Dear Struggling Barrel Racer

Dear struggling barrel racer, I see you… I see the worried look in your eye as you attempt to prepare your colt in the warm up pen. I see you shoot a glance at the other riders and silently compare your horse to theirs. I see you second guessing everything you’re doing just moments before you make a run. 

I see you trying to slow down and zone in on what you have to do. I see you taking deep breaths and trying to shut out the self doubt. 

Dear struggling barrel racer, it takes one to know one. 

I have had so many of the same thoughts. I have wondered what in the world I am doing at a barrel race with three colts that are just barely holding it together. I have second guessed all my preparation. I have compared myself to others. I have changed my horses bit, rein length, stirrup length and saddle all because of self doubt. 

The point is, nobody is immune to these thoughts. Everyone has doubted themselves. In a competitive sport it is hard not to measure yourself up to the girl or guy standing next to you. 

But let me tell you, the comparison game is a TRAP! It will slowly suck all of the fun and joy out of riding and competing if you let it. 

We all see the highlight reels of our compeditors lives on social media. We see all the victories and accomplishments and we are sucked into comparing it to ours. 

The perfectionist in me wants everything to go just right at a barrel race. I want my horses to behave just right, I want a smooth perfect run, I want my horses to warm up well and feel sharp and prepared. The list goes on. What’s really funny is that God didn’t make a mistake by sparking my passion for barrel racing. He must have known that it would slowly cure me of my perfectionism! Things with horses can never be perfect. Even when they are working great, there are always things that could be better. 

My gelding, Elvis is my pride and joy and also the source of my biggest frustration at a barrel race. He is soooo much fun to ride and he is really coming along nice on the pattern. But he is a yahoo at the trailer. I have to hobble him and keep hay in front of him and hope that he doesn’t make too much of a fool of himself. From a training standpoint I have tried a million things to “fix” this behavior and have come to the conclusion that it’s God’s way of keeping me humble. All I can do is strug it off and laugh at this point.

The more horses I train and the more chances I have to compete, the less I worry about how I compare to anyone else. I love what I do, I love my horses, I am confident in my training program and the preparation I do. And it’s ok to be totally happy with just that! No matter the outcome at the barrel race, no matter how my colts behave at the trailer, I’m going to allow myself to enjoy the moment and just appreciate the tiny victories and improvements that my horses and I make. After all, this sport is supposed to be FUN! 

I encourage you to do the same. Take the pressure off, laugh at your own mistakes, don’t sweat the small stuff. Your horses will appreciate your new outlook too! 

If you would like some tips on how to improve your mental game, check out my recent post here! 5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Game

Keep in touch with me on Facebook at JE Performance Horses LLC!

Thank you, Makayla Reed Photography for the great picture!

8 Replies to “Dear Struggling Barrel Racer”

  1. This is amazingly true. As an up and coming trainer i have trained with many different styles of trainers. From the show ring to mounted shooting and now barrels. This article is so true in all areas you can prep all you want but you and your horse have good and bad days and it is all a training experience. Thank you for sharing!


    1. Thank you Haley! And thank you for sharing your experience too.
      The struggle is so real with horses, I think we can all appreciate being more transparent with each other about it!


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