Find Your Competitive Edge by Martha Josey
Competitive Edge – Over the years barrel racers and horsemen have become known for always looking for the next new product or best supplement on the market to help their horses win. In any discipline involving horses, riders are looking to find their way to the top. In a world full of so many options, where do you begin?
Products are great but today’s horseman needs to have a complete program in place to allow their horse to achieve maximum results.
Before you ever enter the arena, there are ways to out smart your competition. Today I want to talk about a few things you can do to help set you and your horse up for success.
The first part of being a winner is planning. You do not accidentally show up and win. I’m not talking about planning your day or week, I am talking about planning your horse’s regime of daily care. Let’s start at the ground with your horse’s hoof care, which is vital to his career. We often hear the saying, “no foot no horse”. Everywhere I go, I’m surprised to find that some riders do not have their horses on a schedule for shoes. Your appointment with your farrier needs to be strategically planned. First off, always review your upcoming show schedule. If you have a show coming up right when your horse’s 6 week reset appointment is, consider having your horse done at 5 weeks. Losing a shoe at a show can result in having to withdraw from that event costing you the loss of an entry fee or possibly damage to his foot. Consult with your farrier who knows your horse’s feet, because some horses may not grow enough for an early shoeing. What you’re trying to prevent is taking your horse into the arena with a long toe which can cause tripping, loss of a shoe, or even injury. If having your horse reset the week of an event, try to pick a day early in the week to schedule with your farrier so this will give your horse a few days to adjust or give you time in the event you have to reschedule should your farrier cancel. Tiny details like these, are what it takes to ensure your horse is 100% when he steps out of the trailer at that event.
At our clinics, we see many of our students riding out of shape horses. I believe unlocking your horse’s full horse power does not just come from whipping him all the way home as you leave that third barrel. Speed and quickness comes from all the exercise prior to that winning run. A good exercise program along with proper warm up and cool down is essential to a good performance at your show. It always saddens me to hear “I just pulled my horse up out of pasture to come run”. Not only is that unfair to the horse, it is dangerous to both horse and rider. Preventing injuries and soreness starts with your horse being in performance shape. Building muscle and your horse’s lung capacity up gradually, is important. A good distance to aim for in building this endurance is about 4 miles. In building your horse’s endurance, you will need to incorporate both trotting and loping. Always be sure to start your horse out slowly in short distances to build his endurance gradually over time to prevent the possibility of injuries occurring from overwork. Once your horse is able to do this and recover quickly, (back to slow breathing), your horse is fit to run. Remember to exercise the left and right side of your horse equally by counting your circles or laps you make each direction as you trot or lope. When you get to the show, have a game plan for your warm up and try to keep it the same for every event however be aware it may need to change in length depending on the weather or environment. If it’s hot you may do a shorter one, or of it’s cold you may need lengthen it by loping more circles than normal. This will help your horse get comfortable and helps nerves fade for both of you if you’re focused on your warm up instead of everything else going on. Consistency is the key because horses are creatures of habit. They rely on us to be consistent on a daily basis in everything we do for them.
Prepare yourself for the task at hand. At my clinics we ask students, “how many of you walked into the alley way before your first run and had a game plan on how to approach your barrel and had your “spot” picked out?” Only a handful will raise their hand and sometimes no hands go up! The next thing we ask is, “how many of you ran by the first barrel?” Usually over half the students will raise their hand. Don’t run into any situation blind if you don’t have to when you can set yourself up for success by making a plan. There were times in my rodeo career while going from rodeo to rodeo that I didn’t get enough time to closely examine the arena as well as I liked but I always had a plan.
I highly recommend any books you can read on organization. I am a big planner and I don’t want to forget anything that I need to schedule for my horse. I am always reading books, watching DVD’s and keeping notes, which enables me to stay ahead of the game and do my best for my horse. I always encourage my students to “shoot for the stars and follow your dreams” but it takes planning and organization to achieve it.
Martha Josey personifies barrel racing for many people. She was the first and only cowgirl to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in four consecutive decades. She has the distinction of winning both the AQHA and WPRA World Championships in the same year. Her career has stretched, win-to-win, over four decades. For more information, visit BarrelRacers.com.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 8