barrel Racing Qualifiers

Viva Las Vegas!  Warm Up with the 2015 NFR Barrel Racing Qualifiers

Have you ever wondered “How do they DO it!?”

If the tasks involved in preparing to compete for record amounts of prize money (1.1 MILLION) in front of thousands of fans for TEN days straight seems overwhelming – it should!

In part II of this year’s NFR interview series, the top 15 have revealed not only how they feel about the exciting experience, but the steps they have taken to get ready and will take (for themselves and their horses) to stay ready and be at their best each and every night. Read more

Going Pro – Get to Know the WPRA Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

2015 NFR Barrel Racers

The 2015 top 15 barrel racers have already arrived in Las Vegas, and in just days will be blasting down the alley of the Thomas & Mack arena. To make the most out of the exciting rodeo action, I’m happy to bring you an inside peek into the life and times of rodeo’s leading ladies. Read more

Road to the NFR – More Success Secrets and Statistics from the Top 15

Road to the NFR - More Success Secrets and Statistics from the Top 15

If you were to scour every interview with the NFR barrel racers over the years, then collect and compare their insights, you’d make some pretty amazing realizations. But who has time for that, right?

Even as amateur barrel racers, we’re bogged down with work & life responsibilities that seem to leave little time for our personal barrel racing development.
Well that’s where I come in! 😉

The following collection of Statistical Secrets for Success were compiled from WPRA interviews with the top 15 NFR barrel racers over the last four years, and offer loads of lessons and inspiration for your own barrel racing journey – enjoy!

  • In the area of horse health, the number one piece of advice that stood out by a long shot was – KNOW YOUR HORSE.

    Some other important, and often repeated keys were nutrition, bodywork such as massage, chiropractic and acupuncture, allowing turnout/movement, being consistent with horse care, making comfort a priority (such as putting down extra shavings, etc.), doing whatever it takes (no matter how inconvenient) to keep horses happy and healthy, having water available in the trailer, and taking steps to make the trailer as comfortable as possible.

*Many horses experience anxiety when hauling. One simple tip for making your trailer an obvious comfort zone for your horses is to feed their daily grain ration in the trailer, and then leave them in for an hour or so afterwards. As their feed is digested, a horse tends to relax and even get a little sleepy. When you do this consistently, eventually they will associate the trailer not only with food, but relaxation. When your horse knows the trailer is a place for comfort and rest, they will look forward to loading up and experience much less stress when traveling.

  • Without a doubt, the leading guidance offered by the top 15 in the area of training barrel horses, was FOUNDATION, FOUNDATION, FOUNDATION! A ways down the list was consistency, physical fitness, positioning, seasoning, making sure they are healthy/not sore, and teaching them to handle varying ground conditions.

*Teaching your horse to move with balance and quality is the biggest part of empowering them to handle challenging ground conditions. However, don’t rule out the value in offering your horse opportunities where he HAS to learn to take care of himself. While we don’t want to risk injury, protecting our horses by only working on perfectly groomed footing means we are neglecting opportunities for them to learn how and where to place their feet on their own. A little slipping and sliding combined with a purpose (working cattle, for example) will force a horse to be more conscious and cautious with their feet.

Rate, collection, roundness, soft & supple.
Rate, collection, roundness, soft & supple.
  • When asked to describe their NFR horse’s running & turning style, the key words that stood out most were (in random order) run-around, smooth, hind end, slides, hard running, free runner, wicket fast, drops & turns, hunts & wraps, smooth & easy, consistent, turns hard, drags their butt.
  • It should also be noted that when Lisa Lockhart was asked – How would you describe your horse’s running/turning style?

    She (no surprise) said “I like a horse to have a lot of rate, collection and roundness and to be soft and supple.”

Great adjectives to add to your pre-run visualizations, eh?

  • When asked to describe their NFR horse’s qualities & attributes, and what they love about them most them, the theme centered around personality, try, heart, and consistency.
  • When it comes to the tools and products most commonly used, in the feed category, Purina was definitely the leader, coming out well ahead of other options. When it comes to supplements, Platinum Performance was ahead of the curve as well, with Qxy-gen products a close second.

