Who’s the Star of Your Story?


The only really reasonable answer is YOU

I am a sponge. I love learning and bettering myself. I think that’s why I became a teacher… and why I have never let anything stop me from chasing my goals and dreams. I value education and know that knowledge is the first step to greatness… in any discipline. Now, my eagerness to learn has always led me to ‘follow’ people who are more knowledgeable than myself. It wasn’t until just recently that I realized this passion I had for dedicating myself to others was also my greatest demise.

You see, up until now, I allowed others to be the star of my story. Everything I did was for someone else. I was so quick to brag on or push someone else’s book… and this wasn’t just one person… its was several over the years. I was so thankful for the opportunities to learn from these people that I gave up myself to watch them succeed… to watch their stories take off. I allowed myself to feel like their approval and belief in me was the only way to be happy and successful… that what they thought of me defined me. Saying it now… that’s absolutely ridiculous!!! Now… please don’t take this as me regretting the time I spent supporting those I look up to. I do not regret a second of the time I put into others and their stories… in fact, I still support them wholeheartedly while I’m over here doing my own thing. But I wish I’d paid closer attention to my own true happiness at the time as well.

I stopped to see a friend I haven’t seen since my world turned upside down and then right side up again. She took one look at me and her face broke into a smile. “You look so happy.” That’s when it hit me. I am. I am SO happy. And of course, because this is what I do, I started to reflect on why. Why, after the past few months of discord, am I happier than I ever have been in my life? The last few months I’ve lost things that I thought were the secret to my happiness. The irony in this is that losing those things hasn’t changed anything. I’m still experiencing the same, if not more success, I’ve gained things that I never would have even thought to write into my pages, and, for the first time in my life, I’m doing things for me. I’m starring in my own story. I’m truly happy.

I think we often forget to look out for number one. Especially those of us with big hearts. As I talked about in my post about taking ownership of our successes, I hate disappointing people. I hate people thinking that I’ve used them or taken advantage of them. Do you know how long those feelings held me back from building my own empire??? I was literally terrified that if I stepped out on my own, someone would think I had used them to discover my own greatness. Typing that out sounds ridiculous too! You should NEVER be worried to do you! I should never have been scared to do me! But I was. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that someone reading this is too.

Everyone we meet has an impact on our book. It’s important to give them credit for the part they play, but don’t let them be the star. Take control of your story…. you’re the only one who deserves a starring role.

Do You Think They Know?

This morning, as I was gazing up into Famous’ soft, loving eye a thought crossed my mind. Do you think he knows? Do you think he knows how special he is, how many people would kill to have the opportunity to sit in his saddle, to run up the alleyway on him? Do you think he knows that yesterday, and so many days before that, he helped me to knock another goal off my list? Do you think he knows?

I’m not just talking about Famous here. He’s just the horse my mind goes to first because he’s mine. I’m talking about any horse who’s ever meant something. I’m talking about Sister (every horse named Sister because clearly that name gives them wings or something), Ripp, Stingray, Babyflo, Foxy, Elvis, Eddy… The list goes on. I’m talking about great horses. Do you think they know?

There are times I watch Famous (I spend alot of time doing this… I pinch myself a lot over him too) and I think he has no idea. He just knows his life is pretty great. He gets fed good. He gets nice stuff that makes him feel good. He gets to play with friends all the time and he has a human mom who tells him every day how much she loves him. He has it made.

Then there are days that I think he must know. Those days are usually the ones when leading him to the barn is a game of strategy to dodge his front feet and teeth. Those are usually the same days that he makes a good attempt to buck me off. That’s right, cat’s out of the bag people… Life with Famous isn’t all sunshine and butterflies. He’s kind of arrogant. He has the kind of arrogance that someone who knows he’s great would have. So he must know… Right?

A few years back I had a conversation with a friend. She was commenting about always having doubt that her horse was good enough. I surprised myself by saying “from the moment they’re born I try to always believe they’re gonna be great.” I often wonder if that has the same impact as that rice experiment… You know, the one where you say rude things to one jar of rice every day and nice things to a second jar. At the end of a month the results are startling. The “rude” jar turns all sorts of gross colors. The nice jar is thriving with health. Famous has never been told he’s anything less than amazing. Even when he wasn’t great, he was admired for living. Would he be different if he’d been told he would never become anything? Was Sister told she’d be great from day one?

So, as I sit here waiting to get the big guy ready for his run today, I’m occupying myself with these thoughts… Because that’s just what I do. I wonder if he knows just how much he’s done for me and just how special he really is πŸ’• I hope he does 😊

This One’s for You

Hey you. Ya you. The same you who just clicked on the link to this blogpost. This post is for you.

It’s for you… You with the big heart who gives everything you have to make others successful and happy, all while you yourself are far from it.

It’s for you… You working yourself thin to find some sort of self satisfaction.

It’s for you… You over there constantly feeling like you’re not enough. Like you can’t compare. Like you just don’t do a good job.

It’s for you… You with the empty bank account and if you don’t pull a cheque this weekend you’re not sure how you’re getting home, let alone to the next one.

It’s for you… The young kid with big dreams and the passion to see it through.

It’s for you… The hard worker who puts everything on the line for your passion, hoping it pays off.

