Learn, Earn, Turn & Burn – How to Create a Lifestyle That Supports Your Barrel Racing Dreams
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Not all, but most weekend warrior barrel racers would love to ride, train, travel and compete full time, if only… they had the right horse, more money, etc.
Today’s post was written to remind YOU that the barrel racing lifestyle you’ve always dreamed about IS indeed possible, AND more readily achievable than you might think.
I really believe in all the mushy business, summarized best with quotes like the one below by Jackson Kiddard…
“Life doesn’t give you dreams and aspirations for you to turn away and say ‘not for people like me.’ Your dreams are your real self-yearning to be followed with a courageous heart and unbending intent.”
Now at the same time, I’m not necessarily an overly emotional, sentimental person, but I do have to admit that during my first full winter here in Texas, I’ve gotten swept up in the moment on numerous occasions.
When surrounded by cool, crisp (but NOT COLD) air, and dry ground, I’ve had to fight off the overwhelming urge to drop to my knees and cry, then kiss and roll around in the GRASS beneath my feet – all in gratitude for the fact that there is no longer snow and ice beneath them – something that had seriously gotten in the way of MY dreams most of my life, but doesn’t anymore.
Although I’ve been in Texas since the spring of 2013, for the last seven years, I’ve been working from home full-time and enjoying the flexibility to do what I love with my horses, when I want to.
It’s not that I don’t still run into limitations, experience challenges, experience MAJOR overwhelm, or that I don’t have many more professional goals and things I aspire to – but the flexible lifestyle I’ve created that both supports my barrel racing obsession, and IS supported by my barrel racing obsession, isn’t something that happened overnight and it certainly didn’t happen by accident.
I can assure you though, if I can start where I did, and get to where I am, then you certainly can too. But if YOU want to blow your current popsicle stand and transition from a 9-5 job, it takes much more than a phenomenal horse or a sugar daddy (neither of which I had)!
Below, I’ve explained ten key insights that have made all the difference throughout the stages of my career, in hopes that you can learn from my mistakes, and my success, to create a life you love – full of fast times, fun and freedom!
1. Have a Long Term Action Plan – “Going pro” in a way that is sustainable long term isn’t something that “just happens” while you wait on the sidelines. You can’t reach your dreams without a specific, long term plan. To get what you want, you have to KNOW what you want (and why) with great clarity, and you have to commit to it. As you work your plan, it’s important to be open and wiling to receiving divine guidance and redirect your course as necessary. At the same time, don’t get distracted by what you want right now and lose sight of what you want most.
Be honest about motives – if your desire to be successful running barrels is really a way to prove your worth (to yourself or others), it’s going to be a long, frustrating journey. I recommend you start by really reflecting on your priorities and give some deep thought to what’s really important in life. Specifically, how do you want to FEEL? What must you DO to create those feelings now and into the future?
Actually write down certain dates you want to accomplish your goals and get your barrel racing “ducks in the row,” including the smaller steps necessary to make it all possible. This might include a transition to part time work, investments in your horsemanship education, the purchase of a truck or trailer, a different horse, etc.
There are certain terms I want to compete on, one being that I am never put in position to push myself or my horses to such extremes that would be damaging to our health, and that I’m not willing to go into debt to stay on the road. Define your own terms as part of your personal plan, and most of all – make sure you’re motivated by the right reasons.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
2. GET REAL – Seriously! – If your dream is to rodeo professionally, you’ve got to be realistic. Unless you’ve made a few long trips with a one ton diesel and a loaded living quarters trailer recently, you might need to be reminded that a cross country trip can cost $1,000 or more in fuel alone.
When you have a couple (or more) pro horses that need high level care and maintenance, expect to visit the Vet. regularly just to make sure they’re healthy, and don’t expect to leave without spending in the four figure-range to keep them that way.
When it comes to rigs, the best kind you can travel in is one that is completely paid for – freeing you up to invest any earnings back into your travel and competition expenses, which make no mistake – IS A LOT (both the cost of a rig and travel expenses).
