More Winning Ways by Lyndee Stairs

By Abi Price 
Intern at The Stairs Ranch 

As a recent college graduate, I have had many moments to think about where my life is headed and what I am going to do when I get there. Fresh out of college I see many young people my age starting their careers and looking like they have it all together but really half of us have no idea where we are going and or know what to do when we get there. Then I started thinking and realized that growing up and going to college and starting a career is very similar to starting a barrel horse. 

In his book “These Were The Vaqueros,” Arnold Rojas states that “a horseman cannot learn all they should know by trial and error; a person’s lifetime is too short for that.” Indeed, he says, five lifetimes would not be long enough to experience all the things a good horseman needs to know. You can spoil 100 horses before you can learn to train one properly; you could learn more on one horse if you had someone to teach you how to handle it than you can on 100 by trial and error without a teacher.

What to do when your horse sticks his nose out, bounces on his front end when he stops or sets for a barrel, and otherwise costs you extra time on the barrel pattern. Why does he do this?  And what can you do to get him back on his rear end? The habits of sticking his nose out and bouncing on his front end and not getting on his rear end could be caused by pain in his mouth or the wrong bit. Maybe your horse is sore somewhere?

Barrel racing should really be easy to do and easy to win, right? It is simple enough.  Well, here is a quick overview.  You and your horse’s job is to quickly and correctly maneuver around a cloverleaf pattern in the shortest amount of time.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, no. Because in between the time you enter the arena and then leave at the completion of your run, there are many variables that can affect this otherwise simple looking event. I mean, there are just three barrels. However, as any of us who have ever tried this sport knows, your horse can run past the first barrel, shoulder the second one, knock the third one out of the arena, spook at the overhead banners, shy away from the shady spot in the center of the arena, buck, run off, and on and on and on. In order to do well at barrel racing, you must anticipate the unexpected and head it off. You and your horse must be both physically and mentally ready. You both must be focused on the task at hand, and must have a game plan. All of this requires copious amounts of work.