How To Get Past The Fear Of Your First Barrel Race.

Hey Y’all! So, today I am going to talk about how to get past your fear of your first barrel race. I totally understand how big of a fear that can be and how much it can affect how soon you get to go to your first barrel race. Before I get into this, I am basing this off of my personal experience I know everyone is different and everyone has a different fear, but I hope this helps some of y’all.

From personal experience I know some of the thought’s that cross our mind can be “I’m not ready, what if they think I’m not good enough, etc”. You know what, it took me one year to finally get past my fear and go to a barrel race. One of the biggest excuses I made was, I am not ready. I look back now and want to tell myself  “Guess what girl, you are going to feel like you aren’t ready but that is just your thought’s because you ARE ready.” You know what?, you and your horse are going to have things you want to work on and you always will but that is okay. I alway’s told people even my own family that “me and Dixie just aren’t ready yet.” but the truth is me and Dixie were totally ready but I let that fear consume me. I will not let that happen again, what really was a wake up call to me and changed completely how I dealt with my fear was that I only got to go to one Barrel Race with Dixie because of my fear and I still think how selfish of me that was, that I held her back because of my fear. I went to my first barrel race with Dixie, then within 2 months of that race she had a career ending injury in her leg that has made it to where I can barely ride her let alone run her. After that I decided I was not going to let fear control me anymore.

Another thing that I thought was “what will people think of me”. This was my biggest fear and I just told myself  “It simply just does not matter what they think, because you are doing this for you not them.” They should be focused on themselves and their horse and their run that they probably aren’t even thinking about you. In fact, they might even have that same thought or fear. When I went to my first Barrel Race I did not once think about what other people thought of me because I was so focused on me, my horse, and my run. Of course, everyone is different but the exact fear’s that were stopping me from going to the barrel race in the first place did not even cross my mind when I was at the Barrel Race simply because I was focused on the task at hand and most of all I was focused on my horse.

As simple and hard as this sounds you just need to go to the barrel race. I understand that it is so much easier said than done but you just need to trust yourself and your horse. Life is too short to let fear stop you from doing the things you love. Before my first barrel race, I went and watched a race at the arena one month before and then I told myself and my family I will go to the next barrel race at this arena. When you tell other people other than your self you are held accountable by them and you let them down when you don’t follow through with it. Also, it helps to create and checklist of everything you need in your trailer and load your trailer a few days before if possible so it is one less thing you need to worry about. I can do a post on a show checklist if that is something y’all want to see.

I think it is important to address your fear(s). Your fear might be that your horse might not stop, if that is your fear than practice with your horse stopping at all gates and practice your stops when you make a practice run. Then, when you are at the barrel race and that fear tries to creep in you can stop it and say “wait I don’t need that fear because I’ve practice stopping and I know I can do it just fine.” If your fear is hitting your legs on barrels, you could get shin guards such as Bang-it Dang-it socks, or even use polo wraps around your shins.

At your first barrel race I would focus on making a nice, clean, and consistent run and don’t worry about going crazy fast if you aren’t comfortable yet. Don’t let people pressure you or make you feel like you have to go as fast as you can if you are not ready to go fast. Only do what you are comfortable doing, if you only want to walk or trot the pattern then you do just that. If you are comfortable running the pattern your first race then go for it! Something, I did with Dixie before my first barrel race which built a lot of trust between us was just hauling to different arena’s and practice somewhere other than home if you are able to. Dixie would always do really well somewhere else and at home she would be a goof ball and throw a crow hop here or there but when we went somewhere she knew what her job was, of course if it is just practice try to include something in it that is fun for your horse other than barrel’s. I also did a lot of trail riding which gave her a fun way to stay in shape and kept her desensitized.

Most of all, just go out there and have fun! Although this is our sport it is something that is supposed to be fun for us and of course our amazing equine athletes too. Last but not least Trust your horse and yourself.

Rodeo RoadKelly O'Connor