There I was bright lights, speakers all around me, hearing the crowd cheer my name as my turn comes up. I can feel the excitement all the way to my toes, my horses’ heart racing and that little sweat bead coming down my forehead. My father is starting to walk my horse down the alley, he lets my horse, Rabbit, go and we take off. The first barrel is there faster than I ever thought. We turn it with just enough room to not hit it, we take off to the second barrel, the crowd is louder than ever. Second barrel is just how we have been practicing it, I keep my focus and push him to the third turning it perfectly; now it’s just a horse race home. Before I can hear my time I wake up, once again I had a dream about running in the NFR.

This dream has occurred in my life for years now and one day it will come true. Being in the rodeo scene since the age of 6 I have a good idea of how it all goes. People see all of the partying and think that is what it is all about, but what they don’t see is how the contestants bond as family and all of the hard work put in before they even enter a rodeo. We all end up becoming close, if one person needs a hand there is always someone there willing to help out, this is the cowboy code. Of course there will always be a few who do not follow the code, and all you can do is pray for them and whatever they are going through. Your attitude is something that brands you, and will follow you through life. The way you treat others means a lot to the rodeo community.

My work begins at 6am or earlier every day, the horses have to be fed and they expect it around 6 every morning. After throwing hay to each horse, looking them over and making sure they have water I go back to my house to feed myself. After about an hour or so I go back outside to get the horses ready to ride. Some call me crazy for riding even when it is snowing, but that separates the weak from the strong. Each horse I ride that day gets pulled out of their stall at this time, un-blanketed, brushed and saddled. From there each day is different. Some days I take the horses on a 4-5 mile trail ride to stretch their legs, build muscle keep them sane and get them out of the arena. This is good exposure for the horse, getting them use to, “expect the unexpected”. The days that I ride in the arena I start with a 20 minute warm-up, getting the horse stretched out is one of the most important things next to the cool down session. We continue on with 4-5 barrel drills, also known as slow work. What many do not understand is these drills make your barrel pattern come close to perfect and makes you faster. Everybody who has taken lessons from me thinks these drills will be easy, but to make your horse work the way he should, it makes each person sweat within the first five minutes. After working barrel drills for about a half hour we cool down with a trail ride. This gets the horse out of the arena and allows them to mentally relax.

Throughout the day stalls are cleaned and waters are filled. When the arena ground needs to be worked I hook up the drag to the quad and drag the arena. Good ground is so critical to these athletes, if you work them in bad ground constantly your chances of them getting hurt is more likely. The more you put into your horse the more you will get out of them. The most powerful thing you can give a horse is love.

Throughout the week I give lessons to girls interested in running barrels. It is amazing to watch these girls improve over time. The heart these young girls have for rodeo is encouraging to watch and be apart of. Coaching these girls has improved my barrel racing skills, I’m not only figuring out how my horses work best I am helping these girls figure out how their horses work best. The two most important skills we work on is good horsemanship and positive sportsmanship. To often we see people beating their horses after a bad run or not being very nice because they did not do well. It happens to the best of us, the way you handle the situation shows what kind of person you are. I believe more people need these skills drilled into them. It would make the events even more fun to attend, knowing there will be more positivity in the area.

Rodeo weekend starts early with slack usually beginning on a Wednesday or Thursday. Before being able to head out there is a lot to check over, making sure you have everything to care for the horses is the most important part. Always bringing extra hay for the unknown reason you might need extra. Each trip I do a full inspection of truck fluids, tire pressure and making sure all lights function. Next comes making sure there is enough food for my dogs and for myself. Eating out on the road gets expensive; when you can have a good meal in the comfort of your trailer why go out to eat. After double checking that we have everything needed for the weekend, down the road we go. Praying for safety and that all of my hard work pays off. Whether I get a pay check or not, I am thankful for every run I can make on my horse.

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