It’s for you… The weekend warrior with the old broken down trailer and 4D horse who’s never made to feel worthy.

It’s for you… You, the barrel racer who hasn’t pulled a cheque all season and you’re ready to quit.

It’s for you… The one who smiles when your friends succeed, when inside you’re actually as jealous as they come.

It’s for you… You… who allows yourself to be let down and then beats yourself up over it.

It’s for you… You over there in the alley, so nervous you can’t see straight.

It’s for you… You who want it so bad you can feel it, but always feel like your running in place.

It’s also for you… The girl who sunk her rig in a mud bog at the rodeo grounds late at night then cried in frustration until someone came to help. (ok this one was… Is always… Me. But I had to throw some sort of funny in.)

This post is for all of you. It’s a reminder that you are enough. You are worthy. You are loved. I might not know you, but I believe in you.

You’re not alone. I’ve been there too. And it got better. Don’t worry, it will for you too. Just keep going.

Love,

Someone who cares

Stop Chasing The Win

I like to win. So do you. If there’s a person out there who says they don’t like to win… on some level, they’re lying. I know that’s blunt but it’s true. The win is what we all chase. Knowingly or unknowingly, the win is the ultimate reward. I spent years focused on the win. And only the win.

Focusing on the win is all fine and dandy… unless you’re not winning. Then it’s just exhausting and heart breaking. In an earlier post, I talked about how our wins don’t define who we are. Neither do our losses. Reality is – everyone experiences a ton of both.

I struggled for years with how to win. Actually I should rephrase that. I struggled for a lot of years with how to KEEP winning. I’d experience success here and there, but following a success, there was always a period of prolonged ‘failure’. Looking back it wasn’t actually failure, but rather, the realistic peak for myself and my horses at the time. But back then, it just felt like I was running in place, unable to move forward. It wasn’t until just recently that I finally understand why I felt that way.

You see, I was groomed to focus on nothing but the win. I think this is a societal issue to be honest. We are raised to understand that competition is a healthy part of life but that success really does come down to the win. Well if success is how many wins you have… I wanted them all! Because of this way of thinking, I went into EVERYTHING, and I mean everything… a 500 horse finals or a 10 horse jackpot… focused on nothing other than that 1D cheque. If you talked to me before I ran down the alleyway, I was gonna win it. It didn’t matter if my horse had only ever been a 17.8 at Ponoka, this was going to be the one time she smoked a real run to win the show (I have to laugh at the irony in this sentence….. but… what happened with Famous was kind of a fairytale lol). The issue with this… When we ran an 18.2 to finish out of the money in the 2 or 3D, I was heartbroken and felt like a failure.

As usual, you’re probably struggling to keep up with my twisted little mind, wondering where in the heck I’m going with this. Ok, so stop for a second and think – when you pull into a jackpot or rodeo, what is going through your mind? What are your goals? Not for your lifetime (like come on, I’m not generally focused on running down the alleyway at the Thomas & Mack when I pull into Ponoka… but I’ve thought about that on other occasions) but for that day, weekend, event? If your mind instantly goes to winning a cheque… or even to the clock at all, chances are you’ve already set yourself up for failure. Now, I’m not saying that it’s not possible to be focused on winning and win. I’ll get to that later. But for now, if you’re struggling mentally AT ALL, get rid of that focus. Stop thinking about the fuel money you need to get home or the hundreds of dollars it cost you to enter. Stop thinking about how important it is to crack into the 17s on standard pattern. Stop thinking about everything you feel you stand to gain or lose! I’ll let you in on a secret… your horse doesn’t care about any of that. In fact, if he’s anything like Famous, he’s thinking about sleeping 98% of the time. I’m saying this all from experience. I’ve been there. Lots.

About a year and a half ago, an incredible horsewoman made a comment that really resonated with me. I was at her clinic for the very first time and someone had asked her about jackpotting. She responded that she went to a lot of jackpots, but she didn’t go in to win very often. I was instantly confused. To the point of spending the next two and a half months between this first clinic and the next one I took with her pondering this concept. By my second clinic I was in a better space mentally all round and I as ready to really delve into what this statement meant. Really understanding that statement has changed my world. In a big way.

To me, this statement is a mantra of sorts. “Don’t go in to win.” Sounds silly. It’s a competition… shouldn’t you always go in to win? The simple answer would be yes. The complex answer is no. Especially if you want your horse and yourself to stay sane and sound. At the time this revelation hit me, Famous was 5 and he was less than impressive. He had turned a few heads and pulled a few futurity cheques but more often than not, we were a bit of a trainwreck going down the alley. The reason? Lack of confidence and too high of expectations. It was the end of October when things changed for me. I had been on the fence about whether to turn Famous out for the winter or keep jackpotting him. The advice I was heeded was integral to our future successes. I was told to keep running him, with zero expectations. Don’t go in to win. Focus on correct and pretty. We won 6 jackpots in a row and were top 3 at anything we didn’t win. Famous built confidence and got faster and faster.

