One of the main reasons I kept Rollo (Famous Lil Jet) to rodeo these last few years is I got burnt out on the colts a little bit. Starting over every year and selling your horse when you’ve finally peaked them and it’s fun, it got a little mentally exhausting. I really enjoyed it for a long time. I did the futurities for 10 years straight. I had two or three futurity horses every year and trained them until they were ready to go to someone else, and then I started over.
I had a futurity horse in 2020 that was phenomenal as a 3-year-old, so I just knew that she was ready to be a 4-year-old futurity colt because she was phenomenal in the exhibitions her 3-year-old year. We come around and she places in the slot race at Oklahoma City, we place in the BFA Juvenile and then she kind of fell apart on me a little bit. That was kind of the first time I’ve had that happen with a horse I knew I had really high expectations for. It just kind of made me unconfident in my decision to run her as a 4-year-old and kind of broke my heart a little bit that I didn’t have her as ready as I thought I did, or maybe put her in a bad position to not do as well.
Having Rollo around helped my mentality and gave me confidence that I’d still be able to make good decisions, like I was still a good trainer and making good decisions for the horses.
The futurities are harder mentally because you can’t run a futurity horse five times a week to work things out and keep getting better or you’re going to make things worse.
Get in Sync
So fast forward to the rodeos the summer of 2021 where I was not used to making multiple runs a month, much less in a week, and I can’t tell you how much fun it was to run multiple times in a short amount of time. I learned so much from it, I’ve never been so in sync with a horse since the last time I made the National Finals Rodeo in 2009 with Frenchman’s Jester. I was able to run Rollo three to five times a week and just nit-pick our runs. You get better each time and can work on things each time, which was amazing. It seemed like every time I had a run that didn’t go my way or fell apart a little bit, I learn the most from those runs. That’s when I changed my bridle or adjusted my riding and then my next run would be really good. We’d just progressively get better.
Own Up to Mistakes
At Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2021 I fell apart mentally in the alley way. I totally messed up my first barrel and had a terrible run in the short round. But the next week I was able to win like $20,000 at the Kansas rodeos. I was able to win that much at the Kansas rodeos because of my bad run at Cheyenne. You must take those bad runs and learn from them, not get down because of them, but use it as motivation to get better. You have to make a change. You can’t just keep doing the same thing and entering and running without doing anything different and expect better results. My mom always told me that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That advice has stuck in my head forever. When I screw up, I do not want to do it again. I want to do something completely opposite, or at minimum just change the routine. I think that’s important on the rodeo trail. You’re not always able to practice or go home and put things back together and have a couple weeks off—we’re talking you only get like two days off. So luckily Rollo and I kept getting better and smarter the more we went, and it was a lot of fun to make that many runs and be on top of our game and in sync.
What gives me confidence as a competitor is to be prepared for the day. I do not do well if I have entered something last minute, and say, haven’t ridden my horse for a few days. I’m a very planned and prepared person. When I enter something it’s because I’m going to be prepared for the event. I’ve been riding my horse, doing my homework. I’m a big believer in the saying, “Trust Your Training.” Believe in your steps, what you do and how you ride. What you work on through the week to prepare yourself for your run, believe in it and put that to work in your run. Work on your horse’s weaknesses during the week and his anticipation so when you go in for a run you can just let your horse work.
Focus on Yourself
I know there are many people who shouldn’t watch everybody else because they’ll get too hyped up. They’ll change their entire game plan before their run because of watching how somebody else prepares and competes. Just know what works best for you. If you need to stay away from the competition arena and not watch everybody, do that. Do what works best for you. Me, I’m an over-anxious person so it relaxes me to go up to the arena and watch people, have a game plan. I want to know where they barrels are set, where the eye is. I watch people and I know what the ground looks like so I can prepare for my turn. If you’re that kind of person, then make time to go up to the arena, watch and prepare yourself. If I sit at my trailer too long and keep myself isolated, then I’ll end up getting on my horse two hours ahead of when I’m supposed to. I like to go up and watch and relax myself. Just know what works best for you to keep your confidence high.
Always be prepared for your run. Don’t be a last-minute person. Trust your training. No matter how you do it, or how somebody else does it, believe in what you do.