I don’t recommend you expect your dream horse, another person, your winnings or sponsors to pay your way. Each of these may play a part, but I believe in having a source of income, or multiple streams of income (preferably passive income that doesn’t tie up a ton of your time) that will help you stand supported on your own two feet. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
This will help create some “cushion” for getting through the inevitable slumps. As you plan for the future, dream big, but be prepared to EARN big as well and have a plan to foot all the expenses. Don’t let these realities discourage you, let them inspire a massive action to create financial freedom, starting now.
“You know what you can do when you don’t have any payments? Anything you want.” – Dave Ramsey
3. Find the Right Bridge Job – A bridge job is something you do that is a stepping stone to what you REALLY want to do. What is the “right bridge job” for an aspiring pro barrel racer? I figure you basically have two choices – one is to find something that appeals to you where you can make as much money as possible, that still allows some flexibility to enjoy your horses, OR you ride for the public or take a job working under a horse training professional, neither of which is likely to pay a whole lot, but will provide a lot of value in the way of learning experiences. You could also consider a combination of both.
You may be able to find a well-paying job that you enjoy with somewhat flexible hours or at least very good benefits without a college education, but I always support going to college to increase your odds. What I don’t recommend is selling your soul to work a job you don’t enjoy only for the money. A perfect bridge job might be one that allows you to work as you’re available, or one that allows you to have summers off, or three day weekends for example.
It’s also important to acknowledge the value you bring to the table. Your net worth is directly connected to your self-worth – don’t sell yourself short or mark yourself down when shooting for a well-paying work that will support you. Educate yourself, go out and get experience that is valuable to others, then have high standards as you offer your expertise to the world.
“Money is an echo of value; it’s the thunder to value’s lightning.” – Bob Burg
4. Expect the Unexpected – I started out my professional career as a licensed Vet. Tech. which I didn’t initially intend to be a bridge job. Turns out that the pay was low and the vacation time was virtually non-existent. Most of the gals I worked with were married to their career. I had many interests outside of the Vet. clinic, and I wanted to be married to a MAN some day – so after a year in the field, I moved on to office jobs that offered great benefits, and plenty of paid vacation. Over time, I got promotions, I negotiated more flexible hours and made a lot more income than ever would have as a Vet. Tech. – it was a huge step forward in achieving my barrel racing dreams.
I will never regret getting my college education, I gained knowledge and experience that I continue to use every day, but it didn’t take long to figure out that my chosen profession wasn’t working out like I expected. I’m not dissing the Vet. Tech. profession necessarily, it does pay better than it used to and perhaps not all clinics operated like the ones I worked at, but do your homework.
Do your best to be sure you’re investing in something that will support your long term goals, and by all means dive in wholeheartedly! Remember though that things aren’t always what they seem. If you find that out the hard way like I did, be honest with yourself, and willing to make a change to get out while the gettin’ is good!
“It is easier to correct motion going in the wrong direction than it is to get started.” – Norman Schwarzkopf
5. Start Your Own Business – Lots of folks get all starry eyed about the thought of starting their own business, but I’m here to tell you it’s not as dreamy as you might think. In addition to creating BarrelracingTips.com, for over ten years I have owned and operated my own web design business. Before I went full-time, I worked evenings, after my actual full-time job + riding horses for YEARS to build my business up to a level that would eventually support me.
For the first three years or so after going full time, I averaged about five hours of sleep per night. I simply refused for my business to be anything less than successful, and it certainly was, but I admittedly turned into a workaholic in the process (I don’t recommend that part). Although I suppose I had a little more flexibility than most 9-5 people, I was working an obscene number of hours. I’m not saying that this is what owning your own business has to, or will always look like – I’ve traveled a huge learning curve over the years.
Although you may very well have more flexibility, it’s for the most part unrealistic to think that you can expect to have more time when you start your own business, especially at first. Even to this day, I spend much more time in my office than I do horseback, it’s a ratio I’m always striving to adjust. Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everybody, but if you’re feel called to head in that direction, don’t do so thinking you’ll “get rich quick,” OR suddenly have lots more free time. But by all means if you have a valuable gift to offer the world and you offer it well, you’ll get there eventually – but in the labor of love there is A. LOT. OF. LABORING!
