Saddle Bronc Rider Kaila Mussell

Earlier this year, I found out about female Saddle Bronc rider, Kaila Mussell.

Photo by Filene Mussell
Photo by Filene Mussell

The fact that she rides Saddle Bronc is pretty impressive in itself, but the fact that she’s come back from a broken neck is a clear witness to the strength that she has on the inside. She’s a phenomenal athlete and I think she’s someone who exhibits the strength and toughness we all aspire to.

Photo by Bernie Hudyma
Photo by Bernie Hudyma

What was it that made you decide you wanted to try riding broncs?

I started off in rodeo, barrel racing at 11, and steer riding at 12.  I did well at both events, however I got more of a rush out of riding steers and wanted to stay in the roughstock events.  When I became too old to ride steers, my initial inclination was to ride bulls, however my dad convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did, as at that point I knew of some women who have ridden bareback broncs and bulls, but didn’t know any women who rode saddle bronc in the modern style of saddle bronc riding.  It turned into a more prestegious goal for me then, becoming the first woman to do so.  At that time,  my brother also wanted to ride broncs, so we both went to some bronc riding schools together to learn.

Photo by Christopher Morris
Photo by Christopher Morris

How did you feel the first time you rode an actual bronc out of the chute?

That was so long ago, and I’m pretty sure that I blacked out.  When I was first learning that happened a lot, and even when I rode I couldn’t remember what happened.   Eight seconds happens pretty quick, however over time and practice that short time (8 seconds) slows down, and when everything is happening right, it feels like all your movements are in slow motion.

Photo by Patti Ouimette
Photo by Patti Ouimette

When you decided to actually compete the first time, how did you feel?   What were some of your thoughts & fears and how did you overcome those?

I was pretty nervous the first time I completed. I did, however grow up breaking colts since I was 10, so I already had alot of exposure to riding horses that bucked, and I already had rodeo experience, although not in saddle bronc.  Most of my thoughts would have been related  to not wanting to being a “failure” and get bucked off, not wanting to look like a “girl” out there, or scared that I wouldn’t be accepted because I was a girl.  I really wanted to be accepted and to show others that I was just as capable as other bronc riders.  Nowadays my attitude on all of these feelings has been completely turned around, however at that point in time that is definitely what I thought.

You broke your neck last year. Tell us a little about that.

I broke my neck on April 5, 2014 at a BCRA rodeo in  Barriere, BC.  I got bucked off and landed on my head and kind of rolled onto the right side of my neck and shoulder.  I felt a shooting pain down the my right arm, and what felt like a crunch, but I chalked it up to a concussion, because other than being pretty sore, that’s what it felt like.  I drove home that night, which was a couple of hours away and didn’t go to the hospital.  The next day I was talking to my brother who is a doctor (GP), and he convinced me that I should go get it checked out because I was supposed to be flying to Hawaii the next day for a family vacation.  I went to the hospital more so to eliminate anything being wrong with me, because I didn’t want to chance having high medical bills in another country.  I happened to be picking up a friend at the airport that day and decided to stop in at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) which is the only spinal unit in BC.  I’m happy that I did.  They took the injury very seriously and put me on a backboard and in a neck brace.  Multiple x-rays, CT and MRI later I was told that I broke my neck in 2 places on the right side of C6, and that I wouldn’t be going anywhere.  I wore a brace for a couple of weeks until they realized my neck wasn’t healing properly.  Immediately thereafter I went in for surgery and ended up getting a fusion between C5-C7, and two of my disks replaced by part of my right hip bone.

Photo by Filene Mussell
Photo by Filene Mussell

When did you decide to start riding again after that and why? Was riding the first time after your injury different from what it was like before?

While I was healing from a broken neck I was faced with all sorts of thoughts and decisions about what my future would be.  After weighing all the facts, talking to my surgeon and hearing everyone elses often unwanted “opinions” on what I should do with my life, I dug deep down and realized that my passion for bronc riding was still there.  At minimum I wanted to come back to riding if only to end on my own terms.  I waited a full year after my injury to completely heal to ride again.  My first ride back was on a “practice” bronc, a day prior to Williams Lake, BC Indoor Rodeo where I was to be competing for the first time after breaking my neck.  The bronc “Starbucks”, was a horse I was familiar with and I had ridden a few times in the past.  I managed to get her rode, but it wasn’t pretty and got off on the pickup man.  It definitely was a huge relief to get that one out of the way, as I came away without injury!  From there, the major fear was gone, and I was back to the swing of things.

How was it different?

The main difference with coming back riding after such a major injury, was that I appreciated the opportunity of being able to ride again.  I’ve noticed this year that I’ve had a lot more fun, not taken things as seriously as I have in the past, and enjoyed the whole journey of riding broncs in all aspects of the experience both outside and inside the arena.   I also managed to win the year-end season leader saddle for the BCRA (BC Rodeo Association) in the saddle bronc.  So overall, my comeback has been amazing!

