By: Hailey Kinsel, 2018 World Champion Barrel Racer
If I could go back and tell myself a few good things about horses, competing, and life, boy, would I jump at the chance. I would save myself some heartbreak, some lessons, and some precious time. Now, I would not change how things went for me, because the blood, sweat and tears that could have been avoided made me into who I am today. With that said, there are some hoops I maybe did not have to jump through to get here. I’d like to give the young, aspiring cowboys and cowgirls a few words of advice coming from someone who has been there. Here are 3 key things to remember on your wonderful journey through youth rodeo.
1. Say “thank you” to the pole setters. Seriously, setting up poles had to have been one of the worst volunteer jobs in youth rodeo. We hit them left and right, and took for granted that they were set up by someone’s mom or dad in perfect position for the next one of us to try not to hit some more of them. I remember my mom always setting poles, and it was not because she liked it, but my mom was the type that did not need a pat on the back to do what was necessary – she just did it out of love and support of us kids. She, and many other pole-setting parents I watched, were a special kind of folks. That is the type of person I can see more clearly now: the gate man at the rodeo, the woman picking up trash in the parking lot, the group of ladies in hospitality trying to make enough burger patties for everyone. By noticing and thanking the “pole setters” in your life now, you will develop a habit of recognizing those people who do the thankless jobs. That sensitivity you learn will help you make others feel important, and that is something we all, no matter what age, have the power to do.
2. Right now is not your only chance. I remember at the high school finals my senior year, I hit a barrel to win the second round and make nationals. I BALLED my eyes out. My horse was 16 and winding down her competitive years, and I thought going to nationals was the highest honor I would ever see in barrel racing, because that was as far as I could see at the time. Sounds silly now, right? But high school me was devastated. I thought I let my horse down. As it turns out, Josey still does not know we missed out on anything. She made the runs she had left, was retired at 17, and has given us 3 beautiful colts that we are riding and loving, and she is enjoying her pasture life. I have gone on to more opportunities on other horses that she taught me to ride.
3. Be willing to work, and work hard. You may or may not get that once in a lifetime horse anytime soon, so set some goals and make some plans of what you will do in the meantime. When I was in college, I hit a gap. I had just retired Josey, and was riding my mom’s horse at the college rodeos. I did not have a horse I could win on anymore, and trying to find that horse was mentally and emotionally taxing. It was spring semester of my freshman year at Texas A&M where I was taking 16 hours in a major I ended up changing. All I could see in my near future was papers and scantrons. I made a promise to myself in my dorm room to work my way up the ladder. I would work small jobs throughout college to pay my entry fees at the jackpots on our colts. If I did not have a winner by the time I graduated, I would get a part-time job or one with online access within my degree, and work for a futurity trainer cleaning stalls, saddling, mowing their yard, whatever I could find to do, so that I could watch and learn. Within those 4 years, before I could do all that, TJ entered my life, and then Sister. But first, before those blessings could come, I had to keep my chin down and commit to work with whatever I had. Should we not have found those two great horses, I would bet that you could find me today two years out of college cleaning someone else’s stalls, working my way up.
I hope that these 3 small pieces of advice can help you become a better and more gracious competitor. Whether you continue on with rodeo after junior high or high school, or move on to some other field, I hope that you can take these kernels of wisdom with you. I believe they can help you learn the easier way some lessons I learned the harder way. Regardless of how you learn them, savor each blessing and lesson that comes your way during these summer rodeos and good luck!