Barrel racing began as
a fun thing. It started in the early 1940s when the wives and
girlfriends of some of the ropers and rough stock riders decided they
wanted an event of their own. I studied the history of barrel racing
when I was writing my first book on barrel racing basics.
Here we are a short 60
years later and barrel racing is a major industry within the horse
industry. Those ladies that started this sport ran a triangle around
three 55-gallon Texas oil drums and that remains the same today. Many
other things have changed drastically.
I have seen many
barrel races lately. I sometimes stand in the back by the alley way and
watch and sometimes I sit in the grandstands. I also like to go outside
and watch people warming up and visit with students and friends, etc. I
like to watch from many angles even from the back of a young horse that
I am seasoning. Since I give a lot of lessons, I like to observe my
students under the pressure of the race. I also like to video tape
their runs so that they can see them played back in slow motion.
It has occurred to me
lately that very few people appear to be having fun. And some of the
horses that I see are sure not having any fun or enjoying their trip.
I have given a lot of thought to the reasons for this. It seems to me
that the focus is so onto winning first that there seems to be no
satisfaction in just plain old progressing. There are probably many
reasons for this. Fuel is high and everything involved in barrel racing
is expensive. (Or any other sport for that matter) The expenses
could put a lot of pressure on people to win back their investment.
There are other ways
that pressures can push people. Some people push themselves and put
themselves under a lot of pressure and others are pressured by parents,
spouses, friends, etc. This is the subject of this article pressures
applied from within or from without. Dont get me wrong, some
pressures can be good. Not all pressure is bad. I think a good
pressure would be the pressure to be sure that my horse is in top
condition and that I have done everything possible to get him ready to
compete. I see a lot of horses running barrels that are not in
condition especially this time of year. Those riders have not felt
the pressure to correctly prepare that athlete consistently to be in top
shape. Stand outside the alley way and watch how many horses come out
completely out of air. Some only ride their horses when the weather is
good. They need to put more pressure on themselves to prepare their
horse in the areas of heart, lungs, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
When my daughter
wanted to compete in barrel racing, we had rules to follow. She did not
compete on week-ends unless she did the consistent riding during the
week. I would fill in for her only if she had a school function that
prevented her from preparing her own horse. She learned to plan and
pressure herself and be consistent in all the unfun stuff so that the
running on the week-ends was successful and fun. Here again I
believed this to be a good pressure one that caused growth in her
abilities to see both sides the work part and the fun part.
I see riders that are
terribly out of shape physically. They have not felt the good pressure
to get themselves in shape. Pressures of this kind must be driven by
desire. If the desire is not big to become all you can be, then the
pressure from within will be small. Desire drives all that we do. Have
you ever noticed that you will make time for the things that you want
the most? That comes from desire- a craving for something. Champions
crave progression in their performance and have large desires and put a
lot of pressures on themselves. These are the types of pressures that
are good as long as they are driving us to become better and better.
Pressures that are not
conducive to improving our performance are pressures applied from
ourselves or others that are extreme. If I am competing to win the
approval of someone else, then that can be extreme and become more my
focus than making a good run. If I am competing to feel better about
myself, then that can also become extreme. If my mental focus is not
tuned in to my run, then my run will most likely be ruined by the
pressures that caused me to tune to something else. This happens many
times to children or people whose spouses are pushing them. I see
children come out of the arena and the parent jumps all over them
chewing them out for something that they did wrong in the run. If you
read any child development books at all, you know that children crave to
please their parents. If the parent is unhappy, then the child feels
like a failure. This pressure to please the parent can become bigger
than the pressure to improve their performance. I have seen spouses
apply this same kind of pressure. This can be deadly to a parent-child
or husband-wife relationship. It
can be deadly to the healthy growth of a childs mental state of mind.
In short you can
have a desire for someone to succeed, but you cannot set a goal for
them, nor can you meet that goal for them. You cannot control anything
inside of another person. You cannot give your desires to another.
So, in the light of that truth, what good would it do for you to put
unproductive pressure on them? Think hard about this. Outside
pressure can be so destructive. You may be applying this to another
person and not even realize it. The pressures that you apply to
another will usually come through that person to the horse they are
riding. It can be a vicious cycle that needs breaking.
I had a parent tell me
this week-end that their child is losing interest in running barrels.
Why would a child want to do something that is absolutely no fun at
all? I have another friend who has quit because she could not please
her husband and it was causing her to feel bad in her marriage. The
thing that we must all reach is balance. If there is a balance in our
barrel racing, then it will be enjoyable and grow us as people. If it
is unbalanced, it becomes a detriment to growth whether we are young