The Truth About Chasing Your Barrel Racing Dreams (and Why You Don’t Have a Choice)

Tips for Following Your Barrel Racing Dreams (and Why You Don't Have a Choice)

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You know something’s wrong after checking in to an extended stay hotel, and your grocery list includes fly fogger, ant bait, 409, and bleach.

No, chasing your dreams ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes there’s dirt, grime, bugs, or worse!

Like the quote from Danielle Laporte below says…

“Following your intuition ain’t always an act of grace — it can be a total grind. You will have to burn things. You might sweat, toil and dig dig dig to do what you know must be done. Following your intuition might call on you to do the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life.”

In my case, I had to scrub, scrub, scrub just to make my husband and I’s hotel room livable when we arrived to Texas last year.

My Australian Co-pilot
My Australian Co-pilot

In honor of the completion of my second book, today’s post is one I resurrected from the email archives to share the lessons gained during our cross country move, including similar insights that seem to be occurring all over again recently, in hopes that they will serve you as you make YOUR barrel racing dreams come true!

We began our incredible voyage on February 7th, 2013 when we left frigid Wyoming in the rear view, and with a caravan including a rig with three head of horses, an affectionate Aussie riding shotgun, and another rig with a Pontiac on a flatbed, we headed south – to stay.

Although there were no actual flea sightings at the place we jokingly referred to as the “Flea Bag Inn,” there were a lot of fruit flies, some sugar ants, AND a couple cockroaches (the fleas came later once we actually moved into our dream home – no kidding!)

But that’s all part of it, ya know – livin’ the dream!

After a long, intense search for the perfect horse property to buy, “the one” we initially settled on(for) certainly needed more time and expense invested into it then we were hoping for (after all, we’d rather be rodeoing than home digging post holes).

However, when I first turned down that winding driveway, saw the 150 x 300′ lighted arena, stepped foot on green grass of the gentle rolling landscape, witnessed the serene water in the pond, and pictured myself loping through the pecan trees and sipping tea on the porch, I had a feeling this property was IT instantly.

Now to be honest, it would be more accurate to say “what’s left of the 150 x 300′ arena” – the roping boxes were gone, the chute was archaic, most of the panels were bent, the posts rotted, and the crow’s nest was falling down… the water in the pond was actually murky olive green with a fair amount of dead looking trees around it (probably full of snakes), and buzzards circled overhead as I walked up to the house and had to step over a dead armadillo on the sidewalk.

My glasses were obviously rose colored.
My glasses were obviously rose colored.

It’s true that the place had good “bones,” and as much as I saw it’s potential, I could also just see myself sweating and stressing (like our first fixer-upper all over again), and quite honestly – it was exhausting just thinking about it.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?

Not hardly.

In fact, neither is spending hours each day desperately scouring online real estate listings or even going to look at 30+ houses, only to find ONE you and your spouse would be willing to call home. Nor is my dream come true spending months of my life in a dive hotel for that matter.

Of course, let’s not forget that the “wonderful opportunity” that led us this direction all started with my husband getting laid off from his job of eight years. I was initially excited about the door of opportunity that had opened for us, but starting over had turned out to be an even longer, more grueling process than either of us had anticipated.

The entire situation had the potential to drive ANYONE bonkers, cause a gal to gain five pounds (it wasn’t exactly appetizing to cook in the hotel so we ate out a lot) and put a due amount of stress on any relationship.

Of course, on the flip side, I was quick to remind myself to be grateful that my husband was able to secure the perfect new job in central Texas (our #1 choice) and that the company offered us such a great relocation package (they DID put us up in a beautiful hotel for the first 30 days, and their movers packed and transported the majority of our belongings and paid for 30 days storage).

It all reminded me of the first time I took a leap of faith and moved cross country from North Dakota to Wyoming when I was 20 years old, and how (until now) it had been the BEST move I’d ever made!

So it’s true that along with everything that went wrong or was excruciatingly delayed, there was also quite a bit that went right, and by all means I’ll be the first to say – things could have been much worse.

Flea Bag Inn
Our last day at the Flea Bag Inn

Although it was challenging at times to keep my spirits up during the four month long emotional real estate roller coaster, I convinced myself that I simply had no choice but to stay positive. Now I can’t say that I didn’t experienced the occasional outburst of tears, but letting frustration get the best of us would NOT have helped our situation.