Ok, now I’m going to take a detour back to winning and expectations. It has taken a year and a half to mould myself and Famous into the fierce team that I can confidently claim us to be. There have been so many people we have met along the way that have helped us to become well, us. For the first time in my entire life, I feel confident in having some expectations when we run up the alleyway. I know.. I just finished saying that you shouldn’t do that haha. Here’s the thing… I’ve learned recently that there isn’t anything wrong with having expectations… IF you have the confidence and mindset to accept that you may not meet your expectations every single time out. Famous and I don’t always win. Most of the time we don’t actually go in to win… or even clock. We go in to be OUR best. When that happens, whether we win a cheque or not, I’m happy. If it doesn’t happen, we go back to the training pen to fix it. The point is, I’ve gained the confidence to accept whatever happens and know that I have the tools and patience to keep him winning.

So, the moral of the story or post is that the second you take away the pressure, you set yourself and your horse up to start gaining confidence… to start learning how to be winners I suppose. Set yourself up for success. Forget about the clock, and just do you. After all, your biggest competition is staring right back at you when you look in the mirror.

If You Can Think it….

Growing up I was raised to set goals and do whatever I needed to reach those goals. I say I was raised that way because I do credit my parents for giving me the tools necessary to set and achieve goals. They pushed me to constantly reach higher, work harder, and go after whatever it was/is I want. I’m 31 and they still push me and support me in this manner. I am, I guess, one of the lucky ones in that respect.

I have always had a lot of goals. Some short term, some long term, and some that even I will refer to as ‘pipe dreams’. I will admit, however, that slowly but surely, even my self proclaimed ‘pipe dreams’ have all become realities. One by one, goal by goal, dream by dream. Literally… Anything that I have given energy to – good or bad – has, over time, become a reality.

This isn’t really where I wanted this post to go but, in all honesty, I didn’t really have a plan for this post when I sat down to write… I just knew I should probably get a post out. Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can think it, I mean really think it, you can literally dream anything… any goal, wish, dream… into true existence. I know this because I’ve watched it happen…

I haven’t shared what I’m about to share with many people. It’s kind of creepy and odd.. but also a great example.

As a little girl I was obsessed with the young adult novel series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell. In the very first book, A Horse Called Wonder, the main character, Ashleigh, saves the life of a sickly Thoroughbred filly who should have died. The sorrel, blaze faced, chromey filly grew into a respected champion. It wasn’t until Famous was 3 or 4 that I realized the parallels between this book, that I had obsessed over as a child, and the reality I had lived. There was probably even a time I thought or voiced “wouldn’t that be a neat experience.” Actually… not probably… there definitely was a time… or two… or ten.

Most people in my world know Famous’ story. Not his success story.. but the story of how he came into this world and, against all odds, stayed in it.

I purchased Famous’ dam, my true ‘heart horse’, Saloon, in foal with Famous. I’ve never been so excited for a baby in my life. The resulting foal would have bloodlines I had only dreamt of and I couldn’t wait to meet my new partner in crime.

Famous was born on a Friday. I wasn’t home. I had taken off for the weekend to a barrel clinic, knowing full well that Saloon was two weeks late and showing signs of foaling. What’s that saying? When the cats away the mice will play? She did. Not 24 hours after I pulled out, she foaled. He was big, chromey, blaze faced and gorgeous. He was everything I had hoped for and more. I couldn’t wait to get home to meet him.

I was instantly in love. This colt was the pathway to every hope and dream I had ever had. He would be my rockstar. Watching him grow up was going to be the best adventure ever. Everything was great. He was full of personality and talent from day 1! Then, when he was a week old, the world came crashing down.

I went outside in the morning to do chores. When I walked past the makeshift covered pen that that was housing Saloon and Famous, I noted that he was lying down. I didn’t think much of it as most babies do sleep an incredible amount. I went on with getting the other horses fed and made my way back to the pen. As I approached I felt my stomach drop. Famous was convulsing. His tiny body ceased and relaxed, over and over again, his head thrashing wildly in the straw. I pulled out my phone and began dialing every vet in the country, not caring who I got, just knowing I needed someone NOW.

Within an hour, a vet arrived and had an IV into my precious boy. It was determined that he had developed a bacterial infection and as he had lost strength and stopped nursing, forced himself into dehydration. The vet put him on a slow drip and advised that because he still had a suck reflex, we had a shot at saving him. At this point we would have to milk the mare and syringe as much milk as we could into his little body. I set to work while the vet packed up to leave. She promised she’d be back before the IV ran out.

The following few hours were a blur. The next thing I remember vividly about that day was the IV running out and the baby that we were trying so desperately to save, hitting ground bottom for a second time. Even I’m not that naive. I knew at this point our chances were plummeting. The vet took my urgent call and hustled over. She promptly switched the IV bag and checked his vitals. This time she didn’t say anything to me about our chances. She just advised that he would be down most of the night so to get comfortable and try and get as much milk into him as we could. She showed us how to switch the bag if needed and went on her way.

This is where the miracle started to happen. Our vet drove down the driveway to leave at about 4:30pm. At 5:30, it was as if Famous made up his mind that he wanted to live. We had been picking him up and holding him to nurse. We were beginning to feel defeated. He was just too tired. My husband decided to try one last time before we gave in to syringe feeding him for the night. Famous’ legs began to work. He was attempting to hold himself up! He had a good drink and laid back down to rest.

Half an hour later, he tried to stand on his own. We helped him to his feet and guided his shaky form to Saloon. Once again, he drank and laid back down. This continued and each time, he required less and less assistance to stand. He would stand, drink and lie back down. The only hassle in all of this is that as the night wore on and he got stronger, we also had to be quicker in getting up with him so he didn’t pull his IV. By morning we had become his slaves, chasing him around the small pen while he trotted away, trying to lose his insistent followers.

About 10:00am the following morning I received a hesitant text from the vet “…. How is he?”

“He’s a handful! He’s been standing and drinking on his own since late evening and now he’s drinking water and trotting around the pen.”

“We’ll be right there,” is the response I got. I didn’t read too much into it. I was exhausted, happy and still in shock.

It wasn’t until the vet and her assistant had checked Famous over that the truth came out. He was supposed to die overnight. In her years as a vet, she had never witnessed a foal going neurological twice survive. After the first episode he had approximately a 60% chance of survival. Once he had gone down the second time, his chances had shot down to a mere 5%… and that’s being rather generous. We had literally witnessed a miracle.

48 hours after he went down, Famous was finally off IV and alone with Saloon for the first time

Unknowingly, I had dreamt that situation into existence. Right down to the color of the foal! Now… was it a ‘cool’ experience? No. It wasn’t. It was awful. It was heartbreaking. And it was something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s also one that I know I will never get the opportunity to experience again. But, I do get to look into the eyes of a miracle each and every day. When we win, it’s just a tiny bit brighter than it would be with any other horse. And when we struggle, it’s just a little bit easier to keep driving forward than it would be with any other horse. Famous is literally exactly who I’ve waited for since I was a child… I thought/dreamt/wished him into existence πŸ™‚

I Became One of THOSE People Today….

I’ve worked in customer service. I’ve been on the receiving end of those angry customers who just can’t seem to hold it together. I’ve whispered with my coworkers about those customers. I’ve been beat down by those customers. I’ve tried everything in my power to help those customers. I’ve also done everything in power to not help those customers. Today, I became one of those customers.

Ok, let’s go backwards for a second. I’ve recently taken the steps to purchase the rights to distribution for a supplement line that has been gaining popularity both south and north of the border. It has been one heck of a learning curve let me tell ya. The hardest part has been sitting in limbo waiting for my first order to arrive. I’ve learned about freight companies, customs brokers, NAFTA, and most recently, reconsignment.

I was super pumped when everything came together for me to get my first order picked up and headed north. I was feeling all confident and excited, even bragged about having everything figured out on my own to the amazing lady who did all the leg work to get the line into Canada initially. She has been incredible… and I can say, is the sole reason I have not pulled all my hair out. She listens to every crazy moment I have and helps me through it. I’m still not sure how she managed… as her struggles were likely way more stressful than my last month. She is amazing. That’s it! Anyway, I’m stoked. My order has been picked up. It’s heading north. I’ve budgeted for everything to get it here and should have stock in a few weeks. Sweet!

Then the first roadblock hits. The customs bill. $1300! Ummm WHAT??? If I hadn’t been sitting at a restaurant with my teaching colleagues, I would have had instant tears. I immediately send a panicked text to my right hand woman (the previous owner of the rights mentioned above) and she figures out that they’ve charged me duty on duty free items. No big deal, we’ll get a new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) signed and we’ll be good to go. Whew! Three days later, my bill drops more than $900 and we’re back on track!

A week and a bit later, I start wondering why I have yet to receive my order. So I start emailing. Turns out, the trucking company lost my pallet. That’s right. They lost a 1250lb pallet. I didn’t even know that was possible, but okay. It’s found, assigned a new tracking number and back on the correct path. Awesome!

Fast forward to today. My shipment is due. Finally, a few days short of a month from shipping date, I’m going to have stock and be able to start paying off this initial shipment! Finally! Ha! Jokes on me this time.

Mid afternoon hits and I’m starting to wonder why I haven’t heard anything about my shipment. So I hop on to check the tracking. My jaw drops and I fight back tears. It’s still sitting just south of the border. I email my freight company. They have been unable to contact the trucking company (they had been trying for three days in relation to a delivery address change that I had requested). They suggest that I have it shipped to the original address to save time. I kindly (and at this point I was actually still kind) point out that the delivery date was today so I was struggling with the address change being the reason it is still sitting. While waiting to hear back, I decide to call the trucking company myself…

The lady on the other end of the line asks for my tracking number and confirms my identity. She is obviously scrolling her computer for the correct and most up to date information. She points out that the shipments ‘recon’ has been denied. I ask what that means. She says it cannot be delivered to the address provided. At this point I’m feeling like that’s reasonable, I’ll just give the new address and it’ll all be fine. But she doesn’t want the new address and cannot help me. The shipment is scheduled to be sent back to the shipper. I ask her why and she responds “well, what else are we supposed to do if we can’t deliver to the address?”

That’s the moment I started seeing red. Because of my history in customer service, I always try to be understanding and polite. But today, I couldn’t help myself! I lost it on the poor girl. I asked her (ok, I actually screamed at her) why the emails from my freight company hadn’t been returned and why, after losing my shipment, neither myself nor the freight company representing me were notified of the issue with delivery. She proceeded to speak over me and tell me that the shipment had only been picked up a few days ago. That’s when I got really mad. I actually told (ok screamed) her to let me speak. Remember the new tracking number? I’m pretty stubborn and opinionated and like being right. And in this case I knew I was so I unloaded about what events ACTUALLY took place over the past two weeks with my shipment. I reminded her about the old tracking number and the lost pallet and that the shipment had actually been picked up nearly a month ago! She didn’t say anything and only responded when I had finished and requested to be transferred to someone who could help me. “Yes ma’am. You most certainly can.”

