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What it Takes to Make NFR Barrel Racing Dreams Come True

What it Takes to Make NFR Barrel Racing Dreams Come True

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #100 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.


It’s what every little barrel racing girl dreams of – blasting down the alley of the Thomas & Mack, laying down record-setting runs with thousands of fans screaming, then standing on the stage and taking home the gold.

However, what competing at the NFR might look like from the stands, and what’s really necessary to make that dream reality, are two very different things. If you’ve ever been to the NFR to watch in person, it may have even fanned the flames of your burning desire to be competing there one day even more. It’s no wonder – a prestigious event like the National Finals Rodeo adds even more glamour and excitement to a sport so many of us are already smitten with.

If you haven’t already embarked down the pro rodeo trail, then what you don’t see or experience are the hardships and challenges – the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows, the many miles, the sleep deprivation, the horse, parking, weather, and vehicle problems, etc., etc. It all makes the actual barrel racing part look easy, BUT you already know that part is indeed NOT easy either.

I can’t say that I’ve made my own NFR dreams come true (yet), but I’ve had the opportunity again this year to share special input from 15 women who have. Rodeo’s leading ladies were asked “What quality do you feel barrel racers need most in order to make the dream of qualifying for the NFR a reality?”

Below I’ve included their answers, as well as a deeper look at what I personally feel is necessary to make a trip down the alley at the Thomas & Mack. Again, not that I can speak from actual experience, although I’ve been fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time competing with, riding with and learning from numerous World Champions and NFR qualifiers, and one can’t help but connect a few dots and draw some conclusions in the process.

So let’s get started diving into “What it takes to make NFR Barrel Racing Dreams Come True.”
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Cool Down with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

2012 Cool Down with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

With all the excitement that the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo brings to the month of December, it’s also a good time of year for quiet reflection; a time to take inventory of the months past and where they have brought us in the present.

In this “Cool Down with the Top 15” we asked rodeo’s leading ladies about their greatest challenges and achievements in the past year, who and what inspires them, as well as tips for aspiring professional barrel racers who desire to follow in their footsteps.

Their advice and experiences are wide and varied, but all offer exceptional value to any barrel racer who has ever dreamed of blasting down the alley at the Thomas & Mack, or just wishes to take their barrel racing to the next level.

BRITTANY POZZI

Brittany Pozzi
Brittany Pozzi

What has been your biggest challenge or lesson in 2012?
My biggest challenge was the passing of my boyfriend Broc Cresta. This has been a huge life changing experience and will forever be part of my life.

What has been your greatest achievement or most memorable experience this year?
The most memorable moment was in Livermore, CA where Broc and I both won event buckles and our friends and family were there to cheer us on. My greatest achievement was coming into the finals in the lead and not rodeoing after Cheyenne.

If you could give one tip to aspiring professional barrel racers, what would it be?
Work hard and stay hooked! You might encounter tough times but they too shall pass.

MARY WALKER

Mary Walker
Mary Walker

What has been your biggest challenge or lesson in 2012?
My biggest challenge has been to be patient. Be very patient!

What has been your greatest achievement or most memorable experience this year?
My great achievement was winning Cheyenne! It was so much fun and they treat you so good there.

Who has been your greatest influence and inspiration and why?
Martha Josey. She has always helped so many young kids and also has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. She has also broke her pelvis. She was one of the first to call and say I will be ok and that I would heal.

If you could give one tip to aspiring professional barrel racers, what would it be?
One tip I would give is never purchase a horse that is more than your own riding ability.
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2012 Warm Up with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

Can you feel it? The anticipation is building… soon the doors of the Thomas & Mack will open to over 170,000 fans, as rodeo’s top cowboys and cowgirls contend for a place in the history books.

Whether you’ll be watching from your seat in Las Vegas or tuning in from home, there’s no doubt we’re closing in on the most exciting 10 days of barrel racing all year. With over $765,000 up for grabs, and nearly half of the field being NFR rookies, it’s sure to be good watching.

Viva Las Vegas!
Viva Las Vegas!

Again BarrelRacingTips.com was fortunate to catch up with rodeo’s leading ladies as they gear up for Wrangler National Finals rodeo. Thousands of barrel racers dream of blasting down the alley at the Thomas & Mack, yet each year only the top 15 WPRA earnings leaders make the cut.

Whoever you find yourself rooting for, it’s our hope that the introduction to the WNFR qualifiers below will give you a personal look into the lives and times of barrel racing’s elite and make watching the action even more enjoyable!

The questions and answers are the first in a two-part series developed to deliver inspiration and insight into understanding what it really takes to make NFR dreams reality.
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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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When Things Go South with NFR Barrel Racer, Molly Powell

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Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #17 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes, subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


In 1995, Molly Powell decided to leave behind the cold weather, hard ground and few & far between barrel races in her home state of Montana and head south to Texas. She immersed herself, not only in studies at Vernon College but also in an environment that would be more conducive to her career as a professional barrel racer. As a 10-time NFR qualifier, you could say that the transition proved to be a good one.

10x NFR Barrel Racer, Molly Powell
10X NFR Barrel Racer, Molly Powell

Sometimes, however, things “go south” with our barrel horses and when they do, it’s NOT a good thing. When this happens, we distance ourselves from achieving barrel racing success at any level. Many barrel racers sense when something doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps their horse is out of position, they may feel stiff, or lean to the inside. A horse might be extremely hot or nervous, or unresponsive to what the rider is asking. Riders may recognize these road blocks, an even have a clear idea of what they do want, but the challenge often comes in knowing exactly how to get it.

As humans, most of us are direct-line thinkers. We are wired to just keep trying until we reach our desired result. Barrel racers especially, are a determined crowd – we’re taught to practice perfect, to persist and persevere, to never give up! This way of operating creates a potential problem, however, when it comes to training barrel horses. If things are “going south,” and if we keeping doing more of the same, our horses – who are very sensitive to patterns and learn easily through repetition, become much more likely to repeat those undesirable ways of being.

At a recent clinic in Lander, Wyoming, Molly demonstrated that when we find ourselves in one of these ruts, we must find a way out – and quick! It doesn’t always matter if you don’t know exactly what to do, or where to go, as long as you do something – anything different, to break the cycle. You could refer to this policy as “rut prevention.”

During the clinic, one mare was too nervous and anxious to use her body properly and focus on the task at hand, which was performing Molly’s smaller circle exercise at a forward, even, but relaxed pace. Read more