Having feelings of hopelessness, despair, and negativity (after a bad run for example) is one thing, but soaking in those thoughts and feelings!? We just can’t go there.

I’ve found that it’s especially hard to avoid going down that road when short on sleep and long on junk food, so in trying times I do my very best to take care of myself in a way that makes me feel good, because when we feel good, it’s easier to think good and do good, no matter the circumstances.

Sometimes we have to VERY purposely look to find even the most seemingly insignificant positives in a situation, and remind ourselves that with every single adversity there IS a lesson AND a gift.

Every morning during that time I would look forward to free oatmeal packets at the hotel. I was so grateful for the free wi-fi. I was grateful my 12 year old Australian Shepherd adjusted so well to hotel life (only one accident on the floor, yay)! I’m grateful our horses had such a great place to stay temporarily, even if boarding cost nearly $1000 per month and I had to drive an hour round trip to ride them each day.

Even in an absolute tragedy (which it was no where near), you will most likely come away with new appreciation, an experience with which to help or inspire others, or even a reminder about what is truly important in life.

Every time I would CLAP my hands loudly and startle Craig with the sound of a fruit fly dying, I would smile and say “Someday we’ll laugh about this.”

The truth is, some things are worth waiting for. Some things are worth sacrificing for.

Now, I’m in the midst of meeting my new book deadline and feeling much the same way. For the first time ever I’ve had to ask my husband to exercise my horses for me. I’ve been putting in 15+ hour days AT A DESK.

It’s not that there will occasionally be “not so pleasant aspects” of chasing your dreams, they’re pretty much guaranteed.

You may have to burn stuff.

You may have to dig, dig, dig (or scrub, scrub, scrub), or wait, wait, WAIT!

You may have to drive, drive, drive!
You may have to drive, drive, drive!

You may be called to do the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life.

You may have to make a difficult decision.

Following your “dreams” might actually look a lot more like following a flatbed trailer strapped with hay bales and a Grand Prix for 1,200 miles while pulling a load of horses.

No, it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.

But the price of NOT following your dreams?

Oh, THAT’S expensive.

If you deny those desires long enough it becomes more than unpleasant. Every day you don’t seriously pursue your dreams, a little part of you dies along with them.

They say that when the pain of standing still finally exceeds the pain of chasing your dreams, THAT is when you’ll take action.

You’ll say “ENOUGH! I can’t do this anymore. I can no longer deny this part of me, this gift I have to give, this passion I have to pursue.”

That’s when you’ll drop the excuses, face your fears, and make a choice to REALLY start moving forward.

No more dawdling around.

I’ve now written my second book, and experienced all the discomfort that comes along with the process AGAIN, because I couldn’t not write it.

Some people have a high tolerance for the pain of standing still, so much that they DO die before they ever chase their dreams.

Don’t let this happen to you.

“The things you are passionate about are not random; it stems from an inner yearning. Don’t ignore it or allow others to talk you out of it. GO GET IT!” – Steve Maraboli

At the same time, don’t think that the only way you’ll get closer to achieving your goals is if you’re actually out there barrel racing. When my barrel horse was recovering from an injury last year, I dove deeper into my horsemanship with another horse, which will ultimately serve me very well in competition.

The key to moving forward is in taking continuous, conscious action.

Although all the details involved in our move took a lot of time and attention away from the horses – the time and attention we’ve been able to give them through just ONE Texas winter in horseman’s paradise has already been worth it.

Short term sacrifice often results in BIG long term gain. Longer term sacrifice, if you’re doin’ it right, can result in even BIGGER gain!

To make a long story short… when the sellers of the property we made an offer on were painfully slow in replying, I stumbled upon our REAL DREAM HOME online.

Some how, in all my searching I had missed one, then found it right at the last minute.

We DID end up in our dream home, and this first year has been a TON of hard work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Even when our horses had to be put on the back burner and I was spending way more time on projects and wrangling contractors, the reality is that my husband and I followed our DREAMS to Texas, and in some way, we keep following them every day.

For us, just placing ourselves in this geographic location speaks volumes about how serious we are about taking our lives to a new level.

When you declare your desires, step out boldly to honor them, and demonstrate that you’re willing to do the work, I believe you’ll be supported in doing so (even if not everything seems to go your way initially).

Home Sweet Texas Home
Finally, Home Sweet Texas Home

The divine support and guidance I write of may not be obvious, at least not right away.

Even when I didn’t know how our story would unfold, I chose to have FAITH that it would perfectly. Even when I had no idea what our future would look like, the discomfort, the hard work, the inconvenience, and the uncertainty of chasing our dreams still felt… strangely kinda GOOD.

When you set an intention to accept only the best, and are willing to work for it (and wait for it), that’s often what you’ll (eventually) get.

Chasing your dreams IS scary, and dirty, and uncomfortable and risky. You could fall or fail, and some people may NOT support you (although it’s likely they’ll secretly admire your courage).

Ask yourself this – would YOU rather be shivering in the dark alley at the Thomas and Mack waiting your turn to blast down the alley at NFR, or “comfortable and cozy” on the couch with a bag of Doritos?

Go out and do the work, rearrange your priorities, restructure your schedule, your life, overcome resistance, put yourself out there, be accountable, endure the discomfort and then rest contentedly each night (OR drive to the next rodeo) knowing that after each day (or each run), you gave your all, and that doing so CONSISTENTLY adds up to miraculous things.

The TRUTH is – it’s SO hard at times, yet SO worth it.

It may not all happen right away, but it WILL happen.

If I can do it, so you can you! Here’s to believing in the power of YOUR barrel racing dreams!

In the comments below, let me know what they are, AND how I can support you in achieving them!

26 replies
  1. sandra
    sandra says:

    My barrel racing dream is to help barrel horses with people problems, horses that have been blown up and have issues on the pattern.
    I have already taken in two of my own and been able to rehab them so I’ve already been working on it, I just do not have the space to be able to take in outside horses so I can do it for a living. In Oklahoma there is no shortage of barrel horses that have been blown up and of course people just go buy a new horse because horses are easy to find here.

      • sandra
        sandra says:

        I have you to thank for being one of the foremost people to help me to realize my dream. Since I’ve been reading your posts I have changed so much in my thinking of how I ride and what I do with my horses. I now know that I can do it and I do have what it takes, I just have to keep working at it.
        No one else does what I’m wanting to do, but I know I can do it thanks to you!

  2. Shawnee
    Shawnee says:

    This article really hit home for me. My husband and I moved to Colorado to start over and live our dreams. We have been living in a one room 300 sq ft shack (most hotel rooms are bigger)for 3 years to save money. Well finally we are building a house on our very own property. We have taken a lot of sacrifices to get where we are and it’s been worth it. Now the biggest sacrifice has come. Because we are building this house ourselves with the help of my dad I am not able to ride my two horses as much, but I keep telling myself its worth it and once we are finished I can continue to fight for my barrel racing dreams. Thank you! Can’t wait to get the new book.

  3. Katie
    Katie says:

    This really hits home for me as I am planning to move to Texas this fall to chase my rodeo dreams… my good friends have settled in Stephenville and that’s where I am headed too. It is very likely that I too will be following a flatbed trailer loaded with hay and my grand prix lol! I have spent the last year back home working a multitude of part time jobs to save up money including coaching basketball and track, substitute teaching and training horses, but I am ready to get out of IL again. I lived on my own in college and them Idaho for two years so I miss what it feels like to have my own place again! I bought my cards this year and I am chasing those dreams this summer and hope to make the move to Texas and find work in my degree field of Mass Communications. I directed the evening news in Idaho for two years and I miss doing that kind of work. My dream is to have a job in communications and still be able to pursue my dreams roping and running barrels in Texas! Thanks for such an inspiring story!

  4. Emily
    Emily says:

    My barrel dream is to just keep riding as long as I can. A year ago I was surrounded by friends and family that had horses and I had so much support. Now it is just me and my girl X. We have always been there for each other through injuries and and heart break. Now I am just so happy to have a strong steady horse as my friend and partner.

  5. Jaime
    Jaime says:

    Wow reading this article makes a person realize that u can make ur dreams come true!! I’m waiting patiently for my barrel horse too heal, in that time I was riding a younger half brother if his that shows a lot of potential. My dreams r too be barrel racing and roping in Texas some day too!!

  6. Anna Earl
    Anna Earl says:

    Hi Heather,
    Thank you again for your article! All I can say is that I can’t NOT keep chasing my barrel racing dreams. Sometimes I think I have a hole in my head (lol)really because this is definitely not the easier softer way but I am proud of some of the things I have been able to do by sacrificing those mani pedis, hair appointments, new clothes, shoes, going out, and all the things you talked about. I just keep at it because I love barrel racing, can’t help working to get better, and do follow my intuition (most of the time) which pushes me to keep working at it. Thanks again and thanks for sharing the good and the nitty gritty. @

  7. Nikki N.
    Nikki N. says:

    So…I think we ALL plan to be in Texas someday. I do…but I had to go BACK and read this article today because it seems as if my barrel racing dreams are so far away at the moment. We just moved into a bigger home, and amidst all the boxes, I am trying to grow my awards/custom clothing and”dirty cowboy” furniture company (in my living room) while my horses languish in the pasture.
    I have to remind myself that growth is the hardest right before something happens, and that this is all so that I have more financial resources to get where and what I need to be a successful barrel racer. Right now I just want to have a pity party- but your post keeps reminding me that I need to cowgirl up and it will be WORTH it in the long run. Thanks, Heather!!

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Oh Nikki, I can SO relate… I’ve been putting in successive 15+ hour days at my DESK for going on three weeks now. Pistol is fat as a wood tick. 🙁

      To have a life “like no one else,” you have to be willing to “live like no one else,” and these stages are just part of it, but not permanent. Hang in there!

  8. Nae
    Nae says:

    My dream to create an NFR QUALIFIERS. MY personal goal run Pendleton i rehab and breakout any age horses. God gave me a gift and i am using it. Located Blanchard Oklahoma

  9. Kyla H.
    Kyla H. says:

    I really needed this article right at this point in my life. Between working full-time, taking care of my husband and toddler, completing my BA in Psychology, selling our house, moving to another city, and purchasing a new home, life is really happening right now. Horses have always been apart of both mine and my husbands life, we would not know what to do without them. I spent several years putting them on the back burner to finish school and raise a family and I have realized how important it was for me. Unfortunately we get so caught up in trying to make a living that we forget what are true passion is. My husband and I made a promise to one another we would do whatever it takes to accomplish our goals and make our equine dreams come true. I have watched my husband work himself to exhaustion for a company to turn around and let him down. But even in our toughest time we are still keeping the hope and faith alive. We both know with enough sacrificing, dedication and hard work we will do what we love and never look back. Thank you Heather for your wonderful words of wisdom. Not only are they educational but they bring a lifting sense with them. I enjoy reading and gaining knowledge through your writing!

  10. lori eisenman
    lori eisenman says:

    My barrel racing dream is a pretty lofty one but here it goes I want to b the first girl from southwest Michigan to qualify to go to the NFR run all ten go rounds and win and bring a buckle back to my state and prove Michigan girls are just as much cowgirls as everybody else then open my own barrel horse training barn I know if Mary walker did it at her age me being 37 has nothing to do with it it’s the dedication in my heart and I have it !@@@@

  11. Mariah Shepherd
    Mariah Shepherd says:

    My dream is to go pro, be an amazing barrel racer and cowgirl in general, to win gold, to make a name for myself, and to inspire other young girls to follow their dreams and that the life you are living now isn’t necessarily the life you have to live forever. I want people to realize that a little bit of faith can get them a long way, and anything is possible if you put your mind and heart into it. I want to encourage people to never give up on their dreams. And I want to give back in any way I can, and hopefully get some more young cowgirls started on chasing their dreams

  12. Michelle Morris
    Michelle Morris says:


    You have no idea how much I needed to hear this….recently i’ve had a lot happen within my family. My mom has been battling Colon Cancer & my Uncle passed away from a bad Motorcycle accident. I’ve been handling most of the duties at the family farm during this time while working about 50-60 hours a week, and trying to keep my horse legged up. This was the year that I had (for the first time) purchased my WPRA permit for First Frontier Circuit & I haven’t been able to haul to a single one yet. Everytime I have something scheduled something happens, whether it be no coverage to help at home, or most often money. I had a epic meltdown with my friend last weekend about this & how I feel like nothing I try works out (when it comes to my barrel racing goals.) I realized reading this article that its natural that I want everything to happen just how I planned, but life isn’t always so compliant. Thank you for showing me the tools to move forward with my best foot and adapt to changes.


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