Lessons from the NFR...(part 3/3) And what I’ll focus on next year
Updated: Jan 5
So you’ve got yellow in your eyes and it ain't jaundice? You must be suffering from NFR syndrome. It’s a condition known to affect many barrel racers causing compulsive behavior, irrational dreams, and expensive decision making habits. Once present the symptoms rarely subside, and in most cases get worse overtime. There is no known cure to resolve this transfixing yellow stupor, because even those who make it the NFR, usually relapse and go again. An unfortunate side effect of NFR syndrome is an even worse disease call NFR-enough.
image ©RodeoReady do not copy Aside from all the crescendo that comes with the season finals, my other favorite thing is how unique each story plays out every year. Whether it’s tight race separated by a thousandths of a second to the finish, or the triumphal come-back testimonies; to me barrel racing never gets old. I don’t think I’d be alone if I were to admit in a group of barrel racers that I wish I could’ve been there by now. Then I’d list off some excuses of why it’s been so hard to make that happen, stack up all the possibilities, and then snuggle in my wet blanket of disappointment. Most likely the atmosphere would become stifled by the inaudible ‘if only I were__________to make it to the NFR, then I’d feel__________.” All the following jackpots we will attend with the stiff awareness of how we are not clocking and immediately measuring up to the long term goals we have. A few knocked barrels later in a series race and the golden yellow NFR glimmer will start to dim. And we ride the same up and down emotional carousel of inferiority. ‘if only I were__________to make it to the NFR, then I’d feel__________.” It is a very strange phenomena barrel racers deal with. We basically write off anyone’s credibility unless they’ve been to the NFR. But then in the next breath we will judge from our cushy couch jockey saddles about how they ride. ‘If this person was good enough to make it to Vegas then why can’t I?’ Another thought comes to mind, ‘I”ll show them!’ And the next race you are at with a veteran NFR qualifier in the draw will complete transfix you to ‘be better than them’ or else. I’m noticing a very debilitating mindset start to make a pattern here. It's an “I’m not good enough, she’s not good enough, their not good enough, break your back till your enough” mindset. AKA…. The NFR-enough disease, and the root cause is INFERIORITY. Oddly enough the barrel racers AT the NFR feel the same way on some scale. Some Facebook comments from competitors echoed the questions: Is never winning a round or placing and just walking home with a sound horse and the $10k bonus enough? Is riding the best I could for the energy I had on that day enough? Etc…etc… The merry-less round goes round. I think a question for both ‘tiers’ of competitors tears of gold would be this: Are the bright yellow walls really all you want, or are you missing something? In my new book, He Carried Me, you might recognize an old poem, 'Dear Fellow Barrel Racer'. It reminds us that we all have a journey, purpose and calling in our struggle. Last Fall I had an experience I wasn’t able to fully get perspective on until lately. Finally I was able to start exhibitioning a mare who I had hold off of from her futurity year. We finally starting hauling as she was becoming more sound and more mature, and also more huge. Typically people haul their yearlings, ride their two year olds, exhibition their three year olds, and futurity their four year olds. After fits of unsoundness I was basically riding one big 16 hand baby who still was new everything.
Right before we were about to trot through the pop up barrels, the arena got kind of still and quite and the speakers started to play a familiar tune by Trace Adkins: You're gonna miss this You're gonna want this back You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast These are some good times So take a good look around You may not know it now But you're gonna miss this. I thought blatantly to myself…HOW on earth could I miss this?! I’m riding a shorty over-fed helium balloon with ADHD among dead broke 3 year olds, and the announcer can NEVER pronounce my name correctly.
Unfortunately about 6 months after we were getting our feet underneath us as those beginning exhibitions my poor horse got hurt. And on par with how her injuries have been occurring, the vet pitifully told me it was career ending, before her job on the barrel really ever got started. This started another 6 month journey of reflection because at that point I’d thrown in the towel and locked her up on stall-rest. If you are like me rarely do you go a few days without riding but this several month stint really caused me to think about things. What if she can never be mobile after stall rest, did I do the horse justice with the training I did put in? What if she horse never wanted to be a barrel horse, did I still dignify her existence? What if I never made it beyond regional races to the NFR, would the local exhibitions have been enough? What if I never was able to pull out of the driveway with her again, would SHE just be enough? The answer was surprisingly, yes. Despite longing to have certain dreams reached with her, I still was grateful for what we were able to accomplish. Even with our penniless exhibitions, excruciating vet bills and eternity worth of rehab time…she was enough. Some people might have had the chance to watch horses like Secretariat in the Derby on TV, or see Streakin Six on the track. But I actually own, train, sit on, and bond with one of their offspring. Even if this great-grand daughter of legends lived on three legs in my yard, her personality and heart would be enough. So easily we get to hyped up on not being fast enough, or talented enough, prepared enough, we completely miss the privilege it is to be in the presence of a horse and a friend. But this commonly contagious mindset is completely robbing us of all joy and delight. Even if it were all to disappear tomorrow, even if we were to exceed our craziest dreams, we can content. In Philippians 4:12-13 God gives us a hint on how... I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want.I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Inside one of my purses there is a quote that says ‘Expect nothing, appreciate everything’ and it reminds me that with love you can be completely satisfied. If you love your horse, and your neighbor and the process you are relying on Gods love for, then the terrible disease of "NFR-enough" will disappear. In my new book, He Carried Me, I left some room to journal in-between the pages of poems. I think it's good to write down the details of the journey we are on, it helps us process and gain perspective. Click on the button to check it out!