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 I have an excellent sense of direction, but my husband is very attached to his trusty ol’ (outdated) GPS.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.
Usually a happy-go-lucky, laid-back kind of guy who can handle traffic like a pro – Craig was beyond ready to blow a fuse. “Wait just a minute,” I said before we stepped out of the car. “What is this REALLY all about?” He made an angry comment about the GPS and the traffic.
In my mind, the issue was a minor inconvenience. It was early afternoon, we didn’t have THAT much driving ahead of us to get home, and we weren’t even in a big hurry. Finding a place to each lunch was nowhere near a life and death situation.
Maybe it was the sleep deprivation that had contributed to Craig’s case of “the crankies,” but for the sake of our sanity, marriage, and our future travels (which are bound to be much more stressful at times), I knew we needed to talk this through.
I offered a reminder that it’s not what happens to us in life, but our perspective that determines whether we’ll be bitter or better – whether we’ll have peace and joy despite the circumstances, OR give our power away and allow our situations to rob it from us.
We can choose to embrace taking the scenic route, just like we can embrace the challenging circumstances we face in the arena – such as less than ideal ground conditions.
If we want to come out ahead, we must not only practice choosing a positive perspective on purpose, but ALSO let life’s challenges remind us to “do work” – the preparations necessary to speed through them with much more ease.
It’s no surprise to me that Lisa Lockhart and Louie ended up winning two of the go-grounds when the ground conditions were worst at the 2014 NFR. She was not only prepared, but was able to bounce back and stay positive despite a heart breaking tipped barrel in round six.
In this round seven coverage from Barrel Horse News, her husband Grady, who could have easily let the drop in average position get him down as well, make a choice.
“Grady (Lockhart’s husband) woke up with a pep in his step today,” Lockhart said of the man she calls her soulmate. “How does he always know? He was like, ‘Today is going to be a good day!’ and was just bouncing around all day. I know part of that is just to try to help me, especially after last night… To me, it just makes me mad and I come back with a vengeance. I grit my teeth a little harder and we have to make up for it.”
How wonderful! We ALL need uplifting, supportive people on our team. If YOU have a “negative nelly” following (or driving) you around, it may be time to suggest they shape up or ship out!
So many of the performances at this year’s NFR were not a horse race, but contests to see who could handle adverse conditions the best.
How ready are YOU?
I also commended Lisa’s quick thinking that resulted in her first of two go-round wins. Being up later in the draw gave her the opportunity to realize that the times were slower than usual and there were a lot of downed barrels. She rode solid but conservatively for the buckle.
Not only is Louie prepared to handle poor ground conditions, thanks to his balanced, 4×4 style and supple responsiveness, but Lisa adjusted to fit the situation as well. She made numerous smart, split-second decisions and it paid off.
With Louie coming back from an injury, she stated early in the week that she didn’t feel prepared coming into the finals. However, let me assure you that she and Louie were prepared in many ways others weren’t, and on top of that – Lisa knows how to WIN.
Louie uses himself in a way that gives him an edge, traction specifically. Some other horses that clocked faster in better conditions, also came with tendencies to throw their weight around which left them struggling at times when the ground shifted under them.
Balanced weight gives you traction, and gives you POWER.
When a rider leans in the saddle or a horse’s rib cage flexes toward the barrel, causing their body to lean to the inside, they become more likely to slip down to the ground as the feet go UP and footing is lost.
We all “ooooh” and “aaaahh” over Louie’s signature, consistent “style,” and even though our individual barrel horses come with unique, innate, God-given tendencies and characteristics – don’t underestimate the power WE have as trainers and riders to dramatically improve and refine, or even completely change a horse’s style for the better!
We can ALL put “a little more Louie” in our horses, no matter if they are little “zoomers” like BabyFlo, or big, racy beasts like Latte. I can’t think of a barrel horse that wouldn’t benefit from from having more balance, suppleness, shape and responsiveness. The more of that WE take responsibility for instilling, the more likely our horses will be able to come out ahead in challenging conditions – not just by clocking faster, but also with less risk for injury.
As barrel racers, we’re so often quick to point the finger to the conditions, just like Craig pointed his finger to the GPS. Of course, the ground at this year’s NFR was legitimately dangerous and needed to be addressed. But what do you do when your stacked in the alley and it hasn’t been? Will be confident you’ve done absolutely everything in your power to prepare for adverse circumstances?
In Lisa’s runs when the ground conditions were worst, there were no slips or trips.
Of course, we must make sure our concerns heard in regards to the unacceptable ground. Numerous horses have received career-ending injuries over the years while competing at the most prestigious rodeo in the world. We have to raise our voices at times to be advocates for our equine partners and our own safety. But it’s also our responsibility do our part – our personal best to prepare our horses and ourselves for anything that could possibly come our way as well.
As barrel racers with a (sometimes) one-track mind, we tend to jump to quick fixes or mechanics. We look to ways of preventing our horse from making a mistake on the pattern, ways to “keep” them balanced, upright, or on path. However, if we do our job effectively – we can empower our horses with confidence to do their own job (which is to stay balanced and on track), yet still respond to and accept our help if necessary, which they very well may need in poor conditions.
Ask yourself – do you ride defensively or offensively?
Do you look to crutches or mechanical means to put runs together?
Are you trying to get by… or “stealing” rides?
Do YOU need to “repaint your tiger,” so you’re enhancing what is organically very good by adding only subtle guidance to make it AMAZING?
Or are you trying to find a way to take something not that great, and turn it into something that in the end, will only be mediocre?
Never hesitate to look at you and your horse’s foundations and ask yourself how you can create good, positive movement patterns and positioning that stands firmly on its own, such as riding with timing and feel, and moving with balance and power – at speed and under ALL circumstances.
Most importantly, never doubt the possibility for positive change, no matter how well-established certain habits seem to be. The first attachment we must lose, is the one in our minds. Once that opens up, our options do as well, and the level of success we achieve will be reflected by it.
You have so much more power over your conditions and circumstances and you realize – don’t ever forget it, or fail to take advantage of it!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a quote and the inspiration for this post’s title – “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” – William Arthur Ward
Here’s to doing our part to achieve the latter!
While you’re here, also enjoy these posts for even more NFR related education and inspiration: