Rodeo’s Leading Ladies – Meet the 2017 Top 15 NFR Barrel Racers

2017 NFR Barrel Racers

The top 15 WPRA barrel racing qualifiers are finalizing their last preparations before heading to Las Vegas, and will soon be blasting down the alley at the Thomas & Mack.

In anticipation of the upcoming barrel racing action, I’m excited to share their reflections on the 2017 season, and some insights into what we can look forward to seeing in this year’s race to the gold buckle.

So before the gates crack open on December 7th, let’s dive in and get to know these these amazing women and their horses (including pedigrees) who will entertain, educate and inspire us – at the 2017 NFR and beyond! Read more… »

Perfect Circles and Better Body Language with NFR Barrel Racer, Michele McLeod

Perfect Circles and Better Body Language  with NFR Barrel Racer, Michele McLeod

As a four-time NFR barrel racing qualifier, Michele McLeod has plenty of valuable knowledge and experience to pass on to others. Thankfully for barrel racers, she’s been doing just that lately and I was grateful for the opportunity to catch up with her and multiple-time AQHA World Champion Calf Roper and Super Horse trainer, C.R. Bradley at a clinic they put on in Denton, Texas. Read more… »

“Correct & Collect” for Better Barrel Racing with NFR Qualifiers Sarah Rose McDonald and Taylor Jacob

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In 2016, when I wasn’t able to attend the NFR due to our 15 year old dog, Tess’s failing health, a trusted source mentioned after being at the NFR barrel racing practice sessions, that they were especially impressed with Taylor Jacob’s horsemanship.

After seeing footage of the top 15 working the pattern myself, I also really appreciated the late, great “Bling” as a mover, and knew that natural talent aside, her quality biomechanics had to be in large part being carefully instilled and maintained by her trainer and jockey, Sarah Rose McDonald.

When I received word that these two barrel racing superstars were pairing together for a clinic in nearby Carmine, Texas, it only made sense that I’d jump at the opportunity to gather and share some of their barrel racing wisdom! Read more… »

Barrel Racing Tips Printable Resource Round Up

Barrel Racing Tips Printable Resource Round Up

The purpose of this post is simple – to serve as collection of ALL the printable, downloadable PDF guides and worksheets I’ve ever created as companions to the many posts here at

They’ve been compiled to give you quick and easy access to resources that will spark your own resourcefulness as a trainer, and build a fire in your barrel horse while you’re at it.

So open, download, save and print these gems for your reference library and visit the original posts (in BOLD) for more details.

Most importantly – put them to good use and enjoy reaping the rewards! 😉 Read more… »

Be Ready for Anything with 16 Barrel Racing Boot Bag Necessities

Be Ready for Anything with 16 Barrel Racing Boot Bag Necessities

For a barrel racer, it’s a sickening feeling to suddenly realize you need a specific product or tool just minutes before competing, only to realize you left it at the trailer.

No one wants to experience panic, anxiety or concern in those critical pre-run moments.

Especially considering that the trailer might be a half mile away, having everything we could possibly need close at hand not only saves time, but it saves mental bandwidth – so we can stay focused on what’s most important, which is getting in the zone for our upcoming run, instead of getting distracted. Read more… »

The ONE Thing Good AND Bad Runs Must Have in Common for Continued Barrel Racing Success

The ONE Thing Good Runs and Bad Runs Must Have in Common for Continued Barrel Racing Success

When I made the second run back on my gelding Pistol several weeks ago, after a FIVE year break from competing (and SEVEN months of re-conditioning) due to an injury, the overwhelming feelings I experienced were ones I won’t soon forget.

While it wasn’t exactly an arena record, the run felt solid and we clocked at the top of the 3D against more than a couple hundred of the best barrel racers in Texas – not too shabby I figured, considering I wasn’t sure he’d return to running barrels AT ALL!

I was pretty excited, and as Pistol and caught our breath, I turned and locked eyes with my hubby (and videographer) who was walking toward us with the same excited and grateful smirk on his face.

Teachings from Tess – Eleven Life Lessons from My Best Four-Legged Friend

When I first got my Australian Shepherd Tess in 2002, I spent a ton of time teaching her things.
I read books about clicker training, we went to obedience class and she even passed special testing to become a Certified Therapy Dog.  

We did agility together, worked stock, and a good friend of mine (an expert dog handler) even showed Tess – bringing home many ribbons and prizes.  

It seemed to take Tess FOREVER to learn to balance on her hind legs for “trick dog” (sitting up) but learning “stay” (with a hand signal) was sooooo easy – I swear she could read my mind. 

Perhaps my favorite and her most unique trick, was to retrieve a Kleenex from a box when I sneezed – it was always a hit!  

You might also remember this special Holiday video from a few years back showing Tess doin’ a little groundwork with my gelding Pistol.

On Christmas morning she eagerly sat by Craig and I around the tree as usual, politely but anxiously waiting her turn to open presents. When given the OK, she always tore the wrapping paper off herself! 

Educating Tess and teaching her tricks was always fun and entertaining, and helped her become a well-adjusted canine citizen, but just like a really special horse – they end up teaching US so much more.  Read more… »

Making it BIG in Vegas – with NFR Barrel Racing Rookie, Cayla Melby Small

2016 NFR Barrel Racer Cayla Melby Small
Cayla and Gator pictured after their win in Innisfail, Alberta.

Cayla Melby Small may be an NFR Rookie, and the 2016 WPRA Rookie of the year, but she’s no newbie to barrel racing. As the daughter of 2-time NFR Qualifier Jane Melby, Cayla has been in the saddle competing with the goal to make the NFR at age 18 since she was just a toddler.

Rodeo is a family affair for Team Melby, and the family just got bigger when Cayla married Zac Small this October, who is also a 2016 NFR first timer on the heading side in the team roping (check out hashtag #TwoSmallsGoingBiginVegas). The insights Cayla shared below about her horses, her season, favorite products and more give us a fun sneak peek into the life and times of a “rookie” professional on rodeo road!