How do you stay mentally tough?

I think pretty positive on a regular basis.  When I don’t, I remind myself why I’m doing this, focus and look at the bigger picture.  I read inspirational/self-help books, say positive affirmations to myself and post them around me.  As well, journaling has been a huge help in focusing on my goals, seeing where my mindset is, noticing things that may have helped in the past that can help me now, and/or seeing how far I have come and being able to acknowledge this.

What is that motivates you to keep going?

This is a really hard thing to describe what motivates me, as only a small amount of this can be put into words.  Motivation is more of a feeling, a passion that can’t be described.  I’m driven to do it, in part because I love the sport, the lifestyle, the challenge, the adrenaline and excitement of the sport.  To a large part these days I am motivated by seeing how much I inspire others to pursue their dreams by doing what I do.

Photo by Thomas Camus
Photo by Thomas Camus

What is your fitness routine to stay in shape to ride?

My fitness routine varies throughout the year depending on my work and rodeo schedule.  On a regular basis I strength train (primarily core training) 3 days a week  (30-40 mins), do cardio (primarily jogging) 3 days a week (4 miles), and yoga (1 hour) 1-2 days a week as well.  This may be alternated with other physical activities such as hiking, biking, MMA training or otherwise.

As for eating, I have had a lot of structured strict diets over the years.  I now find that its easier to eat well on a regular basis and stay active than to go to extremes.  I really don’t deny myself any foods, however less healthy alternatives I eat in moderation.  On a daily basis I do eat a high amount of protein, stick to whole, unprocessed foods,  and eat small amounts throughout the day rather than eating large meals.  Mind you, when you are on the road, it is sometimes hard to eat well or regularly.  I try to always pack lots of water and healthy snacks in case this happens.

Photo by Kat Nair
Photo by Kat Nair

Any words of wisdom for anyone that wants to ride broncs, or anyone that wants to rodeo in general?

Set clear goals of what you want.  Be willing to learn and put in the time and effort into what you do.  The skills for your chosen event in rodeo will not come overnight, but with hard work and dedication it will all come together.  Strive to constantly learn and improve.

What’s mandatory to be able to rodeo?

Mental and physical toughness, love of traveling, getting dirty,and performing under pressure, aside from investing a lot of money.  Nothing in life is easy,  but when things come together, it is all worth the effort.  Rodeoing is a lot like gambling, the only thing you are in complete control of is your effort in your ride or run.

If you’d like to keep up with Kaila, you can keep up on her social media accounts –

https://www.facebook.com/saddlebroncgirl/

https://instagram.com/kailamussell/

https://twitter.com/kaila_mussell

More Than One Way

First of all — MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

With a new year and resolutions it’s time for new thinking which is what led me to my post this time. Sit down and think a spell….

Recently I had the wonderful privilege of being called the “Idiot Of The Day” when I responded to a post on Facebook about how selfish and cruel it was to clip the muzzle on your horse because they needed their whiskers to feel the wind and find water. My post stated that I clipped only for shows and in over twenty years I’d never had one that seemed harmed by it, nor had I had any accidents.

With a little research, I quickly found out that the arrogant person behind the community promoting “common sense with horses” is affectionately known as the “Jerry Springer” of the horse world. With narcissistic videos on YouTube and an open deep hatred for women, it’s clear he lives for conflict and he’s managed to sensationalize himself into a cult following.

Quite frankly, after seeing his posts and doing a little research it’s extremely clear the man has severe anger issues and I’m thoroughly convinced he’s got a few “Barn Witches”, as he likes to call them, buried under his basement somewhere!

At any rate, it’s obvious he would never even remotely entertain the idea that he might be wrong. The funny thing is that a lot of times the initial premise in what he posts has a small nugget of truth. But he goes in a totally different extreme direction and that direction is the only way and all others are selfish and stupid.

While I’ve always said the horse industry is like a soap opera and full of crazies, after the post experience I was still shocked at just how many there are on so many levels.

One thing that I noticed is that there are some people who are dogmatic when it comes to taking what someone says as pure gold. The mind-set that if “So and So” said it then it HAS to be true! They have lost their ability, if they ever had it in the first place, to think for themselves and try something to see if it’s actually true for them.

Another thing I noticed was that these same people usually think they have to be extremely hateful to get their point across. If they’re right why do they have to be so hateful? Maybe they’ve just been in the cult too long?

Why does the horse industry get so locked down into it having to be one certain way?

We all know people like that and we’ve all seen them. We all may have been them at one in point in time until we knew better — The clinician follower, the trainer groupie.  There’s a lot of money made on those two categories of folks.

