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Your NFR Game Plan – Steps for Turning BIG Barrel Racing Dreams into Reality

Your NFR Game Plan - Steps for Turning BIG Barrel Racing Dreams into Reality

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #151 & #152 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher or Google Play.



In this special post, I’ll be sharing a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how someone without all the typical support systems and resources that the NFR barrel racers seem to have… can work toward reaching THAT level of barrel racing achievement.

First, you should know that over a year ago I started making detailed plans for the NFR.

I don’t mean planning my wardrobe for this year (haven’t even started on that yet!) – I mean getting ready to RUN there.

Yep, I already know where we’re going to stay & keep horses when I’m competing in Vegas. 

Wait, what!?  Someone might say “You don’t even have ______, ______, or ______ yet!”

While that may be true on one level, my faith in the unseen and what I DO have is even more true on deeper level.  I’m just planning for the eventual and inevitable.

I have no doubt in the dream God planted in my heart.

So EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I’m preparing for the NFR. ✨

You can be getting ready too – no matter how far away it may seem right now.
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Follow the Barrel Racing Pattern of Least Resistance

Follow the Barrel Racing Pattern of Least Resistance

What does a bag of flour, soccer field markers and a tape measure have in common?

Well, they are yet another Secret to Barrel Racing Success, of course!

When it comes to navigating the cloverleaf, some top barrel racers keep an even distance around the barrels. Although it’s not as common as it once was, some still make a swooping pocket coming into the turns. Many barrel racers come into the barrel a little wider than they leave it. Some trainers ask their horses to follow a slightly different pattern in slow work as they ask for in a run. Many of us designate a “point” a certain number of feet in front of a barrel as the location to rate and/or shape for the turn.

Flour, soccer field markers, and a tape measure
Flour, soccer field markers, and a tape measure.

My preferred method is somewhat of a combination of these concepts, and I then customize that pattern slightly based on the horse I’m riding. Additional slight adjustments may be necessary in an actual run depending on the conditions.

These are circumstances when it becomes especially important for our horse to be truly connected and willing to follow our guidance. If you missed my last article on that very subject, to make sure you and your horse are on the same page (even when going mach 10), click here to Get Connected to Shave Time Off the Clock.

The truth is, the path we train our horse’s feet to follow (and how) on the barrels can make it physically easier OR harder to navigate the pattern quickly and efficiently. Read more

Get Connected to Shave Time Off the Clock

Get Connected to Shave Time Off the Clock

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #24 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.


“Experiencing true unity when racing through the pattern, without delays or hesitation, is the stuff winning runs are made of.” – pg. 34 of Secrets to Barrel Racing Success.

It’s not uncommon for riders to get a taste of true connection with horses, and then turn their desire for developing it further into a lifelong pursuit.

Many riders, even trainers and competitors are not physically and mentally connected with their horses. Even worse, is that they lack the awareness of their disconnection. Often times this sense of “being on the same page” comes and goes – it’s there sometimes, but not others. One thing for certain, “getting connected” more consistently will always improve your barrel racing!

Robot Horse

I don’t want you to make the mistake of thinking that if you aren’t “one” with your horse, that you won’t achieve some level of success with horses, because miraculously, you can.

It’s possible through using repetition, patterns, etc. to train your horse to develop habits and respond to cues. Like a perfect robotic “trick horse” your equine partner might make assumptions and obediently respond with enough consistency that it leaves you feeling like quite an accomplished team.

However this mechanical, trained responsiveness, although an important part of the equation for successful barrel racing, will only get you so far. Without being truly connected, the communication with your horse is, well – artificial.
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Six Secrets for Relaxed, Quality Movement

Six Secrets for Relaxed, Quality Movement

Just like humans, horses are born with naturally occurring tendencies, characteristics and personality traits.

Some tend to be more high strung, some tend to be laid back, some are more naturally confident, some are more fearful.

What many riders don’t realize though, is that there is a TON we can do to help our horses achieve balance. When we do this, we’re likely to experience the benefits both in the barrel racing arena and in our horse’s over all physical and mental well-being.

Because I love horses so much, I feel a great personal responsibility to instill in them the education and emotional fitness necessary to successfully handle the challenges that come along with life as performance horses.

Quality movement helps reveal your horse's greatest potential!
Quality movement helps reveal your horse’s greatest potential!

Most barrel racers will deal with some tension or an over abundance of “go” in a horse at one point or another. It’s often a byproduct of the speed that’s required in our sport. Speed releases adrenaline, it creates anticipation, and unlike other slower paced equine sports, speed adds even more pressure to the competition environment.

Some horses who are confident and have been carefully developed, may genuinely experience excitement in anticipation of running, but often, what WE would like to perceive as “excitement” is actually worry, impulsiveness, anxiety, tension and fear.

Whatever labels we assign to their behavior, it’s important that our horses remain connected and responsive to us, and that we do our best to keep their association with the barrels as positive as possible.
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How & Why “Buck, the Film” Relates to Barrel Racing

How & Why “Buck, the Film” Relates to Barrel Racing
The early years in Wyoming – fortunate to be influenced by Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman.

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #16 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


I’ve often said – “There’s a lot more to barrel racing, than barrel racing.” 

This understanding is a big part of why I chose to offer a copy of the award winning documentary movie, “Buck, the Film” to those who purchased the Secrets to Barrel Racing Success Pay it Forward Package during the book’s initial launch.