“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross lies your calling.” – Aristotle
6. There Will Be Neigh-Sayers – Every so often I receive a message from someone saying they have all these grand barrel racing dreams but that their spouse or parents, or someone else in their life doesn’t believe in them or support their dreams – like that’s an excuse or reason not to follow your dreams anyway!? Ffffftttt!
Other people’s limitations ARE going to be reflected onto you, but that’s not your problem – it’s theirs. Maybe others are legitimately questionable about your plans. While you should be considerate of those who will be directly affected by your decisions, outside of that, who cares? My husband is the most supportive, loving guy and even he wasn’t so sure about me transitioning to my web design business full time. Let’s just say he doesn’t doubt me anymore. The most important thing is that I didn’t doubt myself.
The whole driving force behind my business was to have the flexibility and freedom to do what I love with horses – there was NOTHING that was going to stand in the way of that. I had dreams of rodeoing with my husband (a team roper) and typing away on my laptop in the trailer while we traveled. My web design business was a way to receive income for serving others, while doing something I enjoyed (training horses for the public never appealed to me), while competing with my horses – which required flexibility. If someone didn’t else see the possibilities and have the passion and determination I did, that wasn’t my problem. There are going to be times in life when you just gotta put ear muffs on, and say “Watch me!”
“We have enough people who tell it like it is. Now we could use a few who tell it like it could be.” – Robert Orben
7. Manage Your Time Well – There are three ways you can choose to spend your time – on something that adds value to your life, something that is neutral, or something that takes away from your life. Watching Jerry Springer would take away. Surfing Facebook? Mostly neutral. You’ll know how to categorize your daily activities by how they make you feel. It’s critical that you intentionally structure your days to include mainly things that add to your life and put you closer to your goals, and make you feel good about yourself.
I am and always have been very particular and protective of how I spend my time. In fact, my husband and I don’t have TV. We have a big, beautiful entertainment center that came with our house, and it’s all filled with knick knacks on the shelves, and even has an actual TV inside, but we do not have cable – on PURPOSE.
We’ve got to prioritize the things that are important, even when all the urgent stuff seems to take precedence. Small, daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results. Don’t let the craziness of life’s seemingly urgent tasks knock you off course. There will always be seasons in life when our barrel racing gets put on the back burner, but remember that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself, and even for others, is to chase your own dreams.
“If you want to be good at something, you have to work at it every day. If you want to be great at something, you have to live it every day.” – Dusty Lubbock
8. Don’t Stop Dreaming – Speaking of dreams, while I also recommend having a serious dose of reality when considering and planning your future (see tip #2.), don’t squelch the dreamer within. As cliché as it sounds, sometimes you just have to “dream BIG, have faith, and BELIEVE.”
When my gelding Pistol got hurt in 2012, if you would have told me how many Vet. visits his recovery would require, how many miles I would travel, and how much it would cost, I would have been a blubbering mess – wailing in tears that there is just no way we could pull it off. But we DID pay for his MRI, and stem cells, and everything else miraculously without going into debt and today he is sound. Looking back, I can’t even tell you how, but sometimes you just have to press forward without a plan and PRAY – a lot!
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were preparing our tax documents and as he was looking over some paperwork, he turned to me and asked, “Do you know how much our move to Texas cost?” “How much?” I replied. I almost choked. Some how yet again, we did it without going into debt. Now there’s a time and place to pay detailed attention to the numbers, but I’m not sure I want to in this case. As far as I’m concerned, it was a miracle! What’s meant to be will come to pass when the time is right, and we can’t always bog ourselves down with “the reality” of it all.
There WILL be legitimate obstacles that you’ll need to acknowledge and work toward dissolving, but there will also be things you just have to turn over to a greater power. I dreamed about moving to Texas for years, and was so excited when a door of opportunity opened that pointed us down south, but if I would have had a dose of reality before we started packing, even “Miss Positivity” might have thrown her hands in the air. Sometimes, a little bit of ignorance can be bliss.
“Attitudes are more important than facts.” – Karl Menniger
9. Never-ending Learning – So, I’m a little… different. I’ll admit it. I LOVE learning, even back in the day, I actually liked school. And here’s the thing – I’m not just interested in horses, I’m borderline obsessed. Everything about them fascinates me, I want to learn more and more and more. They bring me so much joy! The love I have for horses pratically makes my heart explode! In fact, the reason I didn’t initially dive into a career directly related to training and competing, was so that I wouldn’t get burned out – I wanted to protect my love for horses.