I don’t know if it was intentional, but I was placed on hold for nearly twenty minutes. For the first ten, I was fuming. How dare they leave me on hold knowing how angry I was! The last ten I felt a variety of emotions. The first was regret. I had treated that poor girl so badly! And likely, the system is so flawed that she honestly didn’t know any better! Then I felt kind of like a winner. I’d stood up for myself and that woman had deserved it. Lastly, I felt calm. Calm and ready to talk it out. About that moment is when the manager came on the line.

“Ma’am, we’re very sorry for this.”

I was calm by now. “Can you please explain to me what the hold up is. I’m very confused.” The manager went on to explain everything that the initial lady hadn’t. My shipment had been rejected by the reconsignment company that had been hired to carry it across the border. At this point, they were waiting for a full truck and it may take a few days to find a reconsignment with a full truck heading that way. BUT, we understand your frustration and if you’d still like your shipment (that was a dumb thing to say, but remember, I’m calm), we can have our sister company in Canada take it on. I responded with a very desolate “yes please.” In my mind I was actually screaming “was that so hard? Why did I need to get so angry to get this resolved! That seemed easy!” The manager kindly pointed out that she would get that issued immediately and I would see my shipment starting to move tomorrow evening. Thank goodness!

Now, I pray this is the end of this story and in a few days, I’ll be celebrating my first shipment. I feel awful for the way I treated that customer service rep. I’ve been in her shoes. More than once. The reality is, the system is flawed. Not just in the shipping industry, but across the board. Often the people who are on the front lines have little to no power. I worked in a restaurant as a server. Those are the moments I remember the most vividly in regards to customer service (even tho I own a few small businesses and still work in customer service even with horse training). The servers in a restaurant are on the front line and, while sometimes the server is the problem, often they are not. But they are the ones who hear it. The food’s bad, servers get an earful, or, lose their tip. Chances are this poor woman on the other side of the phone literally had zero knowledge of the situation that has haunted me for the past three weeks. But I made sure to let her know exactly how I was feeling. And not in a nice way.

I’m not going to sit here and apologize… I feel bad but not that bad. But I am going to give a big ol’ shout out to anyone who works the front line in customer service. They are heros. Their jobs are to take everyone’s shit. And they don’t get paid enough. To the lady who took my shit today — I thank you.

Setting Them up For Success

In my last post I talked about how I had grown up admiring trainers and competitors and trying to wrap my head around some of the things I watched them do.

One of the things that has, until recently, always boggled my mind has been the videos that trainers or riders post showing off their colt loping through the pattern for the first, second or third time. Generally these videos look amazing. I remember watching those videos thinking “lies. Lies. Lies!” There is no way. How can a colt lope through the first couple times looking that relaxed, that collected in their turns, that SNAPPY!

As I’ve developed my own program and gained confidence in my abilities as a trainer and rider, I’ve learned that my way of thinking towards these videos were so uneducated!! The really cool part is that it’s actually not that hard to set a colt up for success his first trip through πŸ˜‰ SURPRISE!

Now, I’m gonna get up on my soap box. You know, the one where I talk about how amazing I am as a trainer? Just kidding. Well sorta. I have a super nice colt in currently that came to me to be started on the pattern. He was super broke when he came and just needed a few weeks of adding my own personal buttons that I require to get work done. Unfortunately, winters in Northern Alberta aren’t conducive to outdoor barrel training and about the time I was ready to start doing drills and patterning this colt, the local indoor arenas shut down for larger events. No big deal right? I’ll be honest… I’m the hardest worker out there, but I was a little stressed. I knew I could ride him lots outside but I had talked myself into thinking that I couldn’t possibly get done what I needed without good safe ground. Thankfully, I’m far too stubborn and can be pretty darn creative when it comes to riding, so I figured out how to give him the tools I needed so that the second we got back to dirt, I could get straight to loping through. It worked. His first trip through at a lope, he worked like a seasoned pro. Quiet, calm, relaxed, confident. Exactly like all those videos I had watched over the years. The really cool thing… Its not as hard as it looks.

You see, I always thought that more runs made a great honest barrel horse. And to some degree that is true. But often the cloverleaf gets way too much focus. The best, and most efficient way to make a barrel horse? Start with a broke horse. I don’t mean walk trot lope on a lose rein broke. I mean pick up the ribs, collect at all gaits, place each foot where YOU ask broke. I took a three year old around a barrel (not around the Cloverleaf… Around a barrel) at a lope yesterday. He’d never even seen a barrel before. Did he struggle? Nope. Why? Because he’s been given the tools to adapt and use himself properly in any and every situation. He’s been taught to collect himself and stay balanced, both in straight lines and big circles. Moving to a smaller circle was no big deal for him. He didn’t change the rules because the game changed. Hmmm… Sometimes I feel like people can learn more from horses than we give credit for 😜

I used to panic a little bit when I thought about starting a horse on the pattern. It was a bit of a source of anxiety for me because I was uneducated and didn’t have enough knowledge to make it easy. For me or for the horse. As I’ve grown as a rider and trainer and added tools to my tool box, the first lope through the pattern actually gives me tingles! When I know that’s my goal for the day on a colt, I get excited! It’s like that final exam that you spend weeks studying for! I love giving A+ to my four legged students as much as I do my two legged ones, and, just like with my two legged students, it’s my responsibility to set up my four legged students for success. Once you understand the process, you realize (like I have) it’s not hard to do!!

