I just returned from the Tennessee NBHA State Finals in Franklin, Tennessee. Although I’m wore slap out, and we didn’t have the perfect runs, I had a wonderful time.
I can’t go any further without giving some extra kudos to our NBHA State Director, Kenny Lane. Putting on a show of any caliber is an extremely hard job as people like to complain, and there’s a large amount of money that comes out of your own pocket with the hopes that you’ll make at least some of it back. Even in the midst of catty comments made about needing some extra help covering the $500 a day air conditioning expense, Kenny was gracious and put on a terrific show that was well run and had plenty of added money and prizes. The ground held beautifully, the holding area set up was very efficient and safe, and the alleyway was long enough to get a horse stopped. The air was cranked up too so we were all cool, which was a real treat considering most of our shows are either outside or in an arena without air conditioning! Plus, my mom came to see me ride and she never would have lasted if it hadn’t been that cool. Good job Kenny!
My barrel horse, Fireman, has been going through some corrective shoeing since spring. I had hoped he would be ready by the State finals but unfortunately he wasn’t. I had another horse that I’d hoped would be a possibility as he has a ton of potential but by mid-summer it was evident that he wouldn’t be ready in time either.
So, in August I borrowed a Dash For Perks bred gelding that was a sale prospect from my farrier and friends, Joel and Nancy Sherlin of Athens, Tennessee. Having bought a couple of horses from them and having ridden with them a good bit, I knew anything they had would have a phenomenal foundation. Their horses are light and effortless to ride.
I started riding “Beavis” at the end of July. He’d been used for lessons on their farm and had been running a good pattern in their pen. The catch? He was only four and had never been hauled…anywhere!
My goals for the State finals suddenly changed! They went from having a good time and drawing a check to challenging myself even more as a rider and helping a horse get some seasoning so he’s more marketable. It wasn’t about winning anymore.
In the weeks that led up to the State finals, there were more times that I can count that I felt like a complete idiot riding Beavis. Having broke a lot of colts, and shown in everything from hunter and western pleasure to trail, I tend to be a pretty quiet rider most of the time but there were times I couldn’t even get Beavis to the first and second barrel-and it was MY fault for picking up too much or not using enough leg!
It wasn’t the horse – I needed to step it up as a rider. I begin to doubt if I was cut out for barrels, thought maybe I needed to quit barrels and just pursue those things that I’ve already done well at. There were plenty of crying, snotting, mental breakdowns right in the practice pen. There’s nothing like a tough to ride horse to make you doubt your ability, or to show you the truth.
Quite frankly, as I was hauling a green horse, I wasn’t sure what to expect as our trip didn’t start off well. Then again, every trip that’s memorable has to have a story to tell, right?
The first hiccup was that as soon as we reached the interstate, one lane was shut down and we had to take a detour. Then we barely made it to the next county before we had a blow out… and my husband broke Joel’s lug nuts on the tire and then hit himself in the jaw with the wrench! That story will be around for YEARS!
As if that wasn’t bad enough, when we pulled Beavis out of the trailer his nose was four times bigger than it should have been, and he was swollen clear up to between his jaws. We suspected he’d been stung by a wasp in the trailer. Fortunately, a few hours later he was back to normal.
The State show was Beavis’ fourth show, his first long over night trip, and his very first indoor pen. I’ve taken a lot of young and seasoned horses on their first trip to an indoor and had many that couldn’t make a full lap around the pen. On his very first trip into the arena, Beavis didn’t hesitate or spook, and did whatever I asked him to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.
Although our runs weren’t perfect, with the exception of the last Sweepstakes run, we made every barrel, improved our time every go, and he ran harder than we ever have so far. Our very last Sweepstakes run was a disaster but it was completely my fault and wound up being a learning opportunity in the end.
At the end of the weekend, instead of choosing to focus on our slow times, wide turns, or that last disastrous Sweepstakes run, I chose to focus on the positives and the lessons learned. I had ridden a young green horse that had never even seen an indoor arena that ran down the alley way without any hesitation and did exactly whatever I asked. He’d worked well, ran hard, and had been an absolute dream to haul and because of that he was going to make an awesome youth horse some day. That’s what mattered.
I also learned the value of eating well. You see, prior to every run but the last one, I had made it a priority to eat a good source of protein to make sure I was focused and thinking clearly – and it worked! The last run I didn’t do that because I didn’t want to take the time. As a result, I wasn’t focused and paying attention and it most definitely effected my ride.
Another lesson I was reminded of was the value of close friends and good times. I won’t ever forget that this race was the first time my mom ever saw me ride, let alone run, and all the memories of the weekend.
It’s hard to imagine as I look out the window at Beavis grazing with my mares, that just a few weeks ago I was ready to shut the door on barrel racing and instead focus on something I’m already decent at. I’ve shed a lot of tears, and still have a ton of work to do to improve but I know in the long run Beavis will make me a better rider and he’ll make an even better youth horse for it.