Thursday, July 31, 2014

Believe And You Can Achieve

A couple of weeks ago I started seeing all these 2015 futurity colts running already and looking great on my newsfeed. I got a little worried about how far behind my 4 year old is compared to them.  She was loping a solid pattern and wanted to run between them but was at the point that she needed to slow back down, work on her footwork and "come back to me."  I was just starting to work her on that when breeding season took over any free time I had to ride.  With being pregnant, I knew my time was limited on how long I could ride but breeding season took priority.

All I wanted was to put two more weeks on the pattern with my mare before she was put away until this winter when I'm officially back in the saddle.  Knowing that all I really wanted to do was go slow, temptation got the best of me and I saddled her up and climbed on.  It'd been six weeks since she had been rode, but she felt like it was just yesterday, never missing a beat.   I put her through her paces and she rode like a dream, soft, supple, waiting on me and literally right where we left off if not better!

I finished our workout, happy to be back in the saddle and less worried about the future.  I was reminded that I need to trust in the training and all that time I spent getting this colt broke and solid under saddle had paid off.  I also realized that the time off had done nothing bad to her.  She's never been the type of colt that I had to ride down before doing a job and was never the type to forget what we had been working on.  So my worries were for nothing.  Sure she might not be as far along as those colts cruising through the pattern, well on their way to being at the top in next years competition, but she will be solid.  She has the foundation to back her up and the mind set that she will catch back up fast.  Rest isn't such a bad thing after all!

  I felt good in the saddle but with an already bad back and SI problems, I decided if I kept that up for the next two weeks that the next three months of my pregnancy would be miserable. So, with a big smile on my face, I unsaddled my colt for the last time until after baby is born.  Sure I will miss being able to ride the next couple months but I really realize how much further this colt is even with the time off.  When I'm finally back in the saddle, I know that although she's bound to make mistakes and go through the motions that futurity colts go through, she has the foundation and mind to see her through.  She will be stronger and ready for the speed when I ask her, knowing how to place her feet and having the strength to easily do it.

My worries have been eased, my heart full, and my mind ready for the day that I can saddle the little palomino up and get to work.  It's a wonderful feeling and makes me even more excited about the future.  I don't need to worry about how far along others' colts are, rather I need to trust in the process, the foundation, and my colt.  We can only do what we can do and make the most of it.  If you believe, you can achieve!

PA Honey Im On Fire earlier this summer.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Barrel Racer, Mother, Or Both?

This year I sat at home over the 4th of July.  One of the biggest times of rodeo, dubbed cowboy Christmas, it was the first time that I didn't at least dabble in it since I first started rodeoing. It's a little hard to swallow at times as I sit this season out, pregnant with our third (and final) baby.   Due in October, I'm chomping at the bit and counting down the days until our little bundle of joy arrives and I can once again regain my identity back in the saddle.

Because I'm just that age where most of my friends are new mothers as well as avid barrel racers, it's a popular topic in our conversations on "how are your kids" and "where do you find the time to get it all done?"  But the biggest and one that I've personally experienced and struggled with is how to regain our feel, timing, and balance in the saddle, our confidence, and just being able to juggle our new everyday life routine with baby and still be able to have the time for the horses.

I wish I had the answer to all of this.  It's a struggle I've faced since I had our first son in 2010.  I was just starting to get back to myself and found a routine that worked for us all when we had our second son in 2013.  Between 2013 and present, it's been a battle to get back my confidence, my balance and just be myself.  Now for my last baby, I want to try to take all I've learned from having our first two kids to make a comeback on the barrel racing trail.

Let's face it.  It's hard to have a family and be able to have time for any other extra curricular activities.  However, as we as moms get engrossed into our children's lives, it's important that we still have our own separate identity.  What makes us be us, will only make us be better parents in the end.  This is so tricky to achieve and can feel impossible at times.  I know that I wouldn't be able to do it without all the help and support from my husband, our parents, and several close friends who come to help us out when we just need to get things done, a shoulder to lean on and just get away for awhile. The support system is huge.

Many women, not all, when pregnant sell their good horses because they don't want to see them sit all that time and besides, they have several young horses that will be ready when it's time for them to crack back out on the barrel racing scene.  I've done both.  My first, I kept my good horse but she was bred so our son was 8 months before I got to run her.  In the mean time I rode a 4 and 5 year old, seasoning them and preparing the 4 year old for the futurities the following year.  And with my second, I didn't have something solid, just a 6 year old that had been ran a handful of times and far from being seasoned or solid.  That one was tough on not only me, but my horse.  I found that my time, feeling, and balance and along with my confidence came back so much quicker and stronger when I was riding my solid horse verses trying to get it all together while also having to train and help an unseasoned horse during that process.  It was hard and a huge setup for failure, at least for me.