When you combine an intense passion with a burning desire for learning, you have a great combination. When you’re passionate about something, you’ll find ways to do it even in less than ideal circumstances, and you’ll find ways to learn how to do it better every single day. Learning doesn’t stop when you’re finished with school – it just begins because you can now focus completely on what you really want to learn most! Learning also doesn’t stop when you’re advanced or have achieved a fair amount of success – it’s a never-ending commitment.
So go to clinics, ride with experts, ride as many horses as possible, take lessons, read, watch training DVD’s, and especially get busy putting it all to use where the real lessons will take place through experience. Invest in your education, invest in your horses, invest in yourself. YES, it costs money, but ignorance can cost a lot more! Don’t make excuses for not learning. The TRUTH behind “I don’t have time,” is really “It’s not important enough to me.” Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, make mistakes, and then fix them. Be secure enough to admit that you don’t “know it all.” It’s better to have failed greatly, than never tried.
Nothing compares to real, in the flesh experience, but don’t underestimate the power of learning opportunities in the form of books, DVD’s, etc. Educational resources are available now days that would blow your mind if you just sought them out. Whether you’re a hard core learner by nature or not, get obsessive about being progressive – it’s all part of preparing yourself for when the other stars (financial means, the right horse, etc.) line up. Make sure you’re ready!
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
10. Sensualize Your Goals, then Get to WORK – I was born into an environment that just didn’t resonate with me in more ways than one. I got closer to creating a life I loved when I went to college, then got even closer yet when I left south east North Dakota and moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, with a rusty two horse trailer and a dream, but now, I feel like I’m HOME. There were times in my life where I had to endure circumstances or conditions I didn’t like, they affected me no doubt, but deep down I always knew they were temporary… I kept my blinders on and held pictures in my mind of what I wanted for my life – THEN, I worked my tail off.
In my dedication to personal development, I’ve created vision boards, studied sports psychology, AND of course, prayed for help and guidance to create the change I wanted. I’m not sure if my ability to drown out what’s not working and keep focused on what is, and what will be, came to me naturally, out of desperation, or as a result of all the inner work I’ve done, or a combination thereof. What’s most important is that it works, which is why I encourage others to do the same.
I don’t mean only the inner, mental, personal development aspect, but the physical one also. Creating a barrel racing lifestyle of fun, freedom and flexibility will require massive action and plain ol’ hard work as well. No amount of wishful thinking without sweat will get you there, and no amount of hard work without rock solid belief in your heart will either – you’ve got to have both.
“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Creating a barrel racing lifestyle is likely to be the most challenging and most rewarding journey of your life. It will require you to think outside the box, get comfortable being uncomfortable, and get your hands dirty.
You’ve got to know with clarity what you want, and be prepared to tune and tweak as you go – “you gotta learn and earn, if you wanna turn & burn!”
I know with each passing day I’m getting closer and closer to living the life that I was put on this earth to live. My passions and my purpose are merging together in ways that are even greater than I ever imagined or intended.
As you create your own version of the perfect “barrel racing lifestyle,” most importantly remember that your talent is God’s gift to you, what you do with it is your gift back to God. If He put a desire in your heart, He will help you get there.
I dare you to look the 9-5:00 status quo in the eye and tell it where to go (unless of course it’s a good bridge job), and make YOUR ideal barrel racing lifestyle a REALITY!
“The key is to listen to your heart and let it carry you in the direction of your dreams. I’ve learned that it’s possible to set your sights high and achieve your dreams and do it with integrity, character, and love. And each day that you’re moving toward your dreams without compromising who you are, you’re winning.” – Michael Dell
In the comments below, tell me where YOU are on the path to creating a life of fast horses and freedom?
What has been your main challenge, what has worked well?
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I just signed up for your website and I think I’m going to like it. Your article was very interesting and motivational. I’m am not at the same place in life and I do not aspire to barrel race full time but I am obsessed with horsemanship and learning. Sometimes the old self-doubt creeps in and whispers in my ear if I feel judgement of others, real or not. So I’m just going to remember the best sentence in your writing today – put ear muffs on and say “just watch me”. Love it, it went into my inspirational journal! Thanks.