    Professionals Choice sports medicine boots were hands down the leader in protective leg gear, and in the category of saddles it was a fairly level playing field, without a single brand standing out ahead of the others.

  • As for a winning warm-up, many shared that they do lots walking, and have a special focus on getting their horses loose, limber, stretched, and responsive. Soak on these additional descriptive words the next time you’re preparing to lay one down for the record books: listening, simple, trotting, good planning, walk circles, move off hands, move off feet, get on early, attention, slowly, long trotting, light, lope circles, using hips, ready and listening.
  • Facing and overcoming challenges is part of the rodeo game. Ever wondered just what sort of challenges are most common? The theme between the top 15 over the years has been struggling to move forward without adequate horse power. In other words, NFR barrel racers were challenged to keep their good horses going strong, due to soreness or injury.

*This is yet another clue to go above and beyond in the area of horse health to be absolutely certain your horse is 100% to start with, PLUS educate and dedicate yourself to keeping him that way – it’s a full-time commitment!

    Related challenges centered around where and how often to enter while still maintaining the horse’s well-being and giving them the best chances for success, as well as staying positive through all the inevitable ups and downs. Other challenges expressed were learning to be patient, staying focused, and having perseverance.

  • Ever wondered what rodeo’s leading ladies feel separates them from amateurs? By far the most important quality expressed was DEDICATION, as well as focus, hard work, resilience, being adaptive to change (different horses, for example), staying positive, faith, determination, being organized, and not taking life too seriously. They also suggested to never stop improving, set goals, dream big, believe in yourself, have a great horse, make sacrifices, have excellent horsemanship skills, a strong mental game and confidence.
  • Their advice to NFR-bound barrel racers was to set goals, focus on yourself, remember that tough times don’t last (tough people do!), keep learning and asking questions, never give up, work hard, be prepared for anything, believe in yourself, have mental discipline, stay focused, and stay positive!
  • When it comes to barrel racing bloodlines, one that stood out by a long shot (and has for many years) was the combination of Dash for Cash and Easy Jet, particularly Dash for Cash on the top/paternal side and Easy Jet on the bottom/materal side. According to my (unofficial) research, the most common NFR barrel horse producing sons of Dash for Cash were First Down Dash (Dash ta Fame’s sire) and Dash for Perks.

    Also popular was the line starting with the late, great Doc Bar, which led to Sugar Bars, then Flit Bar and ultimately greats such as Dr. Nick Bar and Firewater Flit. We can also trace Stingray’s sire (MP Frenchmans Hayday) back to Doc Bar, which led to Docs Jack Frost, then Sun Frost, sire of Frenchmans Guy, another popular NFR barrel racing bloodline in recent years.

When I searched WAY back in my Barrel Horse News archives (<- Get a subscription if you don’t already have one!), stemming from long before I’d been sharing top 15 interviews with you here at, I found some more share-worthy golden nuggets.

In the Fab 15 feature in the February, 2008 issue the ladies below had some excellent advice.

“Try to get the most solid horse you can, even if you have another faster one. This way, you’ll always have someone to help you out then the conditions are tough.”
Molly Powell

“Just keep working. If can happen. Attitude and desire can make you or break you.”
Lisa Lockhart

“Never quit learning and never, never, never give up. Give your dream to God and keep on trucking. You might be 40 years old and get to live your dream.”
Tana Poppino

These words of wisdom stood out from the Ticket to Ride article featured in the December, 2008 Barrel Horse News.

“Never confuse success with good management.” – Lindsay Sears

“Don’t let other people influence what you do.” – Brittany Pozzi

This is a good reminder that despite all these clues, we each have to do our homework and decided which path is truly best for us and our horses.

Look at everything with perspective and balance. Just because the top 15 have achieved the same result that you want, doesn’t mean you will resonate with all the ways in which they have gone about it.

I enjoyed the input provided in The Race is On article in the December, 2012 issue of Barrel Horse News (<- Do you have your subscription yet?) where the top 15 were asked: Think back to when making the NFR was just a dream. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from that point until now?

