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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.
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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

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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See Jane Walk, See Jane WIN! Around the Pattern with NFR Barrel Racer, Jane Melby

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.


Jane Melby
3X Gold Buckle Winner, Jane Melby

It wasn’t surprising to see a top barrel racer coach new students by taking them on a trip around the barrel pattern afoot.  What would have been surprising, would have been to see how much the arena glowed, had the light bulbs above the students heads been real.  This was no average trip around the pattern.

What was different, was that each individual student received instruction on how to walk the pattern properly, one approach, turn and exit at a time.  Next, they did just that (repeatedly), while NFR barrel racer Jane Melby, and her husband Ryan critiqued and made corrections to the way they RODE the pattern based on how they WALKED it.

I was aware of the way in which our horses tend to mirror our own bodies when we ride them.  Until I had an opportunity to walk the pattern with Jane, however, I was NOT aware of the numerous, subtle ways in which my body was out of position in a run, and how that became obvious by how I walked.

The realization that I stepped into turns with my inside hip leading, made total sense of why my horse sometimes struggled at the first barrel.  If his body mirrored mine – how could he be in good position for an easy turn?  On the second barrel, the way in which I started turning my own body too soon, totally correlated with how my horse also starts the turn there a bit too soon.  And that funky little move my gelding tends to make on the back of the third barrel?  YEP.  ME – Guilty!

Like any other time I’ve had a major AHA moment on my barrel racing and horsemanship journey, I couldn’t help but do a little “happy dance” inside, as I just KNEW I had made a HUGE step in my awareness that would translate into even greater success in competition.  There may not have actually been a light bulb shining above my head, but trust me – I was glowing.
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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

So You Want to Be a Professional Barrel Racer?

So You Wanna Be a Pro Barrel Racer?

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #11 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


Is one of YOUR goals to barrel race successfully on a professional level, either this year or beyond?

If so, consider the following information we’ve brought to you on being a member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association as the first of many doors opening to make those dreams a reality!

As stated on the WPRA web site,

“The competition is tough and the standards are high but the WPRA is the finest women’s sports organization in the world.”

Not only the finest, the WPRA is also the oldest women’s sports organization, having been formed in 1948 when thirty-eight cowgirls got together in San Angelo in the name of promotion and advancement of women in rodeo.

Although the WPRA co-sanctions barrel racing events outside of pro rodeos, has a roping division, and holds their own world finals rodeo in October, most of the members of the WPRA are barrel racers interested in competing in barrel racing held at PRCA rodeos.

Anyone interested in competing in barrel racing at PRCA rodeos must start their WPRA membership as a permit holder. The cost of a permit is $300 annually and requires the completion of a membership application. Once $1000 has been won in WPRA competition, members are eligible to purchase their WPRA card for $375.

To make sure these numbers are accurate, you’ll want to click here for current membership information.

Some benefits to becoming a card holder include the opportunity to qualify for Circuit Finals or the National Finals Rodeo and the ability to vote and hold office in the WPRA. Card holders are also given priority over permit holders when drawn for positions at pro rodeos, and some rodeos do not accept permit holders.

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Looking Back with the 2011 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

Looking Back with the 2011 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers
It seems like every barrel racer has fantasized about blasting down the alley at the Thomas & Mack at one time or another.  Whether you’re content to compete at local jackpots or have NFR dreams, we all have the same goal – to WIN.  The bottom line is that barrel racing is a timed event – a race, one that we are ALL trying to win.

This time of year, (in many places) the world falls quiet under a beautiful blanket of snow.  The timing is perfect to become quiet within as well, to reflect on the challenges faced and the lessons learned in the past year.  It’s also a time of year that presents opportunities to enjoy and appreciate the relationships in our life -friends, family, our horses.

It’s easy to develop a one track mind when it comes to accomplishing our competitive goals.  As another year draws to a close, and when you look back on your day, or your life, remember that it’s the relationships we form that make a difference, that matter in the end. 

This doesn’t mean that we aren’t aggressive as competitors.  However, as you press forward toward barrel racing success, do realize the value in pausing long enough to be mentored and become a mentor.  Pause long enough to reflect on what is working, what is not working, and resolve learn, grow and implement changes.

Whether you develop a mentor relationship, or really reflect on where you are and what obstacles are in your way, you’ll find that that pausing (something barrel racers are not necessarily known for) long enough to do these things can actually accelerate our success in the barrel racing arena.

I think you’ll pick up right away on the similarities in the answers below from this year’s top 15 NFR barrel racers… the power of parents as mentors, the importance of horse care and soundness, hard work, and appreciating and living each day to the fullest.

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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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No More Feeding Mystery – How to Balance Your Barrel Horse’s Diet with Confidence

No More Feeding Mystery - How to Balance Your Barrel Horse's Diet with Confidence

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #2 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


by Carol Layton, B.Sc M.Ed

It is often recommended by vets and nutritionists to feed your horses a balanced diet. A horse needs the right amount of nutrients; carbohydrates, protein and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals for proper digestive function. A balanced diet is essential for optimum performance and in avoiding health issues. Symptoms like a dull coat, poor hoof quality or topline, less than optimal performance and a weak immune system are the more obvious signs. So what is a balanced diet?

Feeding HayA balanced diet is one where all the nutrients are more than adequate to avoid deficiencies and the amount of each of the minerals avoids competition with another. One example is copper and zinc, too much zinc in the diet has been found to interfere with the intake of copper. Another is calcium and phosphorus; too much calcium can interfere with phosphorus and vice versa. There are many other examples.

To determine whether nutrient levels are sufficient and balanced in a horse’s diet, the amounts consumed from forage, feeds and supplements can be compared with the amounts recommended in the Nutrient Requirements of Horses, published in 2007 by the National Research Council (NRC), the reference for equine nutritionists. Providing an insurance buffer by using at least 150% of NRC target minimums and keeping mineral ratios in a tight range will protect the horse from suboptimal intakes of minerals.

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