Glad to have you here at BarrelRacingTips.com, Rosalie! This one’s for you and ALL of us who struggle with judgment (from ourselves or others)… 🙂
I am getting closer to my barrel racing dream more than ever because I have just graduated college and am looking hard at jobs that have good hours and lots of flexibility.
An education was the best thing for me, because I have ridden and trained for the public in the past. I did not enjoy it. I did not have the skills to be able to charge what I wanted and to ride the level of horse I wanted. I am working on my skill still, but have come along way…I’m planning on having a good, flexible job that will allow me to ride my horses and not feel stressed and not be so short on time. I will be able to go out and achieve for myself and my horses and use Gods gift to me. You are right the 9-5 status quo does not work for those of us intent on making our dreams come true.
Good for you Sandra, sounds like you are on the right track! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Your messages are always timely. Right when I’m wanting to do more barrel racing, due to life circumstances it seems like I’m getting to do less and less. Then when I went out to ride this morning my mare was missing BOTH front shoes! You inspire me to keep plugging away and to come up with a better plan.
Ah, that’s great to hear Barb, glad this one resonated with you. When something isn’t working, we just have to think about what needs to change so it WILL! 😉
Thank you for your article. Once again you are right on the money with me because we had spoken some time ago about whether or not I should venture outside of office culture to realize my own barrel racing dreams. I was going to email you and say, “I started my own business that I can do on the side for the moment…but now what?”
I have also ridden horses for the public…AND also been a vet tech, and while I could easily go back to either…I never really liked training horses for people, and vet tech work left me lacking as a person in SEVERAL areas. While I work in a horse-oriented industry now, I realize that I need to have some “extra” going on to reach my own dreams, and need that extra to continue competing as well as learning and going to clinics. Not to mention it is for horses and can be promoted at barrel racing and roping events! 🙂
Your article will definitely be something that I turn back to and re-read and use to guide myself in a focused direction rather than just into the wild blue yonder. Thank you so much!
Thanks for sharing Nikki! Being an independent, successful barrel racer is certainly possible, but it does require us to be creative and use our talents and passions in specific ways that work for us – which are often ways that would not work, or be understood by others. Congrats – you are getting there! 😀
Amazing! I loved every line! Thank you! This was sent from God!
Thanks Roberta, sooo glad you enjoyed it! My pleasure as always!
I enjoy your Tuesday emails, but this one (and the how to survive winter one) has to be one of my favorites. Seems like every point was one I have been grappling with the last few months. I’m encouraged to press on to realize my barrel racing dreams- not the NFR, but certainly more races and wins than in the past. Thanks Heather. Your quotes are great too; have you ever read “TheTraveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews? You’d love it!!
So glad you’re enjoying these, Linn! 🙂
I have not read The Traveler’s Gift, but I will look it up – thanks! 🙂
Just want to say this article really hits home for me right now. I have been working really hard to focus on reality and getting my priorities straight!
I graduated college in the spring of 2013. I now have my own office and my boss reassures me often that I am a huge asset to this company, he has been wonderful. I work about 50 hours a week but he allows me to take partial or all of Fridays off to head to jackpots or rodeos. I recently moved back home with my mom, bought a newer/bigger truck and sold my horse trailer. I started the year owning 4 horses and sold all but the one with the most potential. Within the next few months I will have saved enough money to pay for a better trailer! I still feel like I am only taking baby steps but your article has reminded me that these baby steps are necessary. My biggest goal is to never settle. If I get the opportunity or when the time is right I need to upgrade, always moving forward. I may not have my dream horse or my dream truck & trailer now but I have a dream and I am committed to making it a reality!
One of my biggest struggles so far has been self confidence. I love to learn and I know I’m obsessed with horses, like you everything about them fascinates me. I want to be the best rider and care giver I can possibly be. However I feel like my lack of experience(even though I started riding before I could walk I feel so young in the barrel world) is devastating to my confidence. I still feel like I have soooo much to learn.
