Summer is Here

Now that the dust has settled, I finally feel like I can take a deep breath and sit down and blog. Over the long weekend I hosted my annual barrel racing series, 6th one to be exact, and no matter how much preparing and organizing I do, I always end up feeling flustered and overwhelmed until the exact moment it starts. This year we had lower numbers (only 100 riders) compared to last year when we had about 200. The weeks leading up to it were exhausting. There are so many little things to take care of and no matter what I did, this year proved to be the most difficult. I’m a planner. So obviously I started getting things in order for it in January. I booked the rodeo grounds, got a rough idea of sponsorship money needed and sat down and figured out what prizes and payout should be. Fast forward to June when I think I have everything in place, and my brilliant “planning” started to crumble. The original photographer I had backed out, we were slightly over budget come time to order prizes, and I still was needing a concession to feed these 100 riders. Talk about stressful. It was almost as if I would get one thing handled and then another roadblock would pop up. There was even a moment 2 weeks before that I was sure this would be the last year hosting. Life was much too busy and complicated and I had every excuse in the book as to why I shouldn’t put myself through this again. Whoa.

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People will tell you you’re crazy for hosting a series, but I say the beer helps

Thankfully, my trusty support system talked me out of it and reminded me to STAY POSITIVE. Things started to fall into place quite quickly once that happened. We got a photographer, we got a food truck, we got extra sponsorship money, and we got a great group of volunteers to help us pull it all off. I was breathing a huge sigh of relief when we were finally ready to go and everything was in place an hour before start time. As hard as it was to get the series under control and organized, it was probably one of the best years we have had. We had zero wrecks, were able to get almost 60 riders through in an hour, some very fast and deserving runs were made, and payout and prizes were done without a glitch. It was definitely a weekend full of lessons, like don’t sweat the small stuff, and patience will get you a lot farther than frustration will. I was still smiling at the end of it all, but I won’t lie, the few beers at the end of the day definitely didn’t hurt!

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My biggest fans (and helpers)

I’ve come to realize that being involved in the things you are passionate about can create a love/hate relationship, especially when you are trying to balance motherhood in with it all. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and hectic atmosphere, but in the end, it’s so worth it. I told myself from the very beginning that I was going to stick with barrel racing and hosting our event, even after having Casey, and I’m so glad I did. I hope that he grows up appreciating the hard work I put into hosting this series for other people and that I can lead by example and instill that same sort of passion into him. After seeing so many people have fun and bring their families out for the weekend, it left me with a very full heart. The memories made by the kids there will never be replaced and it’s one of the best atmospheres for them to grow up in. You can’t beat a weekend full of horses and laughter, so for now I’ll keep hosting them.

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The Hostess With The Mostess

Ahhhh jackpot season. The time when fresh horses are drug out of the pasture and colts are being seasoned on the pattern. Jackpots are great to attend. You pay your entry fee, visit with people you haven’t seen in a while, make a few runs that you saw going differently in your mind, and maybe enjoy a few beers at the trailer after. They’re a great outing and generally a relaxing and fun time.

Now switch sides and host a jackpot. There’s quite a bit of a difference when you’re on the other end of it, and I’m not saying it’s bad, but it definitely is not as carefree and straightforward. I’m quite thrilled that this year in our district there are a lot of people stepping up and hosting series or weekly jackpots. My belief is that if you are going to jackpot, you need to host at least once. This way people can realize what goes into planning and executing a jackpot, and be a tad more appreciative when attending one. I’ve hosted smaller jackpots and also bigger jackpots myself, and honestly, the amount of work you put into both is near the same. It doesn’t matter how many people who come, there’s always extra hours needed to get things done and organized.

So with that being said, I have decided to lay out a few pointers and tips for those of you who are thinking about having a jackpot. Please take these with a grain of salt, we’re all adults here šŸ˜‰

  1. It does not matter how you advertise your jackpot, whether it’s on a website, Facebook, Twitter or posters, people will all call and ask the same questions. Be prepared to smile and offer assistance, even though you had posted ALL the information in plain sight. Keep in mind that if you plan to host more than one jackpot, you need to be nice to people, no matter your mood or feelings. Word of mouth is a huge tool within the barrel racing world and once you have ticked one person off, it spreads quite quickly.
  2. Whether you like it or not, you will likely agonize over the fees to charge. Sit down and decide what you hope to charge for extra fees such as timer fees, arena fees, finals fees etc. Are they all necessary? Generally, the only ones you will need are the finals fees, but if you’re paying out of your pocket for arena use as well as renting timers, then charge for them. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to please everyone, but there is no sense in forking over a bunch of money for one afternoon. If you want more money going into the pot, then adjust for that. Small, weekly jackpots don’t need to break the bank, but if you are hosting one large weekend jackpot, then maybe accommodate for that and round up. People don’t mind paying more if they believe that there is more to win. It’s a lot easier to travel farther when you know the purse is higher.
  3. Be organized! I cannot stress this enough. Know ahead of time who is taking care of what and have a group of volunteers ready beforehand. It’s easy to think that people will help once they are there, but the sad truth is that most participants will assume you have everything covered and won’t help unless you directly ask them. Do not be afraid to ask! Lots are willing to help if they know exactly what is needed. If you are really in a bind, boyfriends and husbands who are drug along to a jackpot are more than likely bored out of their minds and can make excellent gate men or rakers (as long as it’s on a quad or something motorized). Have a cooler stocked with beer, they seem to work better when they are hydrated šŸ˜‰
  4. Try to stick to a timeline. Starting on time is best for everyone since nobody likes to get to a jackpot and warm up, only to find out that they’re running behind and won’t start until an hour after the posted time. Be sure to have the ground worked and pattern marked beforehand so that it does not need to be done right before you start. Barrel racers like to stay in the arena as long as humanly possible, so it gets a bit harder to string out measuring tapes when you have everyone loping circles around you.
  5. Be sure to speak up. You are the host, so what you say goes. People will always try to find leeway within the rules, so be sure to stick to your guns. If you are sanctioning with an organization, brush up on their rules so that you are prepared for anything thrown at you. You not only have to think about everyone else’s safety but you have to be able to cover your ass as well. It’s ok to say no people, and most of the time the person asking will be respectful and carry on. You do have the right to send people away if needed, and that’s only in extreme cases. I have never seen this happen (which I am grateful for) so be sure to judge the situation from all angles if it does happen. Nobody likes attending a jackpot full of drama, so keep the crazy to a minimum if you can.
  6. Have someone ready who knows how to do payout. Payout is probably thee most stressful part of the jackpot and no matter how calm and cool you think you are, you will 9 times out of 10 screw up on payout and re-start and be ready to cry. If you can, find a place where people cannot come in and “check their times” so that you can have a quiet place to work on them. If the area has windows, cover them. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out payout and looking out and seeing 30 people hovering around the door pacing until they find out who won. Take as much time as you need, there’s no sense rushing through it only to find out that the wrong people got money and that you have to awkwardly ask for the money back and give it to the righful winner. Been there, done that. It’s not fun. Plus, if the jackpot is larger, please use a computer program to calculate payout, it will save you time and your sanity and everyone will be grateful for that.
  7. Lastly, have thick skin. There will always be people who complain or dare I say, bitch, about every little thing that you did at the jackpot. These people are likely serial complainers and nothing will ever please them. If they hated the ground then keep the attitude that they don’t HAVE to come back. As a host you do as best as you can and you cannot control everything. We’re all human and sometimes things don’t go as planned. No big deal! You will probably be thanked more than you will be cussed at, because really, people are happy to have a place to go to to make a few 17 second runs. Don’t take everything too seriously and know that without hosts, there wouldn’t be jackpots. Do what you gotta do, but always keep your cool and have a laugh and a drink when it’s all said and done.

Hopefully this helps any of you who are thinking of planning a jackpot and didn’t scare anyone off. Hosting can be super fun and with the right group of people, it’s a great time. So cheers to those who consistently host and good luck to those who are just taking a swing at it! We definitely appreciate each and every one of youimage

 

Barrel Racing Mommas

The temperatures have started warming up and the snow is officially gone, so it can only mean one thing: barrel racing season is upon us. Most of us are just starting to find our horses under all the mud and hair and have begun taking to the backroads or hills to get workouts in. Although, there are a few of the lucky ones who have hauled all winter and kept their horses slick and shiny and I applaude them. Every winter I have big plans to haul to the arena 45 minutes away, but after going once and realizing that it turns into a 4 hour endeavour, I lost the energy to commit. Gone are the days of hauling after school and staying until midnight — adulting has once again taken it’s toll! But, nontheless, I went to my first jackpot of the season on Sunday with my furry and fat mare and had a great time getting back into the swing of things. I was fortunate enough to head out on my own and enjoy a free day (something I am always grateful for) but pulling up on my own without my trusty sidekick of a mom really got me thinking. I am so used to having her in the passenger seat that it felt a bit foreign to be driving to a jackpot without her (my secret is out) and even though it does happen on occasion where we both can’t go, it’s still a weird feeling.

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Just the princess and I

The barrel racing world can come across as overwhelming to some people, and it typically isn’t too far off from the general first impression it leaves. I mean, you throw a bunch of high strung horses and women together and hope for the best, but once you get past the surface, its pretty easy to see that it’s a total family event. On Sunday the arena was packed, and it was great to see all the familiar faces once again. It’s almost as if it’s a whole other world once the season starts because you basically see the same group of women every weekend from now until September. What gets me the most is seeing so many of the youth competitors from the season before and how much they have grown up or changed and it’s always neat to see them step up onto faster horses (most of which were handed down from their mom) and watch them get more competetive as the years go by. Obviously becoming a mom has made me more sensitive to this, but come on, it’s a cool sight to see.

I cannot say enough about the barrel racing mommas that we come across though. These women are the most selfless, hard working people that you will ever meet. A lot of times, and it was evident on Sunday, they will forgo bringing their own horses and focus solely on coaching and helping their kids. These women are badass. They are the ones who help lead the hot horses from one end of the arena to the other, they are the ones who yell from the sidelines and they are the ones who go through every detail of their child’s run to find where time was lost and how to get it back (plus they always find the best angle to video from). These women wear invisible capes whenever they are at a rodeo or jackpot and do it all with a smile. Plus, I’m not only talking about the ones with young kids. I’m talking about all the moms that hop in with their daughter and are there every step of the way. Some of them run their own horses as well, and some are there for the moral support and the pure enjoyment they get out of watching their child ride, whether they are an adult or not. Its pretty awesome when you think about it. That kind of support can be hard to find, and to have it in your own mom is beyond great.

It doesn’t matter what level you are at, whether it’s a local jackpot, amateur rodeo or even professional rodeo, you will always find a barrel racer with her mom or dad near by. Family support is key in this sport and I know I honestly couldn’t do it without mine. Even Fallon Taylor has her mom and dad on the road with her to help with the horses and making sure every rhinestone is in place, and to me that’s pretty heartwarming. It’s definitely what I love about this sport and how any given weekend you can meet up with other families and have a good time competing and visiting. It makes me even more excited to have Casey grow up in that atmosphere as well because all the kids you find at barrel races generally know what hard work and dedication is, and that’s something you hope sticks with them. Plus, there’s never a shortage of help at jackpots, so you know your kid is in good hands even when you’re riding and warming up (bonus!) I guess these youngsters come by it honestly Ā though because they constantly see their moms working non-stop to make sure things are looked after and taken care of. It’s no easy feat loading up the trailer full of kids and horses and heading out for the weekend, so they definitely deserve a pat on the back (or a bottle of wine). Not many people will haul a trailer for hours on end, unpack, pay entry fees, run their own horse and video their daughters run, plus make sure everyone is fed and happy. Rodeo moms are a real hidden gem and if you have one you should be proud!

Needless to say, I am very excited for the season to get underway and definitely need to get these ponies in shape. But, I think what I’m most excited about is having my mom and my little guy there with me for it all. Hopefully one day Casey will say the same thing about me, but for now he can provide us with entertainment and a workout as we chase him all over the place. I’m predicting this year of jackpotting to be quite different than the last, but I’m up for the challenge. Thankfully the kid loves the outdoors and horses so I’m sure it’ll be a blast for us all. Or maybe complete chaos, you never actually know with kids, that’s what makes this parenting gig so much fun *Wink, wink*