Yet there’s lots of people out there, well-known and not so well-known, that do a fabulous job working with horses because they have an open mind and they love working with them. But because they’re not as well-known, they don’t hold as much as weight as the ones that have made a big name for themselves. Does that mean they’re not as credible or they’re not as good a horseman? We tend to think so but I don’t agree.

Circle C Clinic pen 1

There’s a saying that I see from time to time floating around Facebook that basically says that horsemanship is about realizing that everything you think you know about horses can completely change with the very next horse. I love that saying because to me, that’s exactly what it’s all about. You never know it all and there’s never any one way when it comes to horses.

Through the years, there have been many training methods that I’ve latched on to for a few years only to come back full circle to what I originally used. Maybe it took a while but after trying something different I realized that the original way was better. But the neat thing is that I learned something new that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had an open mind to try something different.

There’s also been things that I’ve been skeptical about that I’ve tried any way that wound up working so well that I changed how I did things. You never know where a good training idea is going to come from!

Speaking of open minds and horsemanship, I have to share the link to my other blog, Talking In The Barn.  I interviewed Sam Finden who is a young author that loves horses as much as he loves to write. He’s also a humble horseman that will get you thinking about horses and horsemanship.

SMGH New Cover Art

Have you ever been closed-minded about a training idea? What was it? Have you ever changed your mind about a training idea? How did it make an impact on you?

 

 

Water For Winter

Cold weather is here and in some cases the temperature has dropped drastically in a matter of just a few hours. While extreme changes in weather can cause some concerns for managing your horse, there are things you can do to minimize your horse’s risk of getting sick.

0213140844a

Any time the thermometer drops it’s a good idea to add water to your horse’s feed. Horses generally drink less and eat more hay when it’s cold. This of course is the prime set up for compaction colic. Adding water to the feed is a great way to get some guaranteed fluids in their digestive system and avoid choke at the same time.

Some owners will add salt to the feed to encourage their horses to drink. While this may work for a lot of horses, I have seen some horses with digestive issues that will not up their water intake even with the salt. The result is that they become dehydrated much faster because they don’t drink enough water to compensate for the added salt. This is why wetting down feed is a good option.

Even if your horse’s weight is where it should be and they don’t require additional grain, it’s still a good idea to add soaked roughage during the changes in weather. Adding a small amount of soaked alfalfa or beet pulp is a great choices for horses that are on hay and/or pasture and don’t require feed.

Soaked Alfalfa cubes

soakedalf

Alfalfa comes in small squares or cubes and in pelleted form. Beet pulp comes in pelleted, shredded, or meal form. Both options are high in fiber and expand when water is added. As both can be used to replace a small part of the hay intake (20-30%) they’re a great way to stretch your hay supply.

When soaking feed or cubes, it’s a good idea to let it soak until it’s soft and expanded. If you feed a straight grain, you can still add some water to the grain until it softens. Hot water can shorten the amount of time needed to soften and expand. If more convenient you can also soak overnight as long as the water does not freeze. Freezing will make it impossible to get the feed or forage out of the bucket.

Soaked Beet Pulp

soaked beet

A good rule of thumb for soaking is to cover the cubes, pellets, or shreds with at least an inch of water. If you’re feeding straight grain, you won’t need as much water. For pellets that are extremely hard or for beet pulp shreds you’ll want to add a little more water. Horses with teeth issues will also need a wetter mix.

As fresh drinking water is a critical component to managing horses well in cold weather, make sure your horses have free access to their water buckets or troughs. Keep the ice busted up and if necessary periodically off them warm water to encourage them to drink. If tank warmers are not an option, setting your troughs in an area where they receive direct sunlight on a daily basis will help minimize the amount of ice that accumulates.

 

What concerns do you have for your horse this winter? What are your strategies to avoid those concerns?

0213140914b

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation for Showing

To me, breaking colts is relatively easily most of the time. If you do your ground work right, most of the time you won’t have a problem. It’s after the breaking process when you take them out into the real world that the real work begins. That’s when you find out who your horse truly is and whether or not you’ve done all you can do. I can assure you, the real world will quickly help you find the holes in your training that you didn’t know existed.

While hauling out to a show will certainly test how well you’ve trained your horse, there are a few things that can help you and your horse prepare for those first trips out.

The first thing is to of course make sure you’ve got a good foundation on your horse. Are they soft in the face so that if you had to stop or change directions quickly you could? Can you control their feet and their body easily? These are probably the two most critical questions you could ask. Make sure you have control of your horse at home first.

