From the time the Barkemeyer boys were babies, horse shows have been a way of life. The demands of father Brad’s career as a professional horse trainer mean weeks-long horse shows away from home, so to keep the family together, mother Mindy and the boys, Bryce and Zane, hit the road with Brad. As the boys matured, their lives on the road changed, too.
Mindy picked up on a few key tips and tricks raising her boys on the road. Try them the next time your family heads to a competition or trail ride to make life easier and keep everyone entertained.
Tip 1: Find the Right Packing Plan
Gathering everything needed for a long trip away from home is daunting enough for one person, let alone a family of four. From the horses’ needs to the family’s essentials, the packing lists are long. A point person for each packing list can even the responsibilities and ensure that everyone’s needs are covered.
“I pack everyone,” Mindy shares. “I handle packing all the clothes, and it has become a challenge. When I nail all our needs for the different activities and climates, I feel like I just scored the winning touchdown. It minimizes my stress, because then I know the boys and Brad have everything they need and if not, I know where the mall is.”
Tip 2: Assign Responsibilities
Just as your kids have chores and responsibilities at home, they can lend a hand on the road, too. The key to success is recognizing each child’s individual strengths.
“Our boys are pretty different from each other,” Mindy says. “We try to assign them roles and responsibilities on the road that play to their strengths, just as we would at home. We’re all here for a common goal, and we all need to contribute to make it happen.”
Tip 3: Find the Fun
Mindy is committed to including family fun amongst the long days and late nights at horse shows. That means sometimes waiting to celebrate big wins in favor of time together, making memories.
“In 2016, Brad and Doug Williamson did really well at the World Series of Team Roping,” Mindy recalls. “We literally took a photo, changed our shoes, and took the kids to the Tournament of Kings [at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas],” she says. “No matter what else is going on, we try to incorporate fun. Anything from go-cart racing to fun dinners. The boys know this is our job and how we make our living, but we try to optimize our family time.”
Tip 4: Mind Your Priorities
As the boys got older, Brad and Mindy learned to manage their competition schedule to ensure that they’re home for important events. For example, this summer they skipped the NRCHA Hackamore Classic, a major event in Brad’s industry, in favor of a family trip to Alaska. They don’t currently compete at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity because both boys play high school football.
“We try to do everything together as much as we can,” Mindy shares. “We don’t want to be one-sided and only focus on Brad competing or only consider football season. We’re a team.”
Tip 5: Make Small Moments
In the hustle of traveling with horses, it’s not always easy to make big plans. Mindy advises that taking advantage of small moments is key.
“Whether it’s roping the dummy at the stalls or sitting together in the stands, make time to be together in short moments,” she says. “They add up to happy memories. Also: Take photos! Not just for ‘winning moments,’ but for little ones, too.”
Tip 6: Be Prepared for Change
“When the boys were little, they went everywhere with us,” Mindy recalls. “As a mom, that meant I didn’t get to do everything I did at horse shows before the boys were part of our family. I had to take them back to the room or the trailer for naps, for example, and miss seeing Brad show. Although I felt a little disconnected at times, the kids had to be the priority for me. I didn’t get to be part of everything then, but I feel like that’s what makes us successful now—that we share this experience. We live by the motto this is what we do it is not who we are.”
As with everything in parenthood, life on the road with your kids will constantly change.
“When your kids are young and require more of your attention, know that soon you’ll have more of your own life back,” Mindy says. “You might miss some socializing and showing when they’re little, but you’ll get that back. The days are long but the years are short. Cherish every moment. Bryce is a senior and will graduate this spring and go off to college. I had no idea how fast it would go. Take a deep breath, and be patient. You’ll hold these memories forever. In training horses Brad always says if you take the time it takes, it takes less time. I feel like the same goes for raising kids. Take the time in the beginning to solidify your expectations, which means giving up some of your social time, and before you know it your kids will be older and you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
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