Learning How to Win

I grew up watching trainers and competitors do their thing. I would spend hours upon hours trying to wrap my head around a few things. The last few weeks, I’ve come to the realization that not only have I wrapped my head around these things I’m about to share – – I myself am doing them!

I remember watching my mentors (I have been very blessed to have several incredible horsemen and women cross my path and be willing to teach me) and wondering how, after making an incredible run, they weren’t visibly ready to explode with excitement. They simply smiled as they pulled up, thanked their horse, and away they went. I was in awe of this! At that time, I was struggling with just getting down the alley without wanting to puke and couldn’t even tell you half the time what happened between the time I crossed the start line and the finish line. These women… They were so poised! Weren’t they nervous? And if they weren’t, they needed to share their secrets!

I began asking questions. How do you get rid of the nerves? How do you think your way through a run? Why is it so hard? Looking back, there was never an answer that really stood out as a game changer. Mostly I was told repeatedly that it would get easier with time. That’s true to an extent I suppose.

As the years went by and I became more comfortable in the competition arena, I too slowly became a fierce competitor. The nerves slowed. The ability to think through my entire run started to grace me, and I began to become consistent. But – – I wasn’t winning.

It wasn’t until last August that the game completely changed for me. Most of my readers probably know by now what that game changer was. The first round of the ABRA finals. I had spent a week prior to the finals riding with my mentor. She had been grinding her gears for months about my riding and why I just couldn’t seem to take that leap from being pretty solid middle to bottom of the 1D to winning. Then it hit her. We were at a futurity/derby in Manitoba. The first round hadn’t gone the way I’d hoped and I was feeling a little beat up. My horse had been finishing top 10 (in at least a round) at every derby we entered and we had just come off a 3rd place average cheque at the Peace Country Derby. Anyway, she looked at me and said “stop riding everything like it’s never been around a barrel before. Get up out of that saddle and send him.” So I did. And we pulled it together to make it back to the short round of that derby.

OK, so back to the game changer as far as my mental game. The 2018 ABRA finals. That week will forever be etched in my brain. Because it changed my life. I was 311 out of 792. I had sent Famous to Coulee Equine for two weeks leading up to the finals and the day before our first run he’d been fresh enough to wanna try n buck me off. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. He was cruising a solid 17.8 in this pen, so I figured that’d be a good goal. I remembered the words of my mentor “don’t ride him like a colt. Send him.” So I did. And he thanked me in a big way. Famous knocked both his and my personal best on a standard set out of the water with a 17.310. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it held to win the round. Can you say surreal?? There were instant tears. I was elated. I looked like I was ready to explode with excitement… Because I was! I rode that high for the next two days. Then I remembered round 2. And the dread set in.

You see, one of the things I had been struggling with, even before the finals, was keeping it together after a great run. And the finals was even worse for me! I had this perception that every single person in that arena would be watching me. Expecting me to win again. At that time I didn’t have the confidence to feel like I could. I still kind of felt like round 1 may have been a bit of a fluke. I mean really… This horse ran a half second faster than he ever had before….

So anyway, I run up the alleyway for the second round. The announcer announces “keep an eye on this duo, they turned in the fastest time of round 1!” Well, that was enough pressure for me to completely lose it. I can say with conviction, Famous and I don’t hit a lot of barrels. I work hard to keep him tuned and he doesn’t really like getting in trouble. We creamed second barrel. Killed it. Going in. So had to take the scenic route to third. Can you say devastating.

Ironically, I learned that night, the only person it was devastating for was me. No one else cared. And, the girls who I looked up to most… The ones I consider to be winners, those girls understood it better than anyone. “It happens to everyone,” that was the response I got when I told one of these girls how my run went when she asked. She likely didn’t know then, probably still doesn’t know now, how important that phrase was to me. It literally changed the game for me. I even remember where we were standing when the conversation happened. The reality is, knocking that barrel was the best thing I could have asked for. Because (and this is going to sound crazy) it taught me how to win.

I obviously do not mean literally because I clearly didn’t win anything with that run. But knocking that barrel showed me that everyone wins and everyone loses. Our losses do not take away from our wins. THIS is the secret I’d been searching for all these years!!! The reason those girls I’d grown up watching could go down the alleyway looking so poised, and come out looking so calm, was because they knew that we are not defined by our best runs or our worst. But how we present ourselves between. The work we do to get there. And the kind of person we choose to be.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Famous spent 6 weeks turned out this winter before I brought him back. I started entering him the beginning of March and had two runs on him before loading up to head to Ponoka. I wasn’t nervous going down the alleyway because when Famous and I do our thing, it’s easy. We’re so in tune to each other than making runs is the easiest thing in the world. That being said, I was surprised to see the clock stop at 17.3 seconds. Not because I didn’t think we could do it… I know we can, but because I hadn’t expected us to be that tough so early in the season. About an hour later I realized I hadn’t cried. I hadn’t jumped up and down with elation. I hadn’t screamed and I hadn’t outwardly come across as someone who was going to explode with excitement. I just gave a small smile, thanked my horse, and went on my way.

