Start Your Summer Barrel Racing Season Right

Preparation is the key to stree-free hauling and peak performance.Preparation is the key to stree-free hauling and peak performance.

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I’ve never believed in doing things half way.  Whether it’s barrel racing, business or relationships, when I commit to something, I give my all. 

I figure if I’m going to invest my time and energy in something, that something must be important. 

Otherwise, why do it at all? 

It’s interesting that such a large percentage of people walk through life just hoping to make it through with as little effort as possible.  Sometimes these people actually achieve some success in the barrel racing arena.  However, their success is sporadic at best. 

So how can you gain a definite edge? 

How can you set yourself up to achieve barrel racing success and stay competitive? 


This may seem obvious, or even simple, but it’s easier said than done!

Now is the time to analyze where you’re going, and if you are really prepared to go there. 

Have you set yourself up to succeed and come out on top of any situation that comes your way, no matter how unexpected? 

On the way to a barrel race.There is great value in having the ability to simply go with the flow but surprisingly – prior, proper preparation makes this easier! 

When you start out from a good place, whether in the alley, your driveway, or life in general, you set the remainder of your “trip” up to be a good one. 

You’re living on purpose, not leaving your success to chance.  In addition you’re creating an insurance policy to help protect those things we are financially and emotionally invested in – our family, our horses, and the material possessions that make our life with them possible and enjoyable. 

There are examples of riders and horses suffering due to lack of preparation everywhere, and like me, you have probably suffered the consequences yourself!

  • You head out for the barrel race with a slow leak in your tire which turns into a major blowout on the highway, the trailer fender is torn to bits and the lug nuts are rusted on.
  • You neglected to ask about the road conditions before departing to a barrel race at a new location and end up high centering the trailer on a small hill, breaking a connection to the tanks, requiring costly repairs.
  • Your friend’s young horse hasn’t been ridden in two weeks, it’s cold and windy and his lack of focus is obviously frustrating but turns dangerous when he slips and falls.
  • You see a lady running across the parking lot in a panic – her horse showing severe colic symptoms, she’s frantically trying to find a Vet’s phone number and some Banamine (both of which she obviously doesn’t have). 
  • A horse violently pulls back at the fence, causing a domino effect of panicked horses.  The drama goes on long enough that the overhead rail is about to come over and it seems like an eternity passes before someone finds a knife to cut the lead rope.
  • You didn’t call ahead about stalls and arrive to the barrel race to discover they don’t sell shavings at the facility.  You have to make a run to the feed store before it closes but exhibitions start in 30 minutes.

If you can relate to any of these situations, you’re not alone. 

LIFE happens.

No one has their act together perfectly every day. 

But where do you fall on the preparedness scale?   

Do you obsess about preparing for your next barrel race to the point that it consumes your mind with worry?  A certain amount of fear is healthy (it helps keep us safe), but if our preparations are driven by negative “what if’s”, it might be time for a mental self check-up.  Keep in mind that “what we think about we bring about,” at the same time remember to “expect the best but prepare for the worst!” 

Many barrel racers fall on the other end of the spectrum. 

We may feel disappointed with a less than stellar performance, especially after realizing that we failed to set ourselves up for success to begin with.  If you wish you could feel better prepared for your next show, ask yourself, what is preventing you from preparing appropriately? 

The main block that stands between feeling confident and ready, or NOT – is our all too often busy schedules.  For most, it’s a fast paced world and the demands of work, family and horses are high.  You might even laugh, thinking “I’m lucky if I arrive at a barrel race with all my tack!” 

This time of year, as spring rains cleanse the earth and new foals are being born, it’s a good time to take inventory of our barrel racing goals and how we plan to achieve them.  Let’s be honest, is being consistently time-poor and preparation challenged really part of what creates success? 

Barrel horses in the trailer.Barrel racing is a significant investment on many levels.  As you begin your summer barrel racing season, consider whether you are REALLY giving your family, your horses, your career, etc. your ALL, or are you spread too thin? 

Would you rather schedule fewer trips or haul one less horse to allow for prior proper preparation for those competitions you do enter and consequentially enjoy a lot more?  Factor in the cost of fuel and it may become appealing to spend more time at home tuning up before you hit the rodeo road.  Consider how you can make this season more about quality than quantity. 

Would freeing up more time help you be more conscious and aware as you develop your horses, so you could tune in better to what THEY needed to be at their best? Sometimes it takes letting go of the good in our life to make room for the great.  That might mean paring down your obligations and essentially narrowing your focus. 

Remember that a focused beam of light has great power.  Target YOUR barrel racing goals for the year with the strength of a laser! 

Keep in mind as you go forward that being prepared is no guarantee that you won’t be thrown some curve balls.  However, preparation breeds confidence, and with proper preparation, even if your performance doesn’t meet your expectations you can rest easy knowing that you REALLY did give it your all. 

Of course, you’ve probably never experienced extreme frustration, stress, worry or anxiety over having packed too many warm clothes, having your first aid kit too well stocked, having too many spare tires, or a tire iron fit the lug nuts too perfectly!

By arranging your life to allow for prior, proper, preparation, you won’t just be starting out this season “on the right foot” – you and your horse will be perfectly balanced, poised and ready on all four feet (with no mismatched SMB boots), or in a trailer with all eight (properly inflated) tires!   

This month I’m sharing several travel checklists I’ve compiled to make your summer travels safe and enjoyable.  I like to think of these as much more in-depth and discipline specific than other hauling checklists out there. 

I hope you’ll find them helpful AND I hope you have an extra hoof pick handy when I need to borrow it at the next barrel race!

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment below and tell me what YOUR summer travel plans are!?

“Be ready when opportunity comes…
Luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.”

Roy D. Chapin, Jr.

6 replies
  1. Sarah Luke
    Sarah Luke says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am travelling heavily this year chasing points and making a name for myself and my business and this came at the right time as the summer months are coming upon us. Thank you for your site and sharing all your knowledge with us.

  2. shirley snyder
    shirley snyder says:

    Hi my name is Shirley Snyder Im just a old country girl training my mare of 5 years old.have had her for almost 2 years. I hope to have under saddle in the next month.I will never be a pro but i still want my mare trained well.My hopes are for her to be used for play days for a couple of deserving young ladys that dont have there own horse to ride in play days.These young ladies lives barrels barrels.And ride well they have been on horses since they have 4 and 5 they are 15 and 16 I was hoping you might tell us the best way to start our quest to make my mare a play day pole and barrel racer. While teaching her foudation she only had to be shown 2 to three times on each move and she picked it up.SHE AIMS TO PLEASE ME ALWAYS. Thank you for your time

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Hi Shirley, loved hearing about your goals for your mare! My best recommendation is to invest in my book series, starting with ‘The Secrets,’ which really lays a solid foundation, then ‘The First 51‘ will give you many how-to’s for putting it all into action. Find them here under the BOOKS link. 😉


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