One of the things that I do in the training process to help prepare for hauling and seasoning is lunging out in the pasture. There’s something about working out in a big wide open space that brings out the energy in a green horse. That’s when you’ll see another side of your horse.  It’s better to discover that other side at home where you can deal with it, plus lunging out in the pasture teaches them they have to work no matter where they are and what their energy level is.

Another thing that I do in preparation for hauling out to shows is tying them out for long periods of time on a regular basis. At most local events there are no stalls available for your horses which means they’ll have to stand tied to the trailer. It’s not uncommon to arrive at 9am and the show not end until after 9pm which means they’ll have to stand tied for several hours. Unless you can hold your horse the whole entire day, it’s going to be critical that your horse tie safely to the trailer. Tying your horse out frequently will help prepare for that.

Ponying and using a green horse to pony off of is another preparation step I use for hauling preparation. This is a good tool for getting a horse use to trafficking in the warm up pen or show arena. Ponying gets them used to having another horse close, and teaches them that even though another horse is close they still have to work and have a job to do.

If at all possible, set it up where you can ride with several horses either at home or at a friend’s. Small gatherings with plenty of room are the best places to get your feet wet when starting the seasoning process. You want to set your green horse up for success. The last thing you want to do is haul to a crowded arena with too much activity going on and over-stimulate your horse and set them up for failure.

What are some of the things you have done to prepare your young or green horse for their first outing away from home? Did you feel that you had done enough or did you find things you needed to work on?

Standing tied at an open show….

Ponying as part of the breaking process…

TOADIE SHOWpony toad n mo

Making History At The RFD American Million Dollar Barrel Race

If you’ve got anything to do with the barrel racing industry at all, you’ve no doubt heard the buzz about the first million dollar barrel race, The American, hosted by RFD-TV and sanctioned by Better Barrel Races. With the semi-finals held in Mesquite, Texas and the finals at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the American is a not only the most lucrative rodeo in the United States, it’s also the first time in history that men have been allowed to run barrels at a rodeo event.

Some of the top male riders in the country qualified to compete at the semi-finals but only one young man made it to the top twenty. That young man is Clint Sherlin of Athens, Tennessee. Bully By Design, also known as Red, is the horse that took Clint to the semi-finals. Red is the product of a long standing business partnership between the Sherlin family (Clint, his parents Joel and Nancy) and the Hayes family (Chris and Shelley, and daughters Bayli, Lilli, Maddi) of Philadelphia, Tennessee.

Clint and Red first shined in the spotlight when the pair won the NBHA World Championship in 2012, appearing on the cover of Barrel Horse News. The Hayes’ daughter, Bayli, has also gained notoriety with Red at several large barrel races as well and is becoming quite the jockey on such a powerful horse under Joel, Nancy, and Clint’s tutoring.

Having purchased two barrel prospects from the Sherlin and Hayes families, I have watched The American with great interest. However, it goes a whole lot deeper than that. You see, I’ve known Clint since he was a young kid riding any horse that was  thrown his way and making it look good. Joel has also been my farrier for many years, not to mention that Joel and Nancy both have invested countless (and selfless) hours in me while trying to make me into a better jockey.  We’ve went on road trips to barrel races together, and it’s always been an adventure from dodging tornadoes  and mud to dealing with flat tires. All those memories are very precious to me and are the reason that I’ve taken such an interest in The American.

For Clint, and the rest of the Sherlin family, the road to The American has not always been an easy one. They definitely didn’t start out with the best horses. In fact, it was horses that no one wanted that gave them their start. For many years, they honed their riding and training skills on horses with issues that most people gave up on. Although difficult, and most certainly with a delayed pay day, those years of riding problem horses  and making it work have not only turned them into one of the best riding and training teams in the country, but it’s also created a family that I would describe as “salt of the earth” type folks.

In a sea of top kicks and hundred thousand dollar living quarter trailers, it’s not unusual to see the brown and yellow  “Double OO” trailer, or a 1975 Mercury Grand Marquis if the Sherlin clan is in town. While the rest of the world has to have the latest and greatest, its their genuine down to earth practicality and their focus and dedication to making the best horses that make them a rare gem in the barrel industry.

Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s been a historical race as full of hopes and dreams since the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. The common man was a contender in that race too. In a couple of days Clint and Red will be making their run for the finals at The American. Not only will that run be making history, but it will also represent the hopes and dreams of two of the finest and most down to earth families in the barrel racing industry.

Ride hard Clint & Red!

Joel & Nancy at the parade with their draft horses

12011215451201121512a 1201121510a

Joel shoeing SV Shawne Fire N Te, aka Fireman.

FIREMAN TRIP 1

Our trip to the Futurity in Fort Smith in the Double OO

05191303360523131432b0519131942a0520130917

The Mercury on the way to the BFA in Oklahoma City. By the way, we’d blown a tire!

1203120729 1203120729a