“Nothing comes easy. First of all, you have to decide that you want something. Then, you have to figure out out to go get it and dedicate yourself. You have to be truly committed to the cause. Anything is achievable if you’re willing to put in the effort, make the sacrifices, and do the work that is requires to be the best at what you do. You have to be able to work harder and be more dedicated than anybody and everybody else. It’s a life commitment.”
Lindsay Sears

“If you have something that you really want to do, really put your mind to it. If you’ve got a horse horse, just go for it. Knowing people really helps you out, too, to know where to go, which rodeos to enter, and where your horse works the best.”
Kaley Bass

“You’ve got to dream. None of us intentionally kill our dreams; they die because we quit feeding them. I don’t care who you are or how old you are, you just need to keep feeding that dream along, a little bit at a time. You never know when the circumstances are going to line up that are going to allow you to pursue that dream. Who’d have thought a 53-year-old would win the WPRA Rookie of the Year? I’m turning 55 on the last performance… it’s pretty cool that I get a 10-day celebration culminating with the final round of the NFR.”
– Lee Ann Rust

“Dreams can come true. I didn’t grow up around rodeo. I bought my horse at a racehorse sale and didn’t know anything about rodeoing. It was always a dream, but I never really though it would take me this far, and not this quickly. It taught me that your wildest dreams can come true.”
Christina Richman

What great testimonies to the fact that where you start does not have to determine where you go in life – this NFR dream IS possible for any one of us!

In the comments below, tell me which of the insights above resonate with YOU most?

Also enjoy these related posts for even more NFR related education and inspiration:

NFR Insider – Will Adversity (and Bad Ground) Cause You to Break, or Break Records?

NFR Insider - Will Adversity (and Bad Ground) Cause You to Break, or Break Records?

When my husband Craig and I stepped off the jet-bridge from the 757 that took us from Cowboy Town back to Austin after the NFR, our tummies were rumbling.

We’d been eating out all week in Vegas and were more than ready for some “clean” food. Nothing at the airport was appealing so we set out to find a semi-healthy meal.

Being that we were still fairly new to Texas, we didn’t exactly know our way around like the back of our hands yet. I have an excellent sense of direction, but my husband is very attached to his trusty ol’ (outdated) GPS. That’s how our little adventure got started.

“Go this way!” “NO it’s left, not right!” “That’s NOT what it shows on my phone!” We missed our first turn and the goose chase began. About 20 minutes later, we finally arrived at our destination. The atmosphere in the car was dense with frustration, but it wasn’t mine.

The situation reminded me of the one the 2014 NFR barrel racers faced. Read more

Success Leaves Clues – Lessons from a Day with Mary Walker and Latte

Success Leaves Clues – Lessons from a Day with Mary Walker and Latte

Mary Walker is a world-class lady who has “been there and done that.”

And not just because she’s 55 years old, OR a World Champion.

Of course I have a great deal of respect for her as barrel racer, but even more because of the trials she’s overcome.

If you watch the top 15 walk across the stage to receive their back numbers, and look close – you’ll see what I saw in Mary.

A sense of contentedness in her own skin – sheer presence, joy, humble confidence and sincerity. Read more

Cream of the Crop – Meet and Learn From the 2014 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

Cream of the Crop - Meet and Learn from the 2014 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

They’re not just good, or even great.

The field of 15 barrel racers that will grace the tunnel of the Thomas & Mack with their beauty and horsepower as they run toward $796,875 in prize money this year, are quite simply in a class by themselves.

Also known in french as crème de la crème, or cream of the cream, metaphorically the meaning of this phrase is “the best of the best” – much like the richest part of milk that rises to the very top.

As tough and competitive as barrel racing is, there are plenty of barrel racers that try as they might, don’t rise to this level.

If YOUR dream is to be one of professional rodeo’s elite top 15 at the NFR, take note of the deeper meaning behind each reply below, then research and reflect on how to make connections to your own barrel racing program that will ultimately lift YOU up as well! Read more