As a child I remember attending rodeos and not paying attention—that was until they set up the barrels in a cloverleaf pattern for the cowgirls. Once the barrels were set, my eyes were fixed to the arena. I admired the barrel racers who could ride their horses as fast as possible and navigate the cloverleaf pattern with ease. When I grew up, I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to run with the "big girls." So before I even started competing on horseback, I was running an imaginary barrel pattern on my stick horse. I always wanted to be a barrel racer.
[READ: Five Barrels for Success]
Now at the ripe age of 22, I am lucky enough to compete with the "big girls." Since I'm not competitive, my goal was never to outrun them—but to simply run alongside them. In the competition arena I am known as the girl who—no matter the outcome of my run—exits with a smile. There have been runs where I haven’t made it around all three barrels, I've hit all three barrels, and I've even fallen off. The reason behind my smile though is, the dream I had as a little girl came true... I am a barrel racer.
My goals change as my riding level advances, but I never change my mindset to “I must win.” My mindset remains unvaried because I don’t want to be concerned with winning and I forget the reason I compete in this sport in the first place. I don’t want the little girl inside of me to wither away as I become a better barrel racer. I want to continue to have passion in my heart for running around three metal drums.
If at any moment I start to put too much pressure on my riding, I call my mom. My mom always gives me the same advice, “When you were focused on having fun, you were winning. Now that you’re putting pressure on yourself, you need to take a few steps back.”
[READ: Barrel Racing Pattern Tips]
Guess what? When I take a few steps back, I ride so much better. I’m not worried about overriding my horse and micromanaging my runs. Instead, my head is clear of all worry and I’m ready to have fun. After all, I’m not making a run for the National Finals Rodeo, so these jackpots I’m running at are “just for fun” anyway. I’m not making a living barrel racing; I make a living so I can barrel race.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of winning… and don’t mistake my lack of competitiveness for lack of confidence—I’m confident in both myself and my horse. But I compete because I love the sport and at the end of the day it’s just a competition. If I win, I have another event to add to my list of achievements. If I lose, who cares? Nobody is going to remember me as the girl who lost, I will instead be remembered as the girl who was always happy despite the outcome. If someone else wins I’m okay with that—I was probably cheering them on from the stands anyway.