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Think Fast Clock Faster - Barrel Racing Advice


If you’re reading this, I imagine it ain’t your first rodeo. In fact, you might be so experienced you can start to identify barrel racer types like personality types.

Just for fun, see if you can picture a few of these hypothetical ladies strutting across the arena:

The Die Hard: The only time greatness

comes before hustle is in the dictionary.

“The Die Hard”

She loves speed and the thrill of competition. She has an opinion and is known for broadcasting it – loudly! She’ll show up early, make sure she’s on the exhibition list (not that she needs them), and then flash you a smirk in the warm up arena – she loves to win!

“The Thrill Seeker”

She craves the fast paced rush and flashiness of the sport. She’ll probably show up late, but darned if her outfit doesn’t coordinate! You’re likely to see her warming up in a group of 4-across talking at length about her last run (good, bad or ugly.)

“The Easy Go-er”

She enjoys participating in all the fast-paced barrel racing fun, but is content whether or not her name is ever on the leader board. She’s the quiet type that spends more time grooming them than socializing. She loves to barrel race but if she doesn’t clock there’s always the next race.

“The Over-thinker”

She likes testing the limits with her horse, running the splits and calculating the pay out in her head. Her horse is on a strict feeding regimen and she prepared by calling ahead and asking what the pattern would be set at and had her approach to the first barrel strategized before she even pulled in the parking lot.

No matter who you most identify with (one or all of them), there are certain tactics that will set you up for success in the barrel pen.

We might get in each other’s head, but more likely is it that we get in our OWN head much deeper. And as one who is far too familiar with getting in her own head – I’m here to share some hints on thinking fast, being in the moment and clocking faster more consistently.

The Thrill Seeker: You can either win

or learn, failure is not an option!

1.) Before you get there: Foundation

My apologies if you think you’ve heard clinician blab about foundation training one too many times – here’s the thing: Prior and proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.

Being worried that your horse is going to throw a fit at the gate or slip on in the parking lot, anticipating him ducking that second barrel again, or fearing he just might not rate soon enough are ALL foundational issues.

The mind sets up the body but the mind can’t fix the body. The stronger your foundation and deeper your basement, the less you’re scared of the tornado – ya dig? Doing the time is worth it! Establish solid patterns and get your horse to want to be your partner, then the “what if’s” or “I hope we don’t _______” problems dissolve.

2.) Before you blast through: Self-talk

I wish I had the courage to walk up to all the ladies I see that are in a nervous tizzy, lay a hand on them and just say “Girl, you got this.”

So many of us have a tendency to freak out or blank out right before we run. Whether some NFR qualifier just pulled up or we just hit road construction on the way there, or aren’t totally prepared, it can happen to all of us.

Instead of looking over your shoulder to judge or doubt, try zoning in on your horse. He is your partner, your feet and your speed. Tell him how grateful you are for the opportunity to ride him, how thankful you are for his ‘try and heart,’ then tell ME you didn’t run better.

The Easy-goer: Try beats talent when talent doesn’t try.

3.) During your race: FOCUS

Adrenaline does funny things to people. Some say, ‘it was like slow-motion’ and others demand a video because they can’t remember a thing during their run. We try to combat that by having our friends yell from the side lines “Sit up! Look! Hustle! Kick, kick, KICK!” But I wouldn’t expect to see any any stunning statistics published on improvement from friend’s vocals on the side. Instead, try to narrow down your focus.

For assistance with this, consider identifying mental triggers that are specific to YOU. For instance at home in your head repeat: shorten (at rate point) shape (at turn point) guide (around barrel) and get it in your muscle memory! Then during your run you’re only thinking of three key words that in time will become muscle memory: shorten, shape, guide. Raise the roof.

Consider having your friends yell the customizations at you! “Two-hands! (to the barrels), Core! (your abs engaged), Finish! (the turn).” Or if the the turns are your focal point and there’s just not time to process three words, come up with ONE word that summarizes how you want the entire turn to FEEL and what you must DO for it to happen. If you have a three (or less) word focus particular to YOU, then the standard “sit up, look, hustle, kick” can finally be retired.

4.) After: Good Better Best

Woulda, coulda, shoulda… Girl, I heard that! “We would’ve WON the 2D if I could have kept the first barrel up, I should have rated him sooner.” I’m sure these words sting even the best of us, but winners never quit, and quitters never win.

The Over-thinker: We are what we repeatedly do,

therefore excellence is not an act but a habit.

You know the drill. No matter what happens it can be better. You won a round in Vegas? That’s nice. How could you have kept your horse more connected in the alley? Crashed into all three barrels and scared the photographer? What would have made you better prepared?

We ALL have room for improvement, and we ALL need help at times! Get the help you need to succeed and refrain from beating yourself up about it. Give the glory to your horse and give the honest and constructive criticism to yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes, just commit to learning from them.

Regardless of what type of barrel racer you are, the inner challenges we all face tend to fall into one or more of the four categories above.

I hope they’ve inspired you to prepare yourself, encourage yourself, FOCUS yourself, and keep improving yourself!

In the comments below I’d love to hear which barrel racing personality type YOU are, and which area above you’re challenged by – let’s talk SOLUTIONS!

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