****Remember at the beginning of this post I said there were a FEW things I had worked hard to wrap my mind around? Stay tuned for my next post πŸ˜‰

Whose Clock Are We On Anyway?

When you’re not training, you’re un-training.

Andrea Udal

Last night, I made a post on my facebook page, 2R Barrel Horses, about a mare that I had spent a total of 10 minutes on. Prior to making the post, I was hesitant. The amount of time spent in the saddle seems to be a huge bone of contention in the barrel horse industry around here and I realized it’s something that has been bothering me. So naturally, I need to post about it.

Now, I’m the same as most… had always felt that if I wasn’t camping on my horses for hours upon hours, I wasn’t getting anything done. So I wore myself ragged for years trying to keep horses up throughout the week. I could never figure out why, come the weekend, my horses weren’t really clocking and felt sluggish. They were so fit! They had to be! I rode for an hour a day! If you trotted circles for an hour a day, you’d be fit too! Right? Well… ya, sure they were fit. But they were also exhausted. Physically and mentally. Then, about two years ago… my world changed.

That’s the first time a great friend and amazing trainer said to me “if you’re not training, you’re un-training.” At this point I don’t think I truly understood what she meant. But, even then I was a closet analyzer so of course my little brain was going. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Sure, there are times when you need to spend time fitting up a horse that might take a little longer. But if you’re riding with purpose, especially on a colt, you need to be purposeful the entire ride. And if I was being purposeful for an entire hour (which I can promise you, I wasn’t)… oh boy. My poor horses.

Now, this post is about to touch on something a little more… controversial. The reason I was so hesitant to make that post last night was because of the “arena chatter” and judgement that happens when someone doesn’t understand the process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “have you seen so and so? She only actually puts 10 minutes a day on each horse.” The most recent time I heard this, I was instantly taken aback and felt judged and the comment wasn’t even about me! Because I know for a fact there are days like yesterday that I get to CELEBRATE growth and heart and try by stepping off after 10 minutes! Here’s the thing… does so and so really only spend 10 minutes EVERY day on that horse? Have you sat and watched her day after day? Or… are you understanding the process? Perhaps so and so has been struggling to catch a lead on said horse for the past three weeks and her only goal the day you were watching was to get the lead. She got it on the first try so she rewarded said horse with a well deserved early out. Or maybe, said horse has been worked 8 days straight and so and so just needed a stop without the horse pitching to their front end so she could give her a break… and said horse rocked the task in 10 minutes. Or perhaps, and this one just might be the scariest thought of all… perhaps 10-20 minutes is all so and so needs each day to climb off of a better horse than she got on. Generally speaking, and this is strictly from my own experience, not every day is a 10 minute ride kind of day. I celebrate the days that are, as just checking my training is the ultimate goal, but 99.9% of rides take a little longer to reach whatever goal I’ve set for that horse on that day.

All of this honestly comes back to one thing… reward. That is how horses learn. My colt starter is as wise as they come. He has taught me so much over the years and I am so honored to have had the opportunities he has given me in riding behind him. He always tells me “Bobbie, you need to make the reward longer than the work. That’s how it sinks in. That’s the best way to get through to the young ones.” Therefore, drilling a horse for hours on end sounds kind of counter productive. Don’t get me wrong… there are days. I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been days that I have sat in the saddle of a horse for hours upon hours just begging for a positive to quit on… I’ve even sat in the middle of the arena, thrown my hands in the air and cried in frustration. But I can 110% attest to the fact that as I move forward in this journey with an open mind and heart and ride purposefully every single day the entire time I’m in the saddle, those days are becoming fewer and further between. I have stopped setting unattainable goals and focused on tiny baby steps. And guess what… every single horse blows it out of the water. Pretty well every single ride.

So, the moral of the story, or post, or whatever. The length of time we’re on our horses needs to stop being such a competition. It shouldn’t be something that’s open for discussion or judgement. It also shouldn’t be something that anyone is afraid to admit or talk about. Horses learn from release. The ultimate release is stepping off. Do yourself and your horse a favor and remember that the next time your horse blows your expectations for the day out of the water 5 minutes into the ride. And do so without guilt!

Quality supersedes quantity πŸ˜‰

I Work for Your Horse

Literally…

At current time, my weekdays consist of waking up, doing chores, going to my teaching job, coming home, bringing in horses and climbing into anywhere from 4 to 8 saddles before doing chores and finally having dinner. I made the decision a month ago to bust my ass until June to make sure I was someone who people actually wanted to hire. So far, I’m busy. Real busy. And I love it.