Thank you again for this article and reminding me that my dreams are possible I just have to keep on keeping on! (:
Yes, you ARE on the right track Kim! The process doesn’t look the product – whether it be training a barrel horse or creating your barrel racing lifestyle! We have to create a solid “foundation,” to support high level success, this applies to every aspect. My husband hasn’t roped much in years and his family gives him grief about it, but he’s working on creating financial freedom and expanding his horsemanship so he can go ALL THE WAY in the future, and not just spin his wheels at local jackpots.
I understand what you’re saying about lack of experience… I didn’t grow up in a rodeo family and early on when I was venturing out on my own the sneaking suspicion that everyone else knew something that I didn’t was overwhelming. At the core, it’s because we don’t believe we are ENOUGH. But the TRUTH is that we ALL are OK just where we’re at, EVERYTHING is progress and there is no need to be constantly measuring our worth or comparing our journey to others. Our desire to grow and succeed must come from a content place of fullness rather than lack. THEN we will feel confident even though we receive reminders along the way that we don’t know it all. When our inner foundation is firm it doesn’t knock us off track, “failure” is only feedback. We’re ALL in the same boat, and it’s totally cool to be a “work in progress!”
I was actually in the process of emailing you with a similar question and all of that and more have been answered in your last email and article! I also prayed to God recently for guidance on career in barrel racing and what it takes. This article could not have come at a better time!
Thank you for everything and God Bless!
Hooray! It’s so amazing when God makes Himself known when we simply ask for His help! Glad this one was helpful, and thanks for sharing! 🙂
I appreciated this article so much!! I really needed to read it!
The last couple of years i have done a little bit of barrel racing just for fun but the end of last year got a great opportunity to run a horse that could really take me somewhere and was also given one of her babies! This got me very excited about actually competing. I had never held a card from any rodeo assoc. so I was going to enter as a rookie and my goal was to be rookie of the year! I work on a ranch and my boss was willing to be flexible and let me have the time off I needed to go to my rodeos.
Then the end of March I was training a colt and broke my leg and ankle quite badly. I have been pretty discouraged ever since I missed the first 3 rodeos I wanted to go to and I will probably miss the 4th.
Looking up I will be able walk in a boot tomorrow! and hopefully be riding by the end of this month.
I keep trying instead of asking God why did this have to happen, what am I suppose to gain from this? I can’t say I’ve quite figured it out because with a lot of unexpected money being spent and days not riding it seems that my goals are getting harder to achieve.
With all of that being said I’m really not happy at my current job either which can put a person in the dumps.
BUT!! I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! and I won’t give up now I’m simply in the trust and pray like crazy stage.
This article really hit home to me! I am really wanting to go pro but every time I feel like it’s going to be my year I feel like I’m always pushed back by either an injury or my horse isn’t working right or I’m not working right. But like you said there are always things that happen in our lives that are meant to happen. My goals and confidence in my horses get stranger and bigger every year! But my biggest problem is I think I have to much going on lol. I have my two seasoned horses, 14, and three upcoming babies. I work very hard to do what I love to do and I wouldn’t change anything in the world! My horses are my life and I don’t know what I would do with my horses. But I do need help.. I need help on how to prioritize my horses and my dreams. I have so many things I want to do with my horses I just don’t know where to start. I went out to Texas for two years, full rodeo scholarship with my favorite big boy, and I loved and want to go back!! But I just get nervous and scared of all the bad things that can happen.. Like I said I have a lot of dreams and need a little help with putting my goals in order and figuring everything out. You seem very knowledgable and someone that has experience with the rodeo career. I loved this article and would really appreciate your advice. Have a blessed day !!
Thanks for sharing!
My best advice is to SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY! Then break down the ingredients – the things you need to be, do and have to make your dreams reality. Barrel Racing is a full time job, so are all the other things that so many of us try to cram into our days. Most of us have around 6 “full-time jobs,” and that’s waayyy too many! There are a TON of things I’d LOVE to do but I had to let go of a lot of it to trade “good for great” and focus on what I loved most. There is so much GOOD that can happen when you get really clear on your goals and take action – focus on that! 🙂
Thank you so much!! I love getting your emails and reading your experiences.