By Abi Price
Intern at The Stairs Ranch
As a recent college graduate, I have had many moments to think about where my life is headed and what I am going to do when I get there. Fresh out of college I see many young people my age starting their careers and looking like they have it all together but really half of us have no idea where we are going and or know what to do when we get there. Then I started thinking and realized that growing up and going to college and starting a career is very similar to starting a barrel horse.
When we first get a horse in for training we start with the basics. We test to see if they can go, whoa, pick up both right and left leads. Some horses pass and move on to the row barrels, which is a row of seven barrels that we work the horses on their right and left leads. But there are those horses that need a little more help in picking up the correct lead both left and right and can take a few very tiring and sweaty tries until they finally get it. Once a horse is started on the row barrels they begin the process of how to run to and around a barrel by using their whole body and bending at the rib cage, starting with big circles and then moving closer to the barrel for a smaller turn on their way to complete an adequate barrel turn. Again some horses pick up on this concept very quickly and some have no idea what is going on. They often want to swing their butt out, switch up their leads in the front and back, have way too much bend in the face, and are just a complete mess. But after a couple days, weeks, maybe even a month a horse will finally grasp the concept of the row barrels.
Then we take away four barrels and introduce them to the standard three barrel pattern. Some take this next step like professionals and then we have some that are more concerned about the missing four barrels then they are about putting one foot in front of the other. They are so concerned about not working all seven that they can lose sight of the big picture. But after they finally realize that three barrels are better than seven they then can’t seem to wrap their little brains around switching leads from first and second. It’s like they look up at you and are saying, “Really lady? Are you sure this is what you want me to do? I don’t think this is how it should be done.” And again sometimes it’s a battle and sometimes they ease right into switching leads from first to second.
As a trainer you can sometimes get discouraged that your horse isn’t making any progress and then one day they surprise you. That glorious day they finally grasp the concept of running to a barrel, gathering and turning, and then switching leads from first to second. That is the day that even the horse seems to understand what their job was going to be at the start of their training. As I was thinking about this whole training process it’s very similar to when a person is trying to figure out what their purpose in life is. They hope they have some skills going into whatever profession they are going for but sometimes they need to be taught the difference between their left and right leads and how to break at the poll.
Like horses, people all have their own timing for everything. Some people are being started on the pattern and some are still working the row barrels, still figuring life out. In the end life is that freshly groomed barrel pattern, ready for you to run. There is a chance that you will mess up or make a sweet run. Just remember your training and run to your spot, gather, turn, and repeat. We all are working on our skills and learning new ways to do things and better ourselves. We are all on our way to being a champion, sometimes it takes longer than others and all you can do is keep running. You may lose your lead or knock over a barrel, heck you may even get scared and run up the wall in the arena, but know that you are where you are for a reason. When you do finally figure out what you are supposed to do you will know where you are going and what you are going to do when you get there.