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

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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:

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