If you don’t get the “a lot more” part, your barrel racing will always be lacking.  That’s where Buck Brannaman comes in.  An early protégé of the legendary late horsemen, Ray Hunt and the Dorrance Brothers, Brannaman has dedicated his life to “helping horses with people problems.”

After having called Wyoming home for nearly 15 years, I’ve jumped at opportunities to be in the presence of these legendary horsemen and learn from them in person. I chose to offer the DVD as a free gift, because it brilliantly displays a message, actually many messages, that have been instrumental in my barrel racing success. In this article, I wanted to share more about how and why, these horsemen and this movie, have shaped my horsemanship and barrel racing path.

If you follow “Buck, the Film” on Facebook, you’ll see they regularly post images with quotes.  One of my recent favorites was this…

“My daughter’s all grown up now compared to what she was, but I used to say, I’ve got to have my horse to where if she’s leading my horse somewhere, and she’s got a big armload of Barbies and drops something out of her hand, that son of a buck ought to stop and respect her while she’s gathering up all her dolls and not to walk on her or take advantage of her. And if I’ve done my work right, by gosh, that’s what they’ll do.” – Buck Brannaman

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Will You Be Sore Tomorrow, or Sorry?

Will You Be Sore Tomorrow, or Sorry?

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #13 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


“Sore, or Sorry.” Ugh, the words of a fitness buff. I used to cringe a little at the thought.

Don’t get me wrong – by no means have I ever had a habit of spending much time sitting around on my keister, but for many years, I just wasn’t so inclined to participate (on a consistent basis) in the kind of physical activity that didn’t leave me in the end with cleaned pens, hay bales moved, or horse’s ridden.

If I’m exhausted from a killer workout, I might as well also be enjoying the sight of a barn full of neatly stacked hay.

Taking our barrel racing to the highest level though, calls for some new awareness, and a shift in perspective.

It’s great that we, as horse people, tend to get our fair share of physical activity in. But there’s something special, something different, we gain from specifically targeting why and how we exercise.

In our sport, the majority of the focus is placed on the horse. The truth is however, that we, as barrel racers are also athletes. So many of us miss the boat when it comes to realizing just what a huge difference strength and fitness can make.

Ask rodeo great Ty Murray, or NFR barrel racers Shada Brazile, Charmayne James, or Sydni Blandchard what role being physically fit has played in their success, and they’ll say – it’s everything.

Why?

Because gaining strength in your body, makes you stronger (and quicker) all-around. Read more

How to Kiss Bad Barrel Racing Habits Goodbye!

How to Kiss Bad Barrel Racing Habits Good-bye!

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #9 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


Train your body, ride better, and unleash your potential!

Judging by the title you might guess that this article will cover steps to overcoming bad habits – quite the contrary!

This article WILL cover a step by step process that will allow you to embrace new habits in your riding; habits that will better serve you in an actual run.

There’s quite a difference between the two (overcoming bad vs. embracing new), but more on that later…

When it comes to the mental game, there is plenty of talk about the importance if quieting the mind. It IS ideal for us to hand the reins over to our subconscious and let go of “thinking” our way through a run.

To do this, however, we must rely on our bodies to operate in a way that allows our horse to perform to their fullest potential.

But what if our body doesn’t hold up its end of the deal?

Over time we find ourselves riding in a way that may have worked for us as a kid or may have worked for a horse we had in the past. When it’s time for a change – feelings of frustration are common.

Because barrel racing is a high speed event, there is only time to react, making it very difficult (if not impossible) to think about changes we must make in our riding during a run.

As barrel racers, we can be hard on ourselves when our riding doesn’t measure up to the way we want to ride in a run, and how we know our horses must be ridden to perform at their peak. 

Studies show that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Sounds simple enough. That is, until you apply it to barrel racing!

The reality is that most of us don’t have a string of finished horses to make several runs on every day for 21 days straight. And we wouldn’t want to jeopardize our horse’s physical and mental health to better ourselves. But if something doesn’t change, the wheels continue to spin.

The good news is that you don’t have to keep banging your head against the trailer! IF you are determined to accomplish your goals, it IS possible to create new habits, and do so without sacrificing your horse (or your sanity).

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Ride Your Barrel Horse Better with the Power Seat

Ride Your Barrel Horse Better with the Power Seat

by Certified Centered Riding Instructor, Cathy Mahon

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the days when in order to get all of the items on your grocery list, you had to go to at least three, if not four different stores. There was the butcher shop, where you bought your meat, a bakery for your bread and donuts, a produce stand where you would buy your fruits and vegetables and if you needed anything for your medicine cabinet, you had to go to the “drugstore.” It was time consuming, inconvenient and frustrating if you’d forget something and have to make another trip across town.

Well, now there’s a simple solution for shopping – the superstore or supermarket! And just as remarkable, is a simple straightforward way to find your POWER SEAT when you ride. By engaging the supportive, powerful CORE muscles (no, I mean the REAL core muscles) of the psoas and iliopsoas, located deep inside the body, you’ll be able to sit deep in the saddle, wrap your legs snugly around your horse’s barrel and keep your feet exactly where they need to be: grounded with equal weight in the stirrups.

You will breathe softly and maintain your balance, and your joints will flex and absorb the motion of your horse. You’ll notice your horse immediately rate underneath you when you deepen your contact with a simple exhale allowing your weight to drop back and down. You can move through the barrel pattern with simple upper body rotation, avoiding the tendency to lean into the turns. You’ll be stable no matter what you do.

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