Barrel racing began as a fun thing.  It started in the early 1940’s 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.   Don’t 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 child’s 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 or old.


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Last modified: January 05, 2014