Anyway, the other day as I was working through my current roster of client colts, a thought popped into my head. I’ve been getting really great results with everything I’m getting on. Why?? I’m not anything special… I mean, I have great hands and I do believe the program I’ve built works, but there are definitely more successful trainers out there at this point. Then it hit me. While I, like any trainer, have my own personal program that I ride to and a sort of timeline I follow, I’ve also, rather unknowingly, been riding for each horse as an individual. Don’t get me wrong, every great trainer out there does this. I just have a twisted interest in dissecting everything in this little brain of mine πŸ˜‰Β 

Ok, getting back on track. So I’m in the saddle of a colt that I have really enjoyed since day one (I’ve also come to the realization that THIS does not happen often. I always end up really enjoying them… but most of the time it takes 4-5 rides when they start getting the feel of my hands and showing me that they are learning before I start enjoying them). A thought pop into my head. I don’t actually work for the owners…. Metaphorically speaking anyway. I work for the horse. These horses dictate their own programs. I listen to their every need; what they require for feed, how many days off a week they need and when, and, most importantly, what they are ready to learn.

Taking a slight detour, I feel it is important to point out that this isn’t just true for the colts that I have the pleasure of spending 30, 60, or 90 days with. It’s true for my own as well…. In fact, being so blessed in being busy with clients has allowed me to step back and give my own colts a much needed rest for a month or two… otherwise I would be teetering on the edge of creating what Jackie Jatzlau has deemed “facebook 3 year olds” in her podcastΒ Married with Horses… colts who are NFR caliber at 3 (and in this case 4 as well) but do absolutely nothing come futurity time πŸ˜‰Β 

Being a school teacher, I have found so many parallels between training horses and teaching children. Food for thought; in many school divisions in Alberta, children have the option of going to junior kindergarten at age 3 and 4. This program is generally offered twice a week for half days. Moving forward from junior kindergarten, students have the option to attend kindergarten at age 5. This program is generally 5 half days a week (I’m actually not sure if there are any schools in the province that still offer it this way, but it has been in the past), or, as in the school I currently work at, two full days a week, with Fridays introduced in about October. Our school only attends every second Friday generally. So 5 days over a two week period are kindergarten days… generally speaking. It isn’t until Grade 1, age 6, that children go to school full time. They are worked into a routine, slowly. Students also get two days off a week minimum (there are a lot of long weekends), two weeks at Christmas, a week in the spring and two months in the summer. By now you’re wondering what this has to do with training horses. Don’t worry, I’m getting there.Β 

We send our colts to the trainer at age 2, some of us hold off until they are 3, but for the most part, colts have their first 30 days by the end of their 3 year old year. 30 DAYS! We work our children up to full time school but we take our colts and throw them to the wolves for 30 days right off the hop. I am fully aware that a horse is not a child. I get that. I also understand that most people turn their colts out for a considerable amount of time following their first 30 days. But being a teacher and a trainer, I can tell you, a colt learns in a very parallel manner to a child. A colt learns what is right from being shown release, a child learns what is right by being praised. A colt learns what is wrong by having undesirable behaviors being made uncomfortable or corrected. A child learns what is incorrect by being shown where they made a mistake or being told/shown the correct path…. see where I’m going with this?Β  The point is, an immature mind is an immature mind.Β 

I can tell you, I don’t climb on a three year old as much as I climb on a five year old. I also don’t expect my colt starter to actually put 30 days on my colts when I send them the first time. Do I still pay him well? Heck ya! Anyone who has chatted with me face to face on this topic knows that I feel colt starters should be paid more than a barrel trainer. I couldn’t do what they do. By the time they get to me, they are safe (I hope so anyway). Colt starters don’t have any clue what they’re getting. Yes, I take risks climbing on colts. But they take a way higher risk. So, back to my program. I listen to the horse and one thing I can attest to; the younger (both mentally and/or physically) they are, the more rest time they need. That being said, they generally also absorb concepts quicker. And rest helps their minds be able to do that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the number of rides in a given time frame depends on the individual, and mental and physical maturity impacts this as well. I get asked a lot about the number of rides I put on a horse in a given time frame and just recently realized that I don’t have any set answer. And maybe that’s why my program is working… because I work for the horse.Β 

I get asked so much; “how long to get my horse jackpot ready?” Now, please do not take this as me making fun or judging people who ask that question. I didn’t understand the complexity of the answer to this question until I started climbing on so many colts. I value a broke horse. I’ve been very lucky to ride my main guy, Famous, who was pretty much born broke. I don’t mean that literally… basically, he got really broke really fast without me really knowing what I was doing. I started taking him to horsemanship and barrel clinics as a three and four year old and he could ‘just do it’. Now, he’s a pretty fancy broke 7 year old. I now have the pleasure of riding a three year old, Smoothie, who has a very similar story to Famous… only on purpose… I know what I’m doing with her πŸ™‚ My ultimate goal is to make everything feel like Famous and Smoothie do. Pretty simple! Alright, so back to the question at hand. I often struggle to answer the question about how long to get a horse jackpot ready. The reason is; I’ve had horses loping the pattern after a month. I’ve also had horses not ready to even look at a pattern for 4 or 5 months. The answer to that question depends on your horse. And I work for them.Β 

Ok, so this post has gone in directions I didn’t really even intend for it to go. I, like any trainer, think my program is the best. But, like I said above, my mind thrives on analyzing and explaining everything. Why what works, works. Why what doesn’t, doesn’t. Why I do the things I do and why I love the things I love. One thing that I truly believe is that I may be hired by you. But, I work for your horse.Β