As we’ve moved into specialized events and organizations, we’ve lost sight of the true all-around horse of yester-year who could do a multitude of events in a day long show with a solid mind and body. The “modern” all-around horse might show five events, and more often than not these same horses cycle through their careers in 4-5 years. They get cranky and lose interest because quite frankly they are bored with the monotony.
The same holds true for the rider. We all have that burning passion for competition but after several years of doing the same thing, showing against the same crowd and winning the same prizes, burnout sets in. I grew up showing all across the country in all-around competition and truly loved my equine partners. Lifelong friendships were built, heart breaking losses endured and an endless supply of belt buckles stacked my dresser, it was satisfying but it was no longer a lasting sensation.
Like so many that came before me I found myself jumping disciplines and changing direction when my youth show career came to an end. I set out for Utah State University and I found my passion again. Just not in the show pen. With a more than encouraging push from my friend, we joined the rodeo team and I jumped back into the rope pen and barrel arena. It was a refreshing change. Grooming my horse for hours on end was no longer necessary, dripping sweat in a skin tight outfit was thrown out the window, and new challenges came my way.
Since graduation I’ve continued (slowly) down the rodeo trail and dubbed myself a “recreational barrel racer”, I added team roping to my list of new activities. The solid leg and hand that I had developed in my show career has made the transitions easier, I can focus more on swinging my rope and riding to position. The balance I developed from the over fence work has helped me get up over my horse leaving the box and helps me stay balanced when he faces.
Becoming a well-rounded rider has always been my goal. I enjoy learning new skills, riding with new people and added new skills to my resume. Evaluating the truly successful showmen, horsemen and trainers it’s obvious to me how they got where they are. Unwavering passion drives them and innovation pushes their riding to a new level. They aren’t afraid to hear new ideas and implement them.
So if you ask me, here’s why the well-rounded rider wins both in and out of the arena:
- They have feel and timing. Riding multiple horses or in multiple events gives you no choice but to develop this two vital tools.
- They have a strong grasp on their mental game. Riding in varying events forces you to set aside a bad run so you can focus on an upcoming run in a different event. There is no time for pouting or sulking. It’s move on or get mowed over.
- They go to the competitions refreshed because they do something different every day. There is no burn-out in their brain.
- They are focused on their own health and wellness as well as their equine partner. I touched on this subject in an earlier article “Spurs and Sports bras” . If the team is out of shape a day long marathon of events just isn’t going to happen.
- They have perspective/an open mind. They see the bigger picture and attribute skills to several areas.
- They can pin point their weaknesses and how to correct them. Encountering the same problem in multiple events forces self-evaluation.
- My head horse would struggle to find the corner of the box or move his body at all once he was set. Stepping away from the box/rope pen I had to work on teaching him to side pass, two track, turn on the forehand and on the haunches until he got comfortable moving his body. Working those skills away from the box enforced the cues I was using when I got to the rope arena. He knew what I was asking and did it willingly.