Tips for Going Pro (and More) with NFR Barrel Racer, Carley Richardson

NFR Barrel Racer Carley Richardson

Even if 80’s metal isn’t your favorite genre of music, and the band name ‘Autograph’ doesn’t ring a bell, you’re still likely to be familiar with the line, “Turn up the RADIO” that also bears the song’s namesake (click here to jog your memory.)

Judging by the lyrics, the rock ‘n roll lifestyle doesn’t seem so far off that of an NFR barrel racer:

I’m working hard, you’re working too
We do it every day
For every minute I have to work
I need a minute of play
Day in day out, all week long
Things go better with rock
The only time I turn it down
Is when I’m sleepin it off

This difference is that for 2-time NFR qualifier Carley Richardson and her gelding “Radio,” there isn’t quite as much play. In fact Radio is all business. His no-nonsense attitude is just part of what makes him even more of a classic than the once popular song.

In the interview below, Carley’s shared what makes Radio so special, and has left us with invaluable advice and inspiration that applies to barrel racers at all levels. One thing’s for sure – Things go better with rock, and Carley and Radio won’t be turnin’ it down any time soon!

Tell us about the horse(s) you’ll be riding at the 2016 WNFR?
Doda Flit, aka “Radio” is a twelve year old grey gelding by Doda Dash out of Flit Priss. I’ve owned him since he was two years old. We set our first arena record when he was five and I was 17. He’s 12 and I’m 25 now so we have done a lot of growing up together. I know him like the back of my hand, and I owe the world to him! He tries so hard and he is full of grit. He’s my once in a lifetime and I thank God for him every day!

Flit Money is a nine year old gelding by Designer Red out of a Flit Bar mare. He and Radio were both raised by Kenneth and Barbara Burns. I’ve also owned him since he was two. He’s the most athletic horse I have ever been on, but he is very fragile minded. He has to be assured that nothing is trying to hurt him, and he keeps me on my toes! He can make huge mistakes and still clock because he is unbelievably fast. Radio makes it easy on me, and Money makes me work for it, so it’s a fair balance I guess!

How would you describe your horse’s running and turning style?
Radio is known for winning a lot in the summer in the big outdoor pens. He excels over the Fourth of July and all summer. Last year I didn’t have a good NFR. I spent a lot of time trying to speed his turns up and sharpen him up to make him better inside. This year after the winter I had a little over 30K won and also won Nampa this summer so I’m hoping my hard work has paid off and we can have more success this time. He’s a very honest horse and no matter what, I know he will try 100%.

What has been your biggest challenge during the 2016 rodeo season?
My horse Fashionable Boy (Boy) usually splits half the summer with Radio. So they each get to spend a month at home. This year Boy was out with an injury so I had to try to season a horse while keeping Radio feeling fresh. There were times when that was very difficult and was a gut check. But I learned to stay the course. Believe in yourself and things will fall into place!

What motivates you to keep going through all the ups and downs of rodeo life?
Sometimes it can be very difficult and you want to do nothing more than throw in the towel and go home. I can promise you anyone who has rodeoed has felt the same way. Even as difficult as it is, there is nothing better than being able to do what I love to do every single day.

It’s not lost on me what a blessing these opportunities are. I feel like these horses were placed in my life for a reason, and it would be a discredit to every person who has helped me get where I am today if I quit. Plus, a bad day rodeoing still sounds better to me than a good day in an office job!

What products and therapies do you use to keep your horses healthy and happy?
Soft ride boots, Back on Track, Magic Cushion, my Platinum Performance supplements, Polyglycan, Equi-Bone, my Horse Hydrator, and my vet. that is on speed dial, and probably regrets the day he ever gave me his personal number!

NFR Barrel Racing Tee
Carley and Radio’s image is
featured on this official NFR tee!

Do you have any specific goals for this year’s National Finals Rodeo?
I want to ride better than I did last year. My horse is so consistent, but that didn’t show last year because I was riding so inconsistent. I just want to do my job the very best I can, and let everything else take care of itself!

What piece of tack or equipment is one you can’t live without?
My CSI saddle pads!

From a training perspective, what aspect of a horse’s development do you think is most critical to their success?
There are so many horses that have the ability to make a great horse, but it takes so much more than ability. The horses that are succeeding on the road have incredible heart and they want to do it. I don’t know how to train the desire to do it into one, but I think gaining their trust and respect is a good place to start. It’s amazing what we ask of these horses, and they do it simply because we ask them to.

Do you have a preferred bloodline, running style, body type, or personality you prefer and look for in your barrel horses?
Everything I ride goes back to Flit Bar. I love that bloodline. To me they are smart, and willing, and talented. I don’t really have a pattern of how I pick a prospect. All of mine look a little different. Some are big, some are small, and all colors. It just kind of comes to me when I see a colt I like. Sometimes I can’t even explain why I like them, I just see something good in them and trust my gut.

If you could make a run on any of the other NFR qualifier’s horses, which would you choose and why?
I can’t narrow that down to just one. They are the 14 best horses in the world. Every horse is amazing! It’s going to make for great watching this year! But… if I had to pick I would say Louie, and that doesn’t even need an explanation!

What do you think is the key to making the transition from a part-time amateur barrel racer to a full-time professional?
You have to go all in! You can’t just dip your toe in. If you trust and believe in your abilities and know you are good enough you have to go at it full speed ahead. I see so many girls have success at home and go on the road and come back home after a week. They had the horse to make the NFR, they had the talent, but to me they were just kind of dipping their toe in.

You never know what run is going to turn it around, and there is an adjustment period from going from running barrels around home, to running barrels on the opposite end of the country from home. If the talent is there, stay the course as long as you can because every winning streak starts with just one good run!

If you could give one tip to a barrel racer with a goal to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, what would it be?
Basically what I just said – don’t give up! Trust in your abilities and stay the course. It’s easy to be intimidated, but remember everyone started out a little fish in a big pond. Don’t get too high during the good times, and don’t get to low during the bad times.

What is your favorite thing to do outside of barrel racing and horses?
I really don’t do much else. But I love to just hang out with my friends and relax… and talk about anything besides barrel racing. Lol!

Share your most memorable and/or funny moment or experience from this year or one that really stands out from your years of rodeoing and barrel racing?
Probably my most memorable moments would be Reno in 2015. I was sending Boy in a trailer to Colorado Springs and Radio was staying with me in Reno for the short round. I got all of Radio’s stuff out of my trailer and put it in the trailer that was staying in Reno and sent Boy on his way. It came time for the short round and I got Radio and went to saddle him, only to realize that I had forgotten to get my saddle while getting all my stuff! Luckily I borrowed a saddle from a friend and it all worked out!

In what ways would you like to see the sport of rodeo promoted so that it can grow and be enjoyed for years to come?
I think keeping the youth involved is so important. More and more I see parents buying kids amazing horses that already win (which is great, don’t get me wrong) but I feel like kids are missing out on learning about horsemanship. It makes me worry in future generations who is actually going to train these winning horses, because nobody was taught them how to be a horseman. I think clinics are important, and their are some amazing trainers who put some great clinics on. Finding someone you look up to, and learning from them (even if you have a horse that already wins) is important, and is a good way to ensure that we have amazing horses to watch 50 years from now.

Enjoy this pre-NFR interview with Carley at the 2016 WPRA Finals.

Special thanks to these sponsors: Cinch, CSI saddle pads, Flávio Ribiero Leather, Horse Hydrator, Flair Strips and Platinum Performance
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