It's so hard not to get wrapped up in all that you've missed during your maternity leave that once you finally get back in the saddle, you want to pick up right where you left off and go full throttle.  We make unrealistic goals for ourselves and ultimately make it even harder to achieve.  Leaving our passion turn more into work - a job and no fun.  Why would we do this if it wasn't fun?

It's can be a struggle going from being a top 1D rider to having that feeling that you have to hang on for dear life just to stay with your horse coming out of a barrel.  It's humbling to say the least and it's heartbreaking when you feel you have something to prove.  You see, barrel racing isn't just my hobby, it's my lifestyle, it's a big part of my livelihood.  With having a business in breeding, training and selling barrel horses, people don't look lightly on you when you don't perform to their expectations, let alone yours! The pressure one can feel in that situation can be mind crumbling and be like the feeling of doom.   Even if your business isn't horses and it's strictly a hobby, the competitive side of you will put yourself in higher expectations than sometimes can be realistically achieved at that given point in time.  It's a hard road to be on, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the other factors to getting back is of course losing the baby weight.  Oh joy! I wish I was one of those women that when 9 months pregnant look like they just are smuggling a basketball under their shirt.  Unfortunately for me, I more so resemble a beached whale look.  The weight doesn't just fall off and what's even worse is the core strength is literally non existent after baby.  I personally struggle with a bad back which only makes it harder to lose the weight and get those core muscles back in shape, but it also makes it that much more important! Remember, it takes time and work!

Then there is the juggling of trying to make sure there is enough time to keep your horse in shape and tuned up all the while trying to find time to do all the new duties that are required with children.  I'm so thankful that I have found a great babysitter for a few hours of the week that when I go ride, I don't have to worry about if they are going to wake up from their nap, if the sandbox by the barrel patch is going to entertain them long enough for me to ride one horse, if they will get too hot or cold, or just what in the world did they put in their mouth?  It's stressing and for me, I really need some time when I can focus solely on my horse.  As they get older, the easier it gets.  My oldest and I could get a lot done if it was just the two of us, but I realize they are only little for so long and I try to make the best of it and enjoy that precious little time we have at that stage too.  It's hard enough to barrel race at home, let alone thinking of having to do it all at an actual barrel race or rodeo! For those moms who have mastered the art of having their kids in tow and still be able to keep their competitive mind set along with all their hair, huge kudos to you!  I for one am not one of those people.

I think one of the most trying times in our barrel racing careers are after having children.  Trying to keep our identity, not only for us but also to be better mothers to our children.  I know that I don't want to miss out of my children's lives, but I also know that if I don't keep my identity, then I am not going to be the mom that I could be for them.  It's good for them to see you making goals and working hard.  You become ever more of a role model showing your hard work and dedication beyond just for the family.

I can't say that I have this mastered, the whole barrel racing mom thing, but here's a summary of what I've learned over the past four years.  A strong support system will make it possible.  I can't thank everyone enough (especially my husband and family) who have stepped up and helped me watch the kids so that I can get my horses rode, go to a barrel race, etc.  Don't set too high of goals too soon.  It's going to take time.  Realize that you may be starting back at zero and working your way back up.  Set stair stepping goals and keep it fun.  Keep a good horse around so that you can regain your lost ground that much quicker!  I learned my lesson and my solid and true horse is getting fat and sassy out in the pasture, not bred, and waiting for her day to be saddled up again.  Work hard to lose that baby weight and regain that core strength.  This isn't only good for barrel racing but you as a whole.  Your confidence will come back quicker as will your feel, timing and balance.  Don't let the pressure get to you.  No one is walking exactly in your shoes and they don't know the journey that you've been on to make it where you are today.  Forget the pressure, the people, and just go out there, try hard, have fun and make your comeback.  Time management is important to make it both work.  You might not have the time to keep three open horses in shape and tuned up as well as all those colts that also are in dire need of being rode.  Pick and chose what's best for you and your family time.  Your family is just as important as you keeping your identity!

It's not an easy road to be on, but it's well worth it when you can find that happy medium.  I'm a mother first and a barrel racer second.  I will always be there for my family, but as they grow up, they will see a mom not only being a mom but also settling goals, working hard, and being a role model.  In the end, I hope my children know they are loved, know how to work hard for what they have, have the courage to chase their dreams and know that just as I had a support team, that I will be their biggest cheerleader.  Never give up!