Cowgirl Chronicles: A Winners Perspective
Life can by kind of funny in the perspective it offers up in hindsight of times past. Exactly a year ago I had the opportunity to compete at the Cowboy Capital of the World Pro Rodeo. I know for a lot of the people that rodeo for a living this was probably ‘just another rode’. They’d maybe grown up hauling to it every year, or it was ‘just another rodeo’ to try to make some money as the season rounded out to a close. But for me this race was the most exciting disappointment I’ve ever had.
Last summer had been great to us. I had spent a lot of time on my own horses as well as relished in some coaching opportunities for people with similar dreams. Lucky was outwardly looking like the high caliber horse I knew I was inside, and I was actually starting to believe that maybe I could pull this barrel racing career thing off. We clicked together, and had been clacking along the tracks; placing in the 1D at several tough Texas barrel races.
No one would have believed that it was us in the Stephenville parking lot. Because at that same time the previous year I was rehabbing Lucky from a major tendon injury. Runs from previous owners left him in a pretty ‘used’ state and an ultrasound diagnosed him with tendonopathy, a tear in the superficial tendon and a hole in the deep digital flexor. With TLC and lots of therapy He had made a full recovery in 20 weeks.
To say I felt like we’d ‘made it’ would be an understatement. For a girl that didn’t grow up with horses or in a rodeo family, I was happy just be be in the saddle amongst the crowd. Hundreds of barrel racers try to make it down the road to Texas every year. The rodeos that this town and surrounding towns in Texas offer are on another level in itself. And in Stephenville in particular was voted ‘Best Ground’ year after year, as well as Best Mid-Sized Rodeo by the PRCA and WPRA.
We warmed up and waited our turn to run. Placed nearly at the end of the draw list, I watched plenty of other gals try their hand on the pattern. One million dollar cowgirl right after another passed through the narrow alley. One million dollar earning horse right after another, breezed there way through the electric eye. It’s easy to get a high just from watching that caliber of professional fly.
Our names were called; and at that moment your perception starts to slow down the faster things move. In slow motion the clang of the steel gate opened and like previously choreographed with 100 other riders, people cleared the path to the alley way. With hightened senses my shy little 14 hand sorrel flipped his switch to turbo and transfigured into Mr. Charisma – the horse everyone loved to watch. I left nothing in the dirt in that arena. No barrels, no hat, no regret. We ran our race a blazing two seconds slower than the fastest time.
I couldn’t help but feel my sails get weighed down heavy with a build up like that. This was supposed to be our race after all. We’d put in the time and tears. We’d defied the odds of overcoming a career ending injury. We’d invested in our partnership as jockey and horse. And Stevi Hillman swept the field with a 14.9, we’d crept along at a 16.9 . My perception of slow motion was actually the reality of our run.
As it ended up, I don’t have any pictures to prove we were there. No professional shot of my horse squatting around a barrel slinging dirt into the stands. In fact the way the cards fell that evening I ended up hauling by myself and competed with no one I knew watching me from the fence. It seems I had made the pilgrimage and arrived to Mecca with no one but me and my horse, and no one but me and my horse to say, We made it.
But here we are a full season later, and this years ongoing rodeo sent my memory back. It prods me to look at the results from when I did run in Stephenville and why I left feeling so puzzled. I got so distracted with discouragement I never bothered to look into the statistics of that race. We didn’t stop the clock faster than I thought, but what I got was more clarity than placing could ever offer.
Among the professionals I ran with in that race, 12 of them where qualified for 2016’s NFR. Some of the women held records for lifetime and season earnings. Others had also been in inducted to the Hall of Fame. And one-third of the girls that competed, tipped barrels. Blame it on the pregnancy brain but it slipped my mind that I was a few months pregnant during that run! They won’t make headlines that honor what you are dealing with on the frontlines.
I was a girl with no free pass. With a horse that was passed up on. Ran as round as an egg on ground with the best that season made. With no one in the stands to give me a hand I wondered if it even mattered. Barrel racing is an objective sport but don’t let the clock be the only thing that judges your run. Because the road to victory is more often a path of uncovering.
Today, I’m looking at my sorrel wonder-pony in the morning sun. The light making a fuzzy golden border around his now chubby physic. Horses will take us places we could never go on our own, and give us results much different than we expect. I can’t help but think of how similar that is with the character of God. He will always take you farther, with an outcome that is greater – and have it undeniably reflect back on Him.
Our God is a God of redemption. Every set back is so we can emerge forth new. Every disappointment is an appointment to destiny in disguise. Every tear polishes another layer of what you are becoming. A reflection of His glory that no one would have ever seen coming. With Him as our guide, we can try again until we win.
Winning isn’t about what you’ve won – it’s about